Don Scott Carpenter is the general director of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. He took his post in July 2007 after working for the Louisville Youth Choir in Louisville, Ky.
SFR: In addition to being an administrator, are you also a musician?
My bachelor's is in organ and my master's is in conduction, so I've played for fun and professionally for much of my life.
How did you get into playing the organ?
I don't even know for sure anymore. My father was a minister so I was always doing the church thing and just kind of picked it up. I was trying to figure out what to do in college and by studying organ I got a full ride. I've been playing since I was about 12. I don't play professionally anymore, though.
How did you get involved with the Desert Chorale?
I thought it was time for me to make a big move. Though I hadn't always lived in Louisville, I had always lived in Kentucky, so I thought it was time to see what else was going on in the world. And through the
process of looking, I heard about the Chorale.
You've only been in Santa Fe for about nine months now. How do you like it so far?
I love Santa Fe. I'm just now starting to realize that there isn't going to be a lot of green. I do still have an urge to find some water. The people have been friendly and I've already made some incredible friends. I love that it's so cultural and you can walk down any street-in downtown especially-and find some kind of art or some eclectic group of people who seem to appreciate what everyone else is doing.
So you're one of the entrapped now?
[Laughs] That's what I hear. Yup, I'm staying for a while.
What are you and the Chorale doing to reach out to different kinds of audiences?
This summer we're doing our standard literature-which people love-but we're also doing a program with the symphony, one with Santa Fe New Music and one at the Center for Contemporary Arts. That one is a contemporary music program that goes along with an exhibition that will be in residence there.
Composers such as Morton Feldman and Philip Glass have gained a lot of fame for their modern 'classical' compositions. Are those kinds of things being written for voice as well?
Absolutely. Twenty-first century music, in the choral world, is in some ways the same as the orchestral world and in some it's very different. It's the same in that real contemporary composers are stretching the limits of instruments. The newest pieces are for a cappella choir and electronic tape, which is made to be a system of sounds of pitches, so there's a whole aural dynamic that is very new to the choral world. In the orchestral world, the fact that you can change the sounds and bend them on stringed instruments, is much older. Throat singing, for example, is just a matter of taking overtones being produced by the voice and melding it with text. There are also people who are writing music that are in forms that are much older. It brings up the question as to whether it's new music or simply music that is being written currently.
What are the trends with choral music?
Well, it's been, what, 10 or 15 years now since Gregorian chant had a hit there for a while? It was being performed and being remixed-you could hear it a lot in techno-so those trends come up, even in popular music. It is a different style, with a different sound and appreciation, though. But even something like The Rolling Stones' 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' begins with a boys' choir singing in a big church.
What are some of the misconceptions that people have about choral music?
A lot of times they think of the church. Yes, a lot of it is sacred music, but there are all kinds of themes and texts. Some of it is more serious than others. It does have a stigma. It's one of my lifelong goals-that's going to be hard by myself I guess [laughs]-to begin to soften that stigma, to get people to take a chance. There's also the idea that it's stale or old-fashioned and it's absolutely none of those things.
Learning about classical music can be really daunting for the beginner.
Absolutely. I must admit, I'm an iTunes freak, and one of the things I like about it is that you can get on and do a random search and find all kinds of things. But you can also find things that people have written from a listener's perspective. That's one of the problems with classical music; so many people write about it from the academic level that it's hard for new listeners to have access to it.
Is the Chorale's work on iTunes yet?
It's definitely something I'm pushing for but, unfortunately, with as many things as are on there, it's hard to get the first one on. We're trying to have a new, exciting presence on the Web. The Chorale doesn't have a MySpace page yet, but I'm working on that too.
So what's on your iPod?
Right now I'm listening to a lot of King's College Cambridge for classical. I've actually just been introduced to Amy Winehouse and I think it's just really cool music. I do tend to listen to techno, no specific artist, just in the afternoon, when I get home; it's a nice way to bridge the gap between day and evening. I'm also a huge Janet Baker fan; she's a mezzo-soprano who is just incredible. Oh, and the cast recording of
. It's a rock musical that I saw in New York and I've just absolutely fallen in love with it.