Madam Freda Parry, OBE, cousin of Sir Hubert Parry lived in Southend from the age of 6. Later, she studied singing under Herman Klein and conducting under Sir Henry Wood. She soon developed a flair for choir training and in pre-war days the Freda Parry Choir, composed largely of her own pupils, became well known. At the outbreak of WWII, following the evacuation of Southend, membership dropped from 60 to four! However, it soon rebuilt and was giving weekly concerts under the auspices of the Army Educational Corps, the Essex War Welfare Committee and CEMA, together with the Society of Women Musicians. These cultural activities by Freda Parry greatly contributed to morale in wartime. It was during the evacuation period that she founded the Southend Choral Society which is still a flourishing choir today.
The high competitive awards won by her choirs throughout the country brought honour to Southend and the Freda Parry Choir achieved outstanding success in 1951 by winning the National Competitive Music Festival (Festival of Britain) against choirs from all over Britain. For twenty-one years she was a Professor of Singing at the Metropolitan Academy of Music and was on their Board of Examiners. She also held posts at the Southend Municipal College as conductor of their choral society and orchestra and in her early days she did a great deal of choral work for the London Evening Institutes. Many successful choirs in Essex and elsewhere have been and still are conducted by pupils of hers. She was also very careful to include amongst her activities, the musical directorship of one or more children’s choirs. It was whilst conducting one of her junior choirs in a music festival prize-winners’ concert that she suffered a mild heart attack and was later rushed from her home to Rochford Hospital where she died in January 1971. Her loss was felt keenly across the town and a short while after her death several of her friends and local musicians set up the Freda Parry Scholarship to honour her name.
The Scholarship was established in 1973 in order to assist young singers hoping to follow a professional singing career. The original scholarship of £150 was offered to candidates under the age of 25 following a course of advanced musical study and who were resident in the Southend and Rochford districts.
The Scholarship value now stands at £1,200 and is open to those living in the County of Essex who are under the age of 29. Candidates are asked to prepare a short programme consisting of four songs: an opera or concert aria, an aria from an oratorio or other sacred work, a German Lied or French Mélodie and a British or American Art Song. Many of the past recipients of the Scholarship have gone on to pursue professional singing careers becoming successful performers and teachers in their own right.