Two Plus Three commission

 Posted by on January 22, 2024
Jan 222024

The title “Two Plus Three” refers to the instrumentation of the piece – two marimbas plus three percussionists.

Commissioned by Andy Harnsberger, a long-time colleague of Gareth, the piece is a concerto for two marimbas with the multi-percussion backing of the trio.

andy harnsberger two lus three Gareth Farr NZ composer

Vessel of Song

 Posted by on November 17, 2023
Nov 172023

The Saxcess Saxophone 4tet celebrated 30 years of musical and collaborative success in 2023 with an event that featured a world premiere of Gareth Farr’s ‘Vessel of Song’, a Klezmer-inspired masterpiece.

There’s a fantastic interview with Debbie Rawson on RNZ.

Vessel of Song Gareth Farr NZ composer


 Posted by on September 20, 2023
Sep 202023

As this fabulous Five Lines article recounts:

Composer Gareth Farr calls the 10-piece ensemble he’s used for the dance-opera (m)Orpheus his “Frank Zappa band”. To a string quartet – “to support the singers” – he’s added trumpet, trombone (doubling euphonium), guitar, clarinet (doubling saxophone) and two percussionists playing on one marimba. Most of these instruments weren’t seen on the concert stage when Christoph Gluck composed his Orpheus and Eurydice.

When Farr was approached by NZ Opera to prepare the music for a “re-invention” of the work, his first instinct was to decline. “I’m not an arranger, I’m a composer.” And then, he tells me, he thought “if I say yes, I’m going to have to make it weird. So, my entire reason for agreeing in the first place was to be subversive. I wanted to subvert this piece of music – into a good place.”

Simon Holden’s review is also excellent:

Probably most radical is Gareth Farr’s “reorchestration” of Gluck for a ten-piece ensemble including string quartet, brass, woodwind, guitar and two marimbas. It seemed to recreate the music of the original 1762 version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, but the instrumental textures are a far cry from what Gluck would have recognised.

The connection between these instruments and the overall concept may not have been clear, but it made for some intriguing timbral mixtures. Different arias were given different obbligato accompaniments, often combining solo brass and wind instruments (for example, trumpet and clarinet in “Chiamo il mio ben”). The two marimbas’ tremolo certainly added a haunting tension to the recitatives and Orfeo’s famous lament worked surprisingly well with guitar and solo violin accompaniment.

mOrpheus BlackGrace Gareth Farr NZ composer


 Posted by on August 26, 2023
Aug 262023

Gareth Farr’s solo percussion work Macet (Balinese for traffic jam) combines drums, Balinese gamelan and electronics.

As Chris Archer noted in his review of  the concert “Noteworthy: Celebrating 150 Years of University of Canterbury”:

Certainly one of the highlights of the concert is Associate Professor Justin DeHart’s premiere performance of a newly commissioned gamelan-inspired solo percussion and electronics piece by Gareth Farr: Macet.

Having this work in this part of the programme is genius. Nothing like a bit of structured cacophony to shake one from the contemplation on the songs in the programme and create a talking point for audiences during the interval!

The work has an electronic backing track that includes real and sampled sounds. It requires the performer to wear an in-ear monitor, adding to the complexity level. The musical insanity is at a way more intense level than the stylistically predictable musical traffic depiction in Ritchie’s overture.

The sound world of the work takes me back to the days of Gareth’s Drum Drag tours around the motu – minus the gamelan gangsa.

Read the full review here.

Justin DeHart Macet

Four Postcards from the Lakes

 Posted by on April 5, 2023
Apr 052023

Four Postcards from the Lakes was commissioned for the At World’s Edge Festival’s 2022 edition, where Gareth served as composer in residence.

The work invites listeners to match the music’s four movements to southern lakes from their personal experience of them.

The jaw-dropping scenery afforded by the windows of Rippon Hall made it the perfect location for the world premiere of the 2022 At the World’s Edge Festival.

It is performed here by Festival Artistic Director Benjamin Baker (violin) and the internationally celebrated Gdańsk native Maciej Kułakowski (cello):

Four Postcards from the Lakes Rippon Hall Gareth Farr NZ composer

Four Postcards From The Lakes (2022) Music by Gareth Farr © Promethean Editions Ltd. Audio recorded by RNZ Concert. Film funded by NZ On Air.

Or watch the recording at Guarneri Hall, Chicago, featuring Benjamin Baker (violin) and Oliver Herbert (cello):

Four Postcards from the Lakes Chicago Gareth Farr NZ composer

Executive Producer: Stefan Hersh, Guarneri Hall NFP
Director of Photography and Video Editor: Mike Grittani, Grittani Creative LTD. Audio Engineer: Christopher Willis



Ngake and Whātaitai

 Posted by on July 26, 2022
Jul 262022

In local legend, Ngake and Whātaitai were the two taniwha that created Wellington harbour, and my piece for viola and piano is my musical image of their story.

