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Image by elizabeth lies



(Woodwind (3, 3, 2+Cb.Cl, 2+Cbsn) / brass (4, 3, 2+B.Tbn, 1) / timp / perc (I) / strings ( 12'20

commissioning note


Commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

Programme note

I wrote White Horses thinking about the mystery of Viva Waud Farmar, a WWI nurse and one of the first female pilots in New Zealand, who trained for her pilot’s license with the Marlborough Aero Club in 1930-31.


In 1937, Farmar leapt without warning from a biplane above the Cook Strait. The pilot with whom she had been flying, A E Willis, circled the plane down after her and saw her hit the sea. He later told reporters that, “She hit the sea sometime before I could get down but I could see perfectly and she just went in and disappeared. The sea was pretty rough, with white horses everywhere.”


Farmar’s body was never found and no inquest was held. She simply leapt into mid-air and vanished into the ocean.

White Horses for orchestra by Gemma Peacocke
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