iistütlejä (n; sing.); lit. “the one who speaks before” (ütlejä– “the one who speaks”, “speaker”; iist – “before”, “ahead”).

One of the terms for a lead singer (see also sõnolinõ, iistvõtja, lauluimä). This term describes the main function of a lead singer in a Setu choir – she (he) must utter the words of the next line to the chorus, which repeats them. The other duty of the leader – to remember the tune – is also important, but not so crucial. The fact that the Setus use the verb “to speak” (ütlema) more often than “to sing” (laulma) when describing their song performance shows that the Setu song tradition (as Estonian regilaul in general) is rather more “text oriented” than “music oriented”.

In accordance with the aforesaid, the requirements for the lead singer concern primarily her (his) ability to remember and to improvise long texts. The quality of the voice is not very important, because iistütleljä usually sings in a recitative manner – with a rather soft voice and faster than the chorus.

The lead singer of the Setu choir should also have managerial skills. The chorus joins the leader on the last syllables of the line or on the refrain. The lead singer shows the moment of the chorus’ entrance by slowing down the tempo and amplifying her (his) voice, or by a short pause, or by a movement of the hand (Tampere 1934: 67). The lead singer is also responsible for keeping the convenient tessitura of the song (see kergütäminõ).

The musical abilities of the lead singer must be sufficient to remember the large corpus of the traditional tunes and to fit the tune to the variable structure of the verse. The creation of new tunes and melodic variations of existing tunes are not the traditional tasks of the Setu iistütlejä. During the chorus line the leader may rest and think through the text of the next line. If the leader sings with the chorus, she (he) joins the main lower part (see torrõ). Some researchers assert that in the choir the leader sings the third part, which is lower than torrõ (Tampere 1934: 62, Garšnek 1953: 33). According to the multitrack recordings made at the end of the 20th century, the lead singer actually may use the lower tune variations (see example 1), but it is not a general rule.

Phrasesiist ütlema – lit. “to speak before” (ütlema – “to speak”, “to say”, iist – “before”, “ahead”).