David Parry 1942 - 1995By Ian Robb
First Published in Sing Out! Magazine.
Used with permission.
Singer, storyteller, actor, director, morris dancer, musician, teacher and member of The Friends of Fiddlers' Green, David Parry died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Ottawa on June 13th, 1995, a few days before his 53rd birthday.
Born and raised in London, England and married in India, David made Ontario,- first Toronto and latterly Ottawa,- his home for the last two decades. His formal credentials included a PhD in medieval drama, and he spent many years as an academic in that field, but he was never one to make distinctions between work and pleasure, and his training and talent inevitably spilled out into the non-academic arts community. He acted in and directed countless amateur and professional productions, ranging from the entire and enormous York Cycle of Mystery Plays, to Shakespeare and to Gilbert and Sullivan; and latterly made his living as director of the successful and innovative live interpretation program at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
But David's biggest creative passions were undoubtedly singing and storytelling. He knew more songs than anyone I have ever met, and had a prodigious ability, born no doubt of a love for language and an actor's training, to absorb stories and songs, tuck them away in some corner of his vast memory, and then bring them forth at will. This he would do on a concert stage, in the pub after a long day's morris dancing with the Toronto Morris Men, in the supermarket, on the elevator, or wherever and whenever the urge took him. His extrovert enthusiasm for singing went way beyond the bounds of convention; he was happy to sing anywhere, any time, just for the joy of it. And people loved him for that.
As those of us who sang and played with him quickly found out, David was a man who lived for the moment. He did not, I think, like to plan; was fairly ambivalent about rehearsal, and generally liked to deal with life and performance as it encountered him, rather than before. His tendency to give his all to the issue of the moment made him constantly and exasperatingly late, but his enthusiasm and talent for performing and his vast resource of songs and stories, not to mention a fine voice and peerless skill at delivering good words, made it a joy to share stages with him.
David Parry was a big-hearted man who lived life incautiously and to the full. He would not have wanted people to mourn him, but to remember and celebrate. This his family, Caroline, Evalyn and Richard are bravely trying to do, and I know all David's friends wish for them the strength, love and support to continue.
David's last recorded work was The Man from Eldorado, a collection of the songs and stories of Robert Service; the songs set to wonderful tunes by David and the stories delivered as only he could. However it is his previous recording, The Wind that Tramps the World, which probably yields the best epitaph for David Parry; from Kipling's Sestina of the Tramp-Royal:
' E liked it all !