When they were young, they frolicked in a huge lake, but as they grew older and too big for the lake, a harbour was formed when they violently forced their way through the rocks out into the sea. Their yearning for the sea is a huge part of the drama in the narrative, and I’ve reflected that in the music.

Even though this work isn’t really a literal depiction of the story, the way the viola and piano lines intertwine suggests the two taniwha twisting and turning, at first harmlessly playing but ultimately causing devastation.

There is also a personal connection for me – the legend culminates with the remains of the taniwha still being iconic parts of the area – Te Aroaro o Kupe (Steeple Rock) and Te Tangihanga o Kupe (Barrett Reef), the latter being the treacherous rock formation at the mouth of the harbour where in 1968, in a catastrophic storm, the inter-island ferry ‘Wahine’ struck and sank. I was two months old at the time, and apparently slept through the whole thing – even as parts of the roof blew off!

I’ve enjoyed writing for Sarah Watkins many times, and it’s been exciting writing for Rob Ashworth for the first time. We would like to thank Toi Aotearoa, Creative NZ for the funding of the work.

Ngake and Whataitai Sarah Rob Gareth Farr NZ composer

Where Will They Bury My Bones

 Posted by on March 22, 2022
Mar 222022

Where Will They Bury My Bones was filmed in London at the Fishmonger’s Hall and live-streamed online in March 2022 to a worldwide audience.

It was written by, and is premiered by, New Zealanders living in different countries. Gareth Farr, composer, in New Zealand; Paul Horan, librettist, in Australia; and Julien Van Mellaerts, baritone, in the United Kingdom – during the COVID pandemic.

The theme of ‘Where Will They Bury My Bones?’ is the uncertainty of one’s future due to war, pandemic or simply the desire to see the world, which ties in well with the physical reality of this online-only premiere. The work explores how New Zealanders experience loneliness, distance and disenfranchisement from our natural country and national life.

There’s a fantastic article on RNZ right here.

Where Will They Bury My Bones Gareth Farr NZ composer

Where Will They Bury My Bones Gareth Farr NZ composer

Nov 172021

“Signed, Theo Schoon” is a feature film directed by Luit Bieringa.

Tracing the story of one of our more complex characters, this layered portrait re-examines the exploits of influential outsider, Dutch immigrant artist Theo Schoon, told in his own words and through first-hand accounts.

Gareth Farr composed the soundtrack, noting that he and Schoon have much in common in their love of Indonesian gamelan. Blending the Dutch, Indonesian, Māori and Pakeha influences for the sound track required a special skill.

“When you look at Schoon and my large list of shared interests, it seems insane that anyone else would do it.”

More at NZ On Screen Iwi Whitiāhua.

Signed Theo Schoon Gareth Farr NZ composer


 Posted by on August 5, 2021
Aug 052021

Karanga is a powerful new interactive Māori contemporary dance work led by Artistic Director and award-winning choreographer Merenia Gray and co-creators Gareth Farr, Toni Huata,  Mary-Lyn Chambers,  Emma Mortimer, Jo Kilgour, Jeanine Clarkin,  Miriama McDowell, Jason Te Kare,  Luka Turjak,  Tānemahuta Gray, Ariana Tikao and dancers.

Inspired by Merenia Gray’s mother, the late Tiahuia Te Puea Hērangi Ramihana Gray (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne, Tainui), Karanga is a dance performance choreographed by Merenia. The work explores her mother’s Māori and Pākehā heritage between her adopted mother/iwi and biological mother/family.

Karanga Gareth Farr NZ composer

Ngā Hihi o Matariki

 Posted by on July 9, 2021
Jul 092021

Ngā Hihi o Matariki (the rays of Matariki, the Pleiades) is a significant work of symphonic proportions in seven movements by Gareth Farr, together with Ariana Tikao and Mere Boynton.

Celebrating Māori new year, it recognises a celestial event of uniqueness and beauty.

Nga Hihi o Matariki Gareth Farr NZ composer

From Anne French’s review:

For me, the most impressive movement was the fifth, Põhutukawa, in which Boynton’s glorious voice communicated the grief of loss, evoking the memories of treasured people who have died. It is traditional to mourn the recently dead at Matariki, when their souls leave the Earth to become new stars.

By the time we reached the seventh section, Hiwa-i-te-rangi, all about hopes and dreams, Farr was prepared to throw everything at it. The rototoms were drumming complex slit-drum rhythms, plus bass drum and timpani, Tikao arrived on stage with a pūtātara, Mere Boynton opened her throat, and the back of the orchestra went wild. It was a huge and thrilling climax. And then just the voice, and the tinkling sounds of the starlight percussion.

The Wellington audience immediately let out a great shout – the most fervent applause I can remember for a new work. But not just any new work: 66 minutes of commissioned work for orchestra by one of our favourite composers for the new national festival of Matariki.

Read Anne’s full review here.