Roy Terry obituary

Other lives: Educationist with a leading role in brass band music in Britain and France

My friend Roy Terry, who has died aged 81, was a conductor, musical director, educationist and writer who played a key role in the development of brass bands in Britain and France during the past 30 years.

A quietly humorous, elegant exterior camouflaged his serious ability to get the best out of whatever group he led – children, during his 15-year stint as conductor of the Croydon Schools music festival junior choir and orchestra, the Salvation Army Cambridge Heath band in New Year’s Eve services at St Paul’s Cathedral, or the Antibes-based Brass Band Méditerranée. Naturally reserved, he enjoyed the podium spotlight.

Born in Merton Park, south-west London, to Victor Terry, a chauffeur, and Dorothy (nee Foot), a secretary, Roy went to Rutlish grammar school before studying piano and conducting at the Guildhall School of Music, where he gained his ARCM diploma qualification in 1962. He then went to Culham College, Oxford, to train as a teacher.

Roy taught music at Wheatley secondary school in Oxfordshire, before being appointed head of music at Beulah Junior Thornton primary school in Thornton Heath, south London, in 1967, the year that he married Marlene Fraser. He went on to be deputy headteacher there until moving to become headteacher at Purley Oaks junior school (1976-81), then Byron junior school (1981-89), both in Croydon.

After gaining a licentiateship in conducting from Guildhall in 1972, Roy became conductor of the Croydon Schools music festival junior choir and orchestra, performing to full houses at the Fairfield Halls and the Royal Festival Hall with programmes of contemporary music, including Edward Gregson’s The Salamander and The Moonraker, commissioned in 1980 by the London borough of Croydon. He remained as conductor until 1986.

After a period as a music inspector in the London borough of Newham (1989-92), then as an Ofsted inspector of music (1992-99), and having taken an MA in music education in France, he and Marlene bought an apartment in Nice in 2004, while remaining resident in the UK. From there, Roy encouraged brass bands in conservatoires around France, particularly the one at Antibes, whose Concours International de Tuba in March of this year saluted his memory by awarding a prize in his name.

Roy never really retired. He used any extra time to pursue his enthusiasms – including as musical director of two summer schools in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 and 1999. He wrote assiduously for publications such as British Bandsman and Brass Band World, and contributed a chapter on the composer Mátyás Seiber to a book I edited in 2018 on Hungarian artists in Britain. In connection with that book, Roy also drove me on a wild goose chase to find the Surrey grave of the Hungarian-born artist George Buday.

One of Roy’s final undertakings, at the end of last November, was to lead the Brass Band Méditerranée at a memorable concert in Holy Trinity, the Nice Anglican church, the climax of a year celebrating the bicentenary of Anglican worship on the Côte d’Azur.

Roy is survived by Marlene, his sons, Chris and Paul, and his grandchildren, Ben, Madeline and Oliver.


Robert Waterhouse

The GuardianTramp

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