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Gareth Farr

Arranger, Composer, Performer

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Born: 1968


Gareth Farr (b.1968) began his studies in composition and percussion performance at the University of Auckland. The experience of hearing a visiting gamelan orchestra prompted his return to Wellington to attend Victoria University, where the characteristic rhythms and textures of the Indonesian gamelan rapidly became hallmarks of his own composition. Farr continued with postgraduate study in composition and percussion at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where his teachers included Samuel Adler and Christopher Rouse. In 1993, at the age of 25, Farr was appointed composer-in-residence by Chamber Music New Zealand, the youngest-ever composer to hold that position. This resulted in the composition of three substantial works, Owhiro (String Quartet No.1), Kebyar Moncar for gamelan, and the chamber sextet Cadenza.

At the conclusion of the residence, Farr returned to the Eastman School to begin a doctorate in composition. As well as composing Kembang Suling for flute and marimba (his most popular work to date) and three works for orchestra during his time, Farr also introduced audiences to his on-stage alter ego, the percussion-playing drag queen Lilith Lacroix. The inclusion of his works in four events at the 1996 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts – the ballet score for Douglas Wright’s Buried Venus, Lilith’s Dream of Ecstasy for orchestra, Kembang Suling, and the Bach-in-Bali piano solo Sepuluh Jari kick-started his career as a dedicated freelance composer. Since then, his music has been heard at, or especially commissioned for high-profile events including the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (the 25-minute From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs), the opening of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa, for orchestra with soprano, tenor and kaikaranga (indigenous New Zealand Maori chant), a work hailed as ‘music with a powerful and moving impact that transcends idiom and individual taste’), and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (Hikoi, a concerto for percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the NZSO).

A commission by the 2003 Auckland Festival resulted in the massive Stone and Ice, composed for the combined forces of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Gareth Farr’s music is particularly influenced by his extensive study of percussion, both Western and non-Western. Rhythmic elements of his compositions can be seen to derive from the complex and exciting rhythms of Rarotongan log drum ensembles, Balinese gamelan and other percussion music of the Pacific Rim. Naturally, percussion has always been a central focus of Farr’s music, and in 2003-04, he produced a number of works either specifically for or premiered by the STRIKE percussion ensemble, with which he has had a long and fruitful association. As well as the ferocious percussion quartet Pukul, there are two major works featuring concertante parts for percussion ensemble, Onslaught for brass band and percussion and the Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra. The latter work was the result of a commission from the Wellington City Council and the Wellington Sinfonia (now Orchestra Wellington) to compose a work in celebration of the centenary of the city’s Town Hall. In addition to his music for the concert chamber, Farr has written music for dance, theatre and television.

In 2006, the Royal New Zealand Ballet toured the country with their brand new work The Wedding, featuring a score by Gareth Farr. He has had a fruitful career writing music for the stage, including Maui – One Man Against the Gods (2003), and five comedy musicals produced with librettist and director Paul Jenden. In 2007 Farr was appointed as Composer-In-Residence for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra culminating in 2008 with the premiere of Ex Stasis a symphonic song cycle for four soloists. In 2008 Farr also celebrated the world premiere of his work Terra Incognita, for bass baritone solo, choir and orchestra, performed by Paul Whelan and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Gareth’s music was also played by the NZSO in Beijing as part of the 2008 Olympic Games, and in the opening ceremony of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

His work for strings and mezzo soprano, Relict Furies was performed at the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival with soloist mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and the Scottish Ensemble. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra was performed in 2015 by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and, most recently, his Cello Concerto was premiered in 2017 by the NZSO and subsequently in France by the Orchestre National de Lorraine.

[Information about Gareth Farr and his music for film and television can also be found on the NZ Onscreen website.]

In 2006 Gareth was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for his services to music and entertainment, in 2010 he was a recipient of the prestigious NZ Arts Laureate Award, and in 2014 he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from The University of Auckland.

