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Not a normal night at the Symphony: Gareth Farr

Oct 12th, 2009


GARETH FARR continues to be one of New Zealand?s most diverse composers, having completed a characteristically wide variety of national and international projects in 2008-09. Chief amongst these was his violin solo Wakatipu, commissioned as the set work for semi-finalists in the prestigious 2009 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, held in Queenstown and Auckland, New Zealand, in June. Farr attended the eighteen performances of the work, and was present when competition finalist Yoo Jin Jang was awarded the prize for best performance of the work.

At the other end of the spectrum, music for stage and screen formed a large part of Farr?s work over the past year; his music for Kia Ora Khalid, a children?s opera, received praise throughout its New Zealand tour in March and April 2009. Other stage works included music for the plays Heat, and Blood Wedding.

Farr?s 1992 work Pagan Prayer was integrated into a production featuring live orchestral music with innovative dance during Vancouver?s International Dance Festival in March 2009. Kokoro Dance collaborated with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to present the work alongside music by Scott Good and Arvo P?rt. Globe and Mail reviewer Elissa Poole commented on the ?apocalyptic intensity? of Farr?s work, concluding that the collaboration was ?not a normal night at the symphony?.

Most recently, Farr participated in a collaborative composition and performance project for Susan Lei?ataua?s theatre work Breaking the Surface at Skirball Theatre, New York City on 16 April 2009. The latter was presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute of New York University.

Farr?s works have received a wide listening over the past year. In November 2008, he was the featured composer on KUSC Classical, Los Angeles. Well-known host Jim Svejda presented a five hour programme on the composer?s life and work, introducing Farr to a huge new audience. The programme included works from Farr?s September 2008 album release Tangaroa (MMT2058), featuring percussionist Jeremy Fitzsimons. Tangaroa spent eleven consecutive weeks in the Radio New Zealand Classical Chart after its release in September 2008. Works on the album include the title piece, Tangaroa, (marimba solo), the well-known and much-played Kembang Suling (marimba and flute), Tuatara (percussion and piano), Dialogue (marimba and vibraphone) and Spook (marimba).

A variety of prominent performers continue to promote Farr?s music in New Zealand and worldwide. In November 2008, renowned pianist Henry Wong Doe gave the North American premiere performance of The Horizon from Owhiro Bay at Carnegie Hall, New York. The work was originally commissioned as part of a cycle of short piano works by New Zealand composers and premiered by pianist Stephen De Pledge in February 2008. In February, Farr?s He Poroporoaki, for the New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns, received its New Zealand premiere. In May, percussionists Jeremy Fitzsimons and Pedro Carneiro took Farr?s Dialogue to Portugal, where it was performed at the Lisbon Festival of Music.

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