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Balleilakka Performance Question

I am student teaching through the University of Southern Maine and am currently preparing Balleilakka by A.R Rahman/arr. Ethan Sperry.
 
This piece is sung in the Tamil language and has a 144 tempo mark. I have seen it performed at this mark and while it is certainly impressive to listen to, you do lose most of the inflection/enunciation of the words. On the other hand, listening/watching performances of it at a slower tempo seems to cause the performance to lose some of its drive.
 
My question is--which would you reinforce with your students in a school setting? Emphasis on the text/inflection/enunciation or mastering the text and rhythms at tempo? Both are important skill sets and obviously would be covered but it seems as though for a performance, you would have to choose one or the other!
 
Thanks!
 
Erin Dawley
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on May 13, 2014 4:03pm
In rehearsal, do both.
 
In performance, go for the drive.
on May 14, 2014 7:55pm
I'm considering doing the piece this fall. My worry is I think it should be the closer on the concert, but despite the piece's drive (I agree with the faster tempo) it doesn't have that "out with a bang" end that a concert closer might have. I've seen some youtube videos where the choir makes a physical gesture to punctuate the end. Any thoughts from someone who has done the work?
 
 
on May 28, 2014 6:24am
In our performance, I had the choir "flare out" the final note, so that the last sound is the most energetic of the piece.  They naturally leaned forward at the release, and it was enough of a cue that the audience knew it was over.
 
Having said that, I agree with you that it would be problematic as a closer.  The end implies that there's more to come.
on May 28, 2014 6:21am
I'm a high school director, and we went super slow for weeks and weeks to get the precision right, and then alternated fast/slow iterations until we had both.  The students were actually better at it that I was!
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