aka Lilith LaCroix, aka Gareth Farr



from "New Zealand Music" byBy Anne-Marie de Bruin

Gareth Farr is a 30-year-old New Zealand classical composer who has had his works performed by orchestras which include the Wellington Sinfonia, the Auckland Philharmonia and the NZSO. However, that is not the only side of Gareth's musical persona that is on view to the public. Gareth is also drag artist Lilith, who has become famous for her show, Drumdrag. Suite101.com New Zealand Music was lucky enough recently to catch up with Gareth for an interview.

What do you think of the descriptions of you as a "flamboyant composer?"

"There's plenty of drag photos of me circulating the world at the moment and it is something that I really enjoy doing. Also I think that they do refer to wild crazy music that I do tend to write which has also has nothing to do with drag, but also happens to be a lot of drumming and really visual dramatic type stuff which is maybe something that a lot of composers don't tend towards, so that's what they're talking about."

Obviously drag is just one aspect of your life, so what for you is the most important thing about your music?

"Well, I guess fundamentally the important issue about music is that it is something that's with me 24 hours a day and to a certain extent I feel I don't have a choice - life wouldn't have much meaning without music for me. It is everything and everything that I do has something to do with music and if I didn't do that, I'd have a really boring life!"

So, with all that in mind, what would you say is the state of the classical music industry in New Zealand at the moment?

"Underfunded. It is really difficult for anyone in the classical music world to do anything without money. It's not just classical music, it's the whole arts scene. You can't do a quality project without funding and it's just getting worse and worse. It's an issue which every artist in New Zealand really, really understands, especially when you hear about some Scandinavian countries where if you have a project, as long as it's a reasonable project, it gets funded. It just happens because the government says 'this is art, this is an important part of our culture, go for it, do it.'"

You lived overseas, so how different is the New Zealand scene from where you were based in the States?

"The initial thing that you notice is the population difference between the States and New Zealand is so dramatically huge - I mean, a country of 280 million as opposed to a country of 3 million! I was in New York recently and I was telling somebody the population of New Zealand and they couldn't believe it. They said, '3 and a half million, that's basically 20th St to 42nd St in Manhattan and it's true - you know on American standards, we have the population of a small city. When you've got that many people there are pros and cons. The pros are: you've got to have facilities that can cope with that many people in the industry and there's just so much going on, the scene is huge. The scene here just couldn't possibly be that big - there's just no way with a country this small that you can have that sort of facility and resource."

But because New Zealand is smaller, do you think that there is more of a community atmosphere in the music scene and that things could be easier in that sense?

"The good side of it is that we've got such a small amount of people in the industry here, that it's actually quite easy to get things done. In the States I knew a lot of people my age that were studying who had never ever had a piece performed by orchestra or had never played in an orchestra - all the things that I basically took for granted back here. It's quite easy to get a piece played by orchestra in New Zealand sooner or later, but it's something that most American students just dream of happening one day in their life. The competition in a country that size is fierce, it's absolutely terrifying and I think it makes them a lot tougher there and we get a bit complacent here."

So, then how different was studying overseas to studying at the University of Auckland School of Music?

"I studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and it was a life-changing experience really. I think everyone, with their first experience overseas, whether it's studying or just experiencing the world, comes back with a whole different outlook on life. I mean experiencing all the things I was talking about before, with the competition and everything, I came back a lot more serious about my art but also I came back with a lot of knowledge about what was possible, where I could perhaps go with it, so it was a good experience. And, to compare that to Auckland, I'd say Auckland was basically three years of discovering what music was and Eastman was discovering what the world was..."