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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 to be part of a new production for children in which pictures are aural rather than visual. The production process is also very different, with teamwork throughout and Gareth Farr centre-stage translating story to music for our talented String Quartet”, she says.

Joy Cowley goes on to explain:

“In Scary Music I come home to two great passions: pleasurable learning for children, and a consumer's love of music. I know that Gareth and the New Zealand String Quartet will pass on something of those passions to children in schools.”

To help us do justice to Joy’s clever script, we’ve worked with well-known theatre and opera director Jacqui Coats, who has just emerged from directing the re-staging of Madam Butterfly for New Zealand Opera in Christchurch. A true artistic collaboration across the multiple disciplines of literature, music and theatre, Scary Music as a project is significant to our commitment to collaboration, education and community. And, to quote Gareth Farr, it’s also “jolly good fun!”

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