Gareth Farr's "Hikoi" will get its North American premiere in the New Music Festival with percussion soloist Evelyn Glennie (courtesy of WSO)
I love anything I do to be dramatic, I love anything I do to be expressive.
—Gareth Farr, composer and entertainer
Composer Gareth Farr's business cards say that he is a 'composer/entertainer.' "I know 'entertainer' sounds like some sort of dreadful cabaret dinner show, and yes, it has that stigma," he says. "I did it slightly subversively, but also to make that point, that that's why I'm interested in doing what I do. I like entertaining people."
And this New Zealander has entertained a lot of people. For example, his music was performed at the opening of the Rugby World Cup in Auckland which was seen by over a billion of them. And his percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie was performed to great acclaim at the opening of the Olympics in Sydney, Australia in 2000.
It's that concerto that will be performed at this year's New Music Festival with Dame Evelyn herself as soloist.
"It was a very collaborative start to the piece," says Farr. Glennie took him to her studio chock full of her instruments. "It's like the percussion equivalent of Willie Wonka's the Chocolate Room. There's just everything you could imagine and things you could never imagine." Glennie even had a number of instruments she's invented herself.
Farr's work is called Hikoi, which is the Maori word for walk, or pilgrimage. In it, Farr, who is a professional percussionist, is influenced by the Maori culture of New Zealand and percussion music of non-western cultures, in particular the log drums of the Cook Islands.
"Pretty much every single Pacific Island culture is represented in New Zealand. So inevitably, growing up in a city suburb in Auckland, I heard all these amazing different types of music and there was no question that that would influence me," he says.
And as if his classical music isn't entertaining enough, Farr also enjoys putting on shows as his alter ego, Lilith Lacroix, the drag queen who plays the drums.
"Obviously it seems like me in a completely different state, like I'm a different person. But in actual fact, it doesn't feel any different to me at all as a regular boy. It all comes from the same place. I love anything I do to be dramatic, I love anything I do to be expressive," he explains.
"But bottom line, I'm just there to make the audience feel something really intense, and be excited and be emotional."
Expect drama and emotion in abundance at the North American premiere of Hikoi with Evelyn Glennie at the New Music Festival Friday at the Concert Hall at 7:30.