Composed (144)

Acid Euphoria

for gamelan and three percussionists, 6m


for piano trio, 16m

Ahi ataahua

for percussion quartet and male voice

Anniversary Antics

for 16 solo strings


for soprano, Maori instruments, percussion and synthesizer, 7m


for orchestra, 10m


for two pianos - eight hands, 5m 30s


for piccolo, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, 12m

Cello Concerto: Chemin des Dames

for cello and orchestra, 25m

Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra

for four percussion soloists and orchestra, 20m

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

for orchestra and solo piano

Denpasar Moon

arrangement of the song by Colin Bass aka Sabah Habas Mustapha for voice, electric bass and gamelan, 4m 2s


for marimba and vibraphone, 10m

Dua Lagu

for piano, 8m

Dua Lagu

for piano - 6 hands, 8m


music for orchestra and gamelan for television series

Duggan theme

for flute and marimba, 1m 3s

Duggan theme

for marimba and vibraphone, 1m 38s

El Senor Cucharita se pone enfermo

for soprano, saxophone and piano


for solo piano, 1m 40s

Etude no. 1 - from Duggan

for solo marimba, 1m

Etude no. 2 - for Jeremy Fitzsimons

for solo marimba, 2m 8s

Ex Stasis

a symphonic song cycle for four voices and orchestra

Fanfare for the Phil

for orchestra

Five Little Monologues

for clarinet duo, 5m


for solo marimba


for string quartet, 9m

From Forgotten Forests

for solo harp, 8m

Funambulistic Strains

for trombone and orchestra

Gareth Plays the Drawbridge

Percussion duo for the John Drawbridge mural at the National Library, Wellington


for piano solo, 3m 30s

Goa Lawah (Bat Cave)

for saxophone quartet, 5m

He Poroporoaki (Saying Goodbye)

for string quartet and taonga puoro, 5m

He Tango mo Elena

tango for orchestra, solo violin, tenor and Kapa Haka, 7m

He Wawata

Arrangement of Maori traditional song for Soprano, Baritone and Piano, 3m


for gamelan


concerto for percussion and large orchestra, 30m


for solo soprano, mixed choir and percussion

Into The Chasm

for two pianos - eight hands, 9m

Jangan Lupa

for piano, 3m


for choir and orchestra

Kembang Suling

for flute and marimba, 10m

Kendang Kalih

For two percussionists, 7m

La Próxima Vez (Next Time Around)

for female vocal sextet

Le Temps est a la pluie

for chamber orchestra, 8m

Les Murray Song Cycle

for two sopranos, contralto, tenor, baritone and bass, 13m

Lilith's Dream of Ecstasy

for large orchestra, 10m

Lima Gending

for three recorders

Little Sea Gongs

for percussion quartet, 3m

Love Songs

miniatures for solo piano, 6m

Mad Little Machine

for wind quintet, 5m


for clarinet and piano

Meditation (clarinet version)

for clarinet and piano, 7m

Meditation (saxophone version)

for alto saxophone and piano, 7m

Meditation (viola version)

for viola and piano, 7m

Mondo Rondo

for string quartet, 12m

Mondo Rondo

arranged for piano trio

Mouse hole

for solo piano, 5m


for clarinet and piano, 7m

Music from a High Altitude

for piano, percussion, cello and clarinet, 12m

Naga Baba

for chamber orchestra, 18m

Nga Kete e Toru

written with Richard Nunns for piano trio and taonga puoro

Nga Tai Hurihuri

for soprano, kaikarangi and percussion quartet, 7m

Nga whetu e whitu

for flute and piano, 14m

Only the Rocks Remain

for soprano and wind octet, 15m


for brass band and percussion, 9m 30s


for bass voice and orchestra, 13m

Pagan Prayer

for soprano, percussion quartet, two trombones and two bass trombones

Pandemonia's spells

for solo organ


fanfare for orchestra, 4m


movement for orchestra, 10m

Piano Concerto

for piano and orchestra, 20m


for B flat clarinet, 9m


for percussion quintet, 9m

Queen of Demons

for symphony orchestra, 12m


for piano


for piano, 5m


for percussion quartet and orchestra, 7m

Rehu Ma Tangi

for four recorders, puoro Maori soli and recorder ensemble

Relict Furies

for mezzo-soprano and string orchestra, 12m

Rome - the musical

for soloists and ensemble

Rona e te marama

for Balinese and Javanese Gamelan combined, 10m


for full orchestra with percussion interludes, 27m


for soprano, violin and three marimbas, 10m


for saxophone quartet

Sepuluh Jari

for piano, 9m

Shadow of the Hawk

for piano and cello, 11m


for solo marimba with 5-octave range, 10m

Spring Flames

music for film

Still Sounds Lie

For Soprano and Harp, 8m

Stone and Ice

for large orchestra

Tabuh Pacific (Pacific Percussion)

a concerto-style work for Gamelan and orchestra, 17m


for flute and harp, 12m

Taku Tamaiti E

for voice


for solo marimba with 5-octave range, 10m

Tangi Haehae

for two women's voices and percussion, 4m

Tangi Te Kawekawea

for SATB choir and percussion, 3m


for bassoon and percussion


for brass band, 9m

Te Papa

for orchestra with mezzo-soprano, tenor and soprano (Maori karanga) soloists, 10m

Te Papa - Log drum 'n' bass mix

rework of original work for soloists and orchestra, 5m 17s

Te Papa - Urenui Mix

reworked from version from original version for orchestra and soloists by the composer, 4m 17s

Te Parenga

suite for clarinet, percussion and strings, 8m

Te Puna o Waiwhetu

for wind orchestra

Te Tai-O-Rehua

for string quartet

Te Wairua o Te Whenua

for orchestra, soprano, bass, Maori Kapa Haka artists, 20m

Terra Incognita

for bass voice, SATB choir and orchestra, 11m 30s

The Ballad of Glady's Dream

For solo voice with tape/electronics

The Bone Feeder

an opera for twelve singers and chamber ensemble, 1h 20m

The End of the Golden Weather

for solo clarinet

The Horizon from Owhiro Bay

a "landscape prelude" for piano, 3m

The Last Pace

for orchestra

The Mad Dog Bites Again

for saxophone quartet and percussion, 4m

The Nor'west Arch

for brass band, with spoken text, 10m

The Strip

music for television

Three Little Pieces for Eve

for percussion and piano, 6m

Time and Tide

for violin, marimba and chamber orchestra, 17m

Tirohia atu nei

for choir (SSAATB) and percussion, 6m


for harp, 6m

Triple Concerto

for piano trio and orchestra, 22m


for percussion and piano, 9m


for percussion quartet, 7m

Ukare Funk

for percussion quartet, 6m 30s

Uri Taniwha

for high voice, taonga puoro, and gamelan, 5m

Volume Pig

for percussion quartet, 12m

Vula Canon

for string orchestra with tubular bells, 5m


for brass band, 10m


for clarinet in A and piano, 5m


for clarinet and string orchestra, 5m


for orchestra with solo voice (kaikaranga), 9m


for solo violin, 6m

Warriors from Pluto

concerto for five percussion soli and double string orchestra, 17m

Whakamaua kia u

For voice and percussion, 4m

Arranged (1)

Denpasar Moon

arrangement of the song by Colin Bass aka Sabah Habas Mustapha for voice, electric bass and gamelan, 4m 2s

Recordings (34)

Ahi - The Ogen Trio


Brass Aotearoa - CD




Elena's Cultural Symphony

Nz recordings not by sounz composers

Estrella: Tui - CD


Gareth Farr - Tangaroa


Gareth Farr: Horizon


Gareth Farr: Owhiro


Gareth Farr: Ruaumoko


Helen Webby: Pluck


Island Song


Love's Nature


Symphony of Sails


Tabuh Pacific


Resources (28)

Canzona 1997 Vol 18 no 39

Commentary or analysis

Farr from Heaven

Media on demand

How to Hear Classical Music

Commentary or analysis

On Disk: Composers

Education resource

Performances (1)

Martinborough Music Festival

Featuring: Wilma Smith, violin Diedre Irons, piano Mark Walton, clarinet Amalia H...