Choir Practice: Wednesdays 7:15 pm
THE MUSIC MAN
Henry Fletcher was born and raised in Bartow, Florida. With three brothers and a sister, the family spent their days at the “Corner Drug Store”. “It was a little, tiny town without crime and where doors were left open”. Everyone knew the Fletcher Family who owned the corner store which was run by Henry’s father, the town pharmacist. His mother was the clerk who ran the books and Henry recalls running the cash register at the early age of 7. While Henry has long since moved away, three of his siblings remain in Bartow servicing the town as a lawyer, an electrical engineer, and an insurance agent. The “Fletcher” family name is well known and respected in Bartow!
The “Fletcher” name is also well known and respected in New Port Richey! Henry has been providing musical entertainment to the community for decades!!
After graduating with a music degree from USF and getting married to a preacher’s daughter in the early 70’s, he landed a job teaching music at Elfers Elementary School. It has since been renamed “Mittye P. Lock”. While his father-in-law was the minister here at First Church, Henry was appointed Music Director at First United Methodist Church in Tarpon Springs. Neither his marriage nor position in Tarpon lasted long, but his service to First Church has. He became our Music Director in 1974, and, at the age of 66, his only complaint is “tennis elbow”. He retired from his teaching career at Mittye P. Lock 1999 and recently retired from directing the Thursday Musicale and the men’s Jubilee Singers. He plans to continue directing the Richey Concert Band, a group of eighty musicians who perform from September through April.
Henry loves our Chancel Choir and he marvels at the cycles he has seen over the years. He joined First Church in the early 1970’s. He remembers the challenges of a church outgrowing itself. The chapel was filled during both services and that was with chairs placed alongside the sanctuary isles! When the decision was made to stop busing the kids, it was “the beginning of the end”. Demographics changed and those in
Henry is excited about our current growth cycle, and he loves writing music for our worship services. He has no problem spending hours writing or reworking a piece for a solo or the choir. He recently wrote 5 pages of piano for an upcoming solo, something he does on the computer. In fact, all of the music he writes is done without the use of an instrument. This is quite a rarity and it’s interesting to learn how Henry’s musical talent developed.
When Henry was 6 years old, his sister was taking piano lessons. After practicing her lessons, Henry would get on the bench and play back what he heard. This would infuriate his sister who spent many an hour struggling with her lessons. She moved on to the trumpet. One day, after an exasperating trumpet lesson, she threw the trumpet in the trash. Henry pulled it out and taught himself how to play. (It wasn’t until much later that he discovered he was playing in B flat instead of C.) His first piano teacher’s method of teaching was to play the music first. Henry would then play it back. This is easy for someone with perfect pitch!
He was lost when his beloved piano teacher passed away. The replacement teacher expected Henry to follow the sheet music. This was a challenge, but, eventually, he learned to read music and he appreciated his teacher’s methods. He is grateful for the teacher in junior high who recognized that he was doing “weird things”. This was when it was discovered that Henry had perfect pitch. He would position Henry’s back to the piano or instrument and ask him what note was being played. Henry always answered correctly. This is why he is able to write music without hearing the instrument being played. Writing music is the source of his “tennis elbow”.
In college, he learned to play all of the musical instruments “including the violin”. He most enjoys the keyboard, piano and brass instruments. Of course, we know his favorite is the trumpet! Along with writing music, he enjoys collecting vintage sheet music and postcards from New Port Richey.
Henry recently collaborated with writer Jeff Cannon, providing photos and documents for the book entitled “New Port Richey, Then and Now”, which will be published later this year. He is also collaborating with Ray Brown, acting as "Archivist" of our church! “I am scanning hundreds, actually thousands, of photos and documents to make sure that our church’s past is remembered. I appreciate all that Ray has also done in this regard. I want to get as much as possible of our church’s history computerized so that it can be kept for posterity”.
Henry treasures things from the past and loves to visit old friends from our choir and church. Each summer is spent, either June or July, traveling the United States.
He has been to 49 of the 50 United States. This summer, he hopes to visit Burt Donigan, now 90 years old, in Michigan before driving on to California . He’s driven to Alaska twice and always enjoys his month off. It is along his many routes that he finds new items for his rare music and postcard collections. He invites anyone who has photos that pertain to our church, or community events, or anything "historical" in our community, or just "OLD" photos or postcards of the area to please share them with him. He promises to take GOOD care of them while he scans them.
We are grateful for the history Henry has made at First Church. Each song we hear or hymn we sing, reminds us of our rare, almost vintage “Music Man” in our collection of church family friends! He's taken GOOD care of us!!