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Gareth Farr & Joy Cowley – a 'Scary' combination



For composer and percussionist Gareth Farr, collaborating with children’s author Joy Cowley on the new commission Scary Music is a “lifelong dream” fulfilled.


“I always wanted to meet her,” he says. “And now I not only get to meet her, but I get to collaborate with her on a great project!”

Scary Music has been commissioned by Creative New Zealand for primary and intermediate school-aged children. It will be performed at schools during August and September as we make our way around the country on our Russian Icons tour.


The work tells the story of two brave children visiting a haunted house. Gareth Farr explains:

“While doing so, Scary Music challenges the audience to consider what the difference is between music and what we generally consider to be noise.”

When he was 25, Farr wrote one of his earliest commissions, Owhiro, for the New Zealand String Quartet.


“It is still one of the pieces I am most proud of,” he says,” in part, because of the collaborative process I had with [the Quartet] in its creation. It’s a dark, edgy, brooding piece that challenges the audience and tests the limits of their comfort zone.”

He describes Scary Music as a very different piece of music.


“It’s an expression of the exact opposite part of my personality - the fun side. It’s a setting of a specially written story by the legendary children's writer Joy Cowley.”

For Cowley, the opportunity to work with Farr is equally valuable. She says she’s in awe of the “depth and breadth of his genius”.


She is also valuing the opportunity to see her writing transformed by music. “Having written hundreds of books that have been brought to life by illustrators, it is very exciting