VYNERS – AND THE SWING BAND – WITHOUT PERRY?
The news that Perry Parsons MBE has retired both from teaching at Vyners School and leading the Vyners Swing Band (VSB) has come as a shock to his huge number of friends and fans throughout the school, the community of Ickenham and the music world in general. With much emotion, Perry announced his news at the VSB Farewell Concert in September, following 22 years with the VSB and 42 years at the school.
Geoffrey Lloyd Parsons was born 65 years ago in Lincoln, and named after Dambuster Group Captain GL Cheshire. One of his relatives thought he looked like a periwinkle as a baby and since that time the nickname Perry has stuck! His parents were neither particularly musical nor rich and the family lived in a series of caravans until Perry was eleven. He went to school in Kingston, where he took up the recorder and played cornet in the Tiffin School Brass Band. Then he started playing the trumpet which became his favourite instrument.
Aged nine he had a bad fall and fractured his skull. “As a result, something happened to change me for the better,” he said, “and I improved in every way”. Not a study approach to rely upon, perhaps, but he later attended Exeter University, then Oxford, where he gained his Dip Ed in History with PE, Music and Maths as auxiliary subjects.
In 1968, when Mr Best was Headmaster, Perry attended a job interview for a history teacher at Vyners and they wisely snapped him up straight away. Five years later he was promoted to Head of History and, in 1974, Head of Lower School. This was followed by a variety of other school appointments. Then, 22 years ago, he started his biggest undertaking - Vyners Swing Band.
The band has since gone from strength to strength, performing 617 times, home and abroad, in places such as Kensington Palace and Hampton Court, and raising over £175,000 for various charities in the process. Among the band’s favourite venues have been the grounds of Swakeleys House, as one of the highlights of the Ickenham Festival.
The enthusiasm which VSB generated amongst the pupils led many to want to return to play with the band after they’d left school. So, in 1997, a new senior band was formed, called at first the Old Swingers, then the Red Hot Swinging Mullets; then, without Perry’s knowing, the Perry Parsons Big Band. Now, without Perry, but with a deal of his heritage, they are called Stardust Big Band.
Considering his amazing achievements, it came as no surprise that in 2006, Perry won the Gazette’s Hero of Hillingdon award, and that in the following year, he was honoured by the Queen at Buckingham Palace with an MBE.
Since his retirement, Perry has been inundated with accolades and messages of appreciation for all he has done for Vyners, the bands and Ickenham. Perhaps the most touching of these have come from ex-pupils who emphasise the learning experience he provided outside of school and music. Typical is the following: “I will be forever grateful for the opportunities the band you created gave me. Through your band I have made lifelong friends, learnt new instruments and in all ways progressed. VSB gave me and others a wonderful boost personally and creatively. Thank you for being a teacher, mentor, band leader, an inspiration and friend.”
DROP-IN FOR THE BEREAVED. Third Monday of each month. St Giles’ Church Hall, 2pm to 3.30pm. A friendly, informal opportunity for a chat, over a cup of tea, with other bereaved people and bereavement visitors. The next meeting is on Monday 15th November (then Monday 20th December). Just come along, or ring the Rectory (622970) if you would like to talk to someone first.