At first, all Erica Parker wanted to do was brighten a neighbor’s day.
One of the nearby residents in Parker’s south Tulsa neighborhood is a woman in her 90s, whose family — out of very real concerns for her health in the face of COVID-19 — was adamant about the woman sheltering in place.
“They really didn’t want her going outside at all,” Parker said. “Maybe out on to the front porch, but that was it. So I thought I would go over and play something for her, and maybe cheer her up a little.
“And that neighborly thing,” she said, laughing, “soon became a neighborhood thing.”
Parker, who performs with the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College and serves as the orchestra’s director of education and outreach, began to create daily videos of short musical performances, often setting up her music stand and chair outside her south Tulsa home.
“I would do the recordings at 11:30 a.m. in order to post them at noon,” Parker said. “And I started noticing that some people in the neighborhood would alter their schedules to pass by.”
Parker posted a video a day for 40 days, performing everything from original compositions by local composers to movie themes, pop songs to hymns, as well as some collaborative performances with musicians from around the world.
While Parker is no longer doing a new video each day, she is continuing to create and post new performances, usually uploading new content on her Facebook on Mondays and Wednesdays.
One of her most recent videos, which she posted in honor of Memorial Day, was her performing “God Bless America” at Veterans Park near downtown Tulsa, with Clayton Coss’ chainsaw sculpture “Freedom’s Price” as the backdrop.
She has also made videos at other locations. For example, Parker played the graduation staple “Pomp and Circumstance” under the marquee of Circle Cinema, which bore the announcement “Congratulations Tulsa Community College 2020 Graduates.”
And she performed a rendition of the Queen hit “We Are the Champions” on the grounds of St. Francis Hospital, to honor the health care workers and their efforts and sacrifices during the pandemic.
“One of the reasons I started doing these was I had about seven (original compositions) that I was planning to premiere, and since everything had shut down because of the coronavirus, I figured I might as well premiere them on Facebook,” she said. “So far, I’ve done about four of them. And some local composers are writing new pieces for me, as well.”
But there is also a more elemental reason why Parker continues to make and share these performances.
“Music is my language,” she said. “I usually don’t speak at all during the videos. And while I do post some kind of text with the video, I don’t say what piece I’m performing, unless it’s one of the works I’m premiering. It’s because I think the music can and should speak for itself.”
If there is something of a theme that ties all these individual videos together, it’s found in the hashtag Parker affixes to her posts: #musicthatconnects.
“I want just to represent the Oklahoma spirit, of getting through something like (the coronavirus pandemic) by coming together and working together,” Parker said. “Music to me is love. And whenever I play, it makes me feel better — it gives me purpose and focus for whatever is next.”
Gallery: Local Cellist plays God Bless America at Veterans Park