Monday January 20, 2014 | 09:54 AM

              Raconteurs are entertainers who tell stories with skill, music and wit.  It's a word derived from the French, "raconter", meaning to tell.  

               Maine's Franco-American raconteur is Michael Parent, of Portland.

Parent began his raconteur career in 1977, when be combined his professional teaching experience with his talents for singing and storytelling. His Franco-American heritage provided him with the knowledge of songs and stories he learned growing up in Lewiston, Maine, where he was surrounded by family, who spoke both French and English.

Upcoming presentations he’s scheduled to perform are at 4 Portland senior living centers. Included in the 45-50 minute program, consisting of mostly humorous songs and stories, will be some with Franco-American material. 

Raconteur Michael Parent of Portland

Michael Parent is Maine's Franco-American Raconteur

Performances are scheduled in residences at 75 State Street, 100 State Street, the Osher Inn/Atrium (The Cedars) on Ocean Avenue and at Park Danforth on Stevens Avenue. Performances are scheduled on multiple dates and afternoon times.