On a cold Monday evening in January, Imogen Parry (aka Midge) returned to Ipswich School to answer my questions, wearing the biggest smile. She is incredibly excited about her new job with The Swingles, formerly known as The Swingle Singers who were founded in the ’60s and are five times Grammy Award winners. They are a London-based vocal group who perform primarily a cappella. She has wanted to be in this group since she was three years old and she remembers doobey-doobey-dooing along to their scat songs from her earliest years. Her first project with the group is their tour to the US and Canada with the Swingles.
When were you at the school and who was the Headmaster?
I joined the school in Year 9 in 2008, having attended The Latymer School in London until then. Ian Galbraith was the Headmaster and Nick Weaver arrived when I was in Year 11.
Which House did you belong to and who was your Head of House?
I belonged to and was Senior Prefect in Holden as my father is an OI and our Housemaster (the previous name for the Head of House) was Mike Bannan; he retired and was succeeded by Jonathan Orbell.
What did you do in the co-curricular programme whilst at school?
Before I started at the school, I attended the annual Summer Strings course with Andrew Leach and Bev Steensma. I played viola in Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra which was conducted by the Headmaster, Ian Galbraith. I have always loved to sing and was a soprano in Chapel Choir and School Choir. In Year 11, I joined the first pupil-led singing group “Glee Club” but in Year 12, I set up Show Choir, an acapella group for Year 11 and above.
I loved to study Drama but it was not available at that time for our age group so we asked Lindsey Ward, the former Head of Drama if we could do CS-Drama as an enrichment subject in Year 12. This allowed us to take the Grade 8 LAMDA Drama qualification as a group in our own time, led by Lindsey Ward. We were examined by the Lead examiner of LAMDA and scored 98%; we were absolutely thrilled. I appeared in many productions including ‘A Hired Man’, ‘Showstoppers’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Seussical the Musical’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’.
Tell me about who or what inspired you during your time at the school?
“Lindsey Ward to this day is my idol – there’s so much I owe her.” We were in awe as she taught Maths and English and gave us the best Drama experience too.
‘Guys and Dolls’ taught me so much more than how to perform; it showed me how to collaborate well with others. The production was an absolute learning curve in every way as I made props, I helped with costume and make-up and also helped with the younger performers.
Chapel Choir Tours were also something I cherished and they helped me to recognise the importance of working in a team. We travelled to Hamburg, Salisbury, Wells and Durham and were like a big family (Year 7-13) all helping each other. In Year 13, we became the role models for the younger pupils and consequently, had a responsibility to give the best of ourselves; it was such a rewarding experience.
What was your most memorable moment at the school?
There were too many to choose just one! Undoubtedly being a part of Guys and Dolls was a highlight. A close second was directing and performing in Show Choir at Snape in Year 13. We sang ‘I’m a Train!’ and it meant the world to us. Even though we were all friends, I was so proud of our achievement and the others showed me real respect as the director. Another huge accomplishment was singing with Big Band for the first time. I sang ‘Don’t Know Why’ by Norah Jones and although I was nervous, I was hugely proud to be performing after the great Charlotte Walters. (One of the former Chapel Choir sopranos and one of the first singers with Big Band)
What happened next after Ipswich School?
I took a Gap Year and worked as the music department assistant at Latymer Upper School, London. I went to study Theatre Studies and Comparative Literature at Glasgow University in September 2014.
I attended Boston College in the US on a year abroad programme in my third year and performed in four productions whilst I was there. I graduated in 2018 and applied to do a Masters in Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy in London.
What are you doing currently and what led you there?
Sadly, I was unsuccessful in my application to the Royal Academy in September. I had also applied to The Swingles in July although I didn’t ever expect to get the job. In October, I was called for a Swingles audition and I tried to keep it all in perspective as the previous rejection had been an extremely hard pill to swallow. Two rounds of auditions later, I was offered the job on 20 November 2018.
(She still hasn’t stopped smiling!)
What lies ahead for the coming year?
My first tour with The Swingles awaits and kicks off on 17 March in Colorado; we will then travel to many venues across North America including California, British Columbia and Alberta (Canada), Minnesota, New York and Florida. On our return, we will be performing in Italy and Leipzig amongst other destinations.
What would you tell your teenage self?
Something not too cheesy! It is all going to work out in the end. Try not to beat yourself up if things don’t work out immediately. I expect to be able to master things first time around and yet have come to realise that that is simply not realistic or achievable.
What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing a similar interest?
Be a nice person – it’s so much more about working well with others than just having talent. People will want to work with you if you are easy-going and hard-working rather than hugely talented and unpleasant.
For more about the Swingles: www.theswingles.co.uk; to become a patron: www.patreon.com/theswingles