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10:55 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

Prescott composer Henry Flurry blends classical feel into unique style

Matt Hinshaw/
The Daily Courier<p>
Maria Vomlehn Flurry performs “La Cunita” on the vibraphone Saturday afternoon during the Prescott Fine Arts Association presentation “The Music of Henry Flurry” in downtown Prescott.

Matt Hinshaw/ The Daily Courier<p> Maria Vomlehn Flurry performs “La Cunita” on the vibraphone Saturday afternoon during the Prescott Fine Arts Association presentation “The Music of Henry Flurry” in downtown Prescott.

PRESCOTT - Thanks in large part to his late father's inspiration, Henry Flurry began writing music in his childhood before taking up composing at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., more than two decades ago.

Today, Flurry, 44, lives in Prescott with his wife, Maria, a longtime orchestral percussionist helps him compose so-called "art music" in the classical tradition.

"It's not like Mozart or Beethoven," Flurry said of his music Saturday, shortly before his first full-length program, "The Music of Henry Flurry," which had two showings at the Prescott Fine Arts Association. "We live in an era with a wide variety of musical languages."

Born and raised in suburban New Orleans, Flurry learned how to develop his own artistic voice. American and French music as well as jazz harmonies heavily influenced Flurry and molded his gift for improvisation.

"There is a sense of music that pervades the city," he said. "Hearing Mardi Gras and jazz band music around the area does influence a little kid."

Flurry now composes for solo instruments and ensembles of all sizes.

He dedicated Saturday's production to his dad, Robert Flurry Jr., a chemist, amateur musician and conductor who died in September from complications from Parkinson's disease, which afflicted Flurry Jr. for 25 years.

Flurry Jr. had planned to retire and focus on music, but Parkinson's inhibited his ability to fulfill his dream, which caused him great frustration.

The work of poet Deborah Rebeck Ash provided a meaningful backdrop for some of the music Flurry wrote for the presentation, including "Riding Past Grief," which mezzo-soprano Linda Sheehan sang.

"My dad brought music, which he cherished, to our family," said Flurry, who has a sister and two brothers. "I was moved by reading a book of Ash's poetry and I wrote 'Riding Past Grief' for Linda's voice."

While at Northwestern, Flurry earned degrees in engineering in addition to music theory and composition. He was a computer programmer in his 20s, but he started studying music privately at the age of 24. Six years later, Flurry made a full-time professional move into music.

After a short stint from 1987-92 as an adjunct music professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he met Maria, the couple moved to Arizona in 2001.

"Henry has a sense of humor and a beauty about him - he's very generous and engaged," Maria said. "He has the ability to look at a text and get into the mind of the person who's written it."

When he is not helping Maria raise their two children, including 13-year-old daughter, Anna, and 9-year-old son, Nathan, Flurry teaches piano and composition to Prescott-area youngsters.

He instructs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and typically practices playing piano and the guitar in the early mornings. Anna, who performed on Saturday, and Nathan both take lessons from their father.

Flurry composes and performs music across Arizona with Maria as the duo "Sticks and Tones."

The Flurrys say they love the music scene in Prescott, particularly at the Prescott Fine Arts Association, because it provides local artists with a strong creative outlet while sponsoring quality music.

"Prescott has been very good to us," Henry said. "It is a welcoming community to other artists."

To find out more about Flurry and his music, log on to his Internet website at www.henryflurry.com.