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5 Sep 2018

Conducting Up A Storm

Timothy Carpenter needs no introduction. Born and bred in the Waikato, Timothy has credits that people only dream of. Here is a little snippet into his life and a little something about the upcoming concert with Hamilton Civic Choir happening on Saturday 15th of

How did you get in to conducting?

“I was always fascinated by what the conductor was doing whenever I went to concerts – whatever the genre. At school I was frequently given the chance to conduct the ensembles which I loved and remember feeling the urge to learn more. When I was 16 I was lucky to be accepted into the New Zealand Secondary School’s Choir which was a significant life-defining moment. As a typically confused teenager, hanging out with like-minded music geeks and being under the direction of superb conductors and choral experts was incredibly inspiring and instilled a passion of choral music. This was further expanded during my GAP year in Cambridge, England, where I was immersed in high quality music – particularly choral liturgical music through my job at King’s College School. On returning to New Zealand I was given more and more opportunities in conducting starting with my position as Organ Scholar at St Peter’s Cathedral in Hamilton and subsequently at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland for three years where I was responsible for rehearsing and conducting the two choirs. I studied choral and orchestral conducting at the University of Auckland obtaining a Masters Degree; I did Masterclasses in the United States and Germany and was fortunate to be on a two-year orchestral conducting masterclass programme called ‘Symphony Australia’ which meant learning how to conduct and rehearse ensembles such as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I have also been given the opportunity to conduct and musically direct New Zealand ensembles and organisations including the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Opera Otago, Manukau Symphony Orchestra, Devonport Chamber Orchestra, Auckland Youth Orchestra and here in Hamilton, OPUS Orchestra, Youth Orchestra Waikato, Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra, Hamilton Operatic Society and Hamilton Civic Choir.”

What has been your favourite conducting experience to date?

“Love them all. The first time I conducted a professional orchestra was a massive buzz – that would have been the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra. I love the big collaborative stuff like conducting an Opera, Musical Theatre or working with lots of groups at once – like the St John Passion!”

How would you explain the J.S. Bach, St John Passion concert to non-classical folk?

“I suppose you can call it classical music – I would call it an artistic pillar of western society (said with a chuckle). The St John Passion is a musical unstaged drama – called ‘Oratorio’ – of the passion (the last few days of Christ’s life) according to John’s Gospel. It is arguably the most famous story ever told and has unsurprisingly attracted many musical retellings – the most well known being the two surviving passions of Bach, Handel’s Messiah, and more recently, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Schwartz’ respective musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Obviously the drama and story is gripping and powerful regardless of the music; however musically I think it is one of the most beautiful and perfect pieces of human creation. A bit like an opera, there is lots going on at once with lots of people involved to coordinate: There is the orchestra – a baroque (18th century) sized orchestra meaning only about 24 players; the choir who are at the heart of the drama sometimes acting as Jesus’ followers, sometimes the mob or crowd, sometimes the Roman soldiers and sometimes a more reflective conscience or reflective voice; then there are the four soloists – the soprano and alto who sing arias reflecting on the drama (again like opera/musical theatre), the bass who sings Jesus’ recitative (dialogue) and arias, and the tenor evangelist who tells the story like a narrator.”

What is your top 3 favourite things about working with Hamilton Civic Choir?

  • It is inspiring to work with an Amateur group who strives for excellence and to deliver and act at a professional standard. Hamilton Civic Choir resembles this.
  • I love the opportunity to conduct and perform wonderful pieces of music at high quality and help generate and grow the artistic culture of the city.
  • I love hanging out with passionate, intelligent and interesting people on a weekly basis.