Happy birthday Gareth Farr

CoverGareth Farr was born on this day in 1968. Back in the 70s we would have called him cool. The New Zealand composer who is a world class drummer and used to have a drag act. He already stands out from the crowd before you hear his music.

I’m no judge of drag acts, but I was once privileged to hear his  Lilith LaCroix drum drag act and I can tell you that the drumming was fantastic – a once in a lifetime experience. As for his music, it is always compelling. His work is heavily influenced by his interest in percussion, especially of the Indonesian Gamelan, but also other Pacific and Maori drumming traditions, making him a New Zealand and Pacific composer.

Educated here and at New York’s Eastman School of Music, he launched his career with a number of works played at the 1996 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. Since then he has been commissioned to create music for many high profile occasions including the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the opening of the Museum of New Zealand and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (a concerto for percussionist Evelyn Glennie ).

One of his most popular works is Kembang Suling, although the dramatic Te Papa has wider appeal. Try this version if you’re looking for something new and exciting. You might also recognise his theme to the TV programme Duggan.

He has also created some haunting works with Richard Nunn on Taonga Puoro, such as this farewell He Poroporoaki

Most recently at the NZSO Odes to Joy concert in 2011 he debuted Kaitiaki, a stunning new work which reflected the spirit of Beethoven’s Ninth. It was commissioned by the NZSO, with words by Witi Ihimaera and sung by an all New Zealand cast of Simon O’Neill, Jonathan Lemalu, Madeleine Pierard and Sarah Castle.

Explore more of Gareth Farr’s music on Naxos which contains many of his recordings from throughout his career.