Originally Published: August 23, 2018 7:58 p.m.
The inaugural concert of the Arizona Philharmonic Orchestra (APO) may require tissues as its two world premieres promise to stir the emotions.
In its first concert ever, APO founder and composer Henry Flurry tackles two anniversaries and Hurricane Katrina in his 2018 and 2016 compositions. The concert starts at 5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center.
Flurry wrote “Canyon Reflections” in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Yavapai College and the 100th Anniversary of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath inspired the stirring piano concerto, “Currents,” the concert’s namesake. Neither compositions have been performed in the country or the world.
Flurry grew up in New Orleans where he experienced the Mississippi River with its constantly changing flow and scenery. In the first movement of “Currents” listeners will hear the dynamic sounds of the river and the city’s character. APO supporter and vocalist Toni Tennille called the piece brilliant.
“With the very first bars of River (first movement), I was instantly looking at the mighty Mississippi as it rolled by, beautiful, powerful and frightening,” Tennille wrote on the orchestra’s Facebook page. “You caught the essence of the city and the river, lake, bayous and canals surrounding and weaving through it.”
In the second movement, Breaking, Flurry expresses his fury over the inadequate construction and maintenance of the levees that failed after the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. The movement starts as the storm hits New Orleans and moves through the declaration of martial law.
“At the end, it’s an angry statement – I still choke up when I talk about it,” Flurry said. “You’ll hear in the middle of the piece, when the levees break, the rising water, and then this raw anger that comes out. The piano and percussion kick in. At the very last is a strong, angry chord. As it’s fading away, the third movement, Still, begins.”
The plaintive cry of the bowed waterphone instrument leads off, reflecting the pain, beauty and sorrow of the standing floodwaters that took a month to drain away, Flurry said. The orchestra enters “in a very slow measure of time, with a glassy, quiet, painful stillness,” he explained.
Listeners will hear fragments of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” a traditional jazz funeral piece with trombone, clarinet and tuba. “This represents the city coming together to rebuild, and the hope that comes from the rebuilding. But it never quite resolves in the end,” he added.
Flurry said he visited the city four months after the hurricane and found his childhood home had flooded with 12 feet of water. He saw debris piled three and four stories high stretching for miles in the median of boulevards. Some areas have never recovered from the devastation, he said.
In addition to the two premieres, Flurry’s retrospective compositions include “Fanfare for My City,” based on a spontaneous lullaby for his daughter; “1912,” inspired by poems by Martha Kirby Capo and the early history of the Hohokam, railroads and Phoenix; and “Ragtime Dances for Marimba and Orchestra” featuring Maria Flurry on the marimba and 1920’s dance music in which she partners with different solo instruments.
Tickets are available at the box office, through ycpac.ticketforce.com, and by calling 928-776-2000.
Flurry said the newly established orchestra would not exist without his fabulous launch team and the local ensembles that work collaboratively with APO.
“When we came to Prescott, what I discovered is, no matter where you are in the arts, you are celebrated for your capabilities and celebrated for your growth. From my point of view, we will always be making an effort to celebrate local artists in future seasons,” he said.