Parker and friends inspire, encourage with videos

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Moving away from Mount Desert Island to Rockport in 2018 didn’t keep performer Brittany Parker from her fans here, so why should a quarantine? 

The musician and educator has been busy this spring creating video versions of her popular interactive music programs for children as part of two projects: a “Fables and Folktales” series, produced by the Southwest Harbor Public Library, and “The Hive,” a new interactive musical web series with her pop-rock band Bee Parks and the Hornets. 

“Fables and Folktales” grew out of conversations with Susan Plimpton, the children’s librarian at the Southwest Harbor Public Library and a close friend. 

“We’ve both been passionate about finding this link between early literacy and performance,” Parker told the Islander last week. Traditional fables have classic narrative structures that lend themselves to music and performance, and they also make great teaching tools, she said. 

She wrote songs to go with the stories and performed the first story, “The Rooster and the Fox,” at the library in 2018. This year, a series of performances was planned at the library. When the library closed, they agreed on a way to go ahead with online versions of the series. 

There are two videos in the series so far, “The Rooster and the Fox” and “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Both feature Parker’s own drawings of the animal characters and simple animation. She appears in a lower corner of the screen, reading the story and singing the songs, accompanying herself on the ukulele. 

Performing artists have different approaches to sharing their work online, she noted. “I’ve been a part of ohsomany Zoom calls with other artists and performers,” she said, all trying to figure out how to continue to work in the absence of live performances. 

“There’s a big difference between doing a livestream show and creating digital content to be accessed digitally.” In some ways it’s harder to create recorded, produced pieces like Parker’s, but it also makes it easier to add images and effects. 

She already had a green screen set up at home for video projects with students. She has been doing video editing using Final Cut for several years, so that part of the project doesn’t feel like a chore. 

For “Fables and Folktales,” she said, “the thing that takes the longest amount of time is typing in all the words!” 

Next up will be “The Lion and the Mouse,” which is a particular favorite. “The mouse runs into the lion’s nose and wakes him up!” she said. “I love that part.” 

The “Fables and Folktales” videos are posted on the Brittany Parker YouTube channel. Links are on the Southwest Harbor Public Library’s website. 

And once it’s safe to get groups together and she can do live versions of these productions, some audience members will be able to sing along even more confidently since they already know the songs! 

The Hive

Parker has created five episodes of “The Hive,” an interactive musical web series “designed to get your family moving, singing and creating right from home.” Each episode includes a song with Bee Parks and the Hornets. In this song, Parker has eight backup dancers, one for each of Sprinkles the spider’s legs.

Bee Parks and the Hornets buzzed onto the scene in 2018, performing regularly at the Criterion and elsewhere. The band includes Carl Ferm on keyboard and saxophone, Joey Dupuis on guitar and trumpet, Cedar Ellis on drums and Jarly Bobadilla and Mélissa Smith on bass. 

Five episodes of “The Hive” have been released since its launch in March. 

“I had been hoping to put a web series together for Bee Parks for a while,” Parker said, but she had been more focused on live performance and the idea took a back seat. 

“Most of my work is, I want kids to be dancing or singing with me,” she said. 

That’s very much the focus of “The Hive,” along with activities including guessing games, drawing, magic tricks, science experiments and lessons in how to speak Spanish or play an instrument. 

“Like so many of you out there right now, we bees are staying close to our hives,” she says in the introduction to each episode. “But that doesn’t mean that we still can’t have fun together.” 

The band has recorded one album, intended as “a supplement to the show,” Parker said, “a way to take the show home with you.” 

“Scientist Elli” Hartig demonstrates a simple science experiment kids can try at home in Episode 4 of “The Hive.”

But with more live shows likely to be canceled as the year goes on, the band is also beginning work on a second album. 

“We will work on writing a lot this summer and hope to be recording in late fall,” she said. “It’s a shift in mental focus, creating music that can just be accessed on its own.” 

Whether watching “The Hive” or listening to a record, singing along with these lyrics can’t help but bring some badly-needed fresh energy into the house, maybe even for the grownups who aren’t the target audience: 

“I hereby pledge to be my best, to help all creatures big and small. And from now on, it is my quest to make new friends and sound the call.” 

And, “I can do things no one else can do, so I know that fact is the same for you, and together we can start a brand new day.” 

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Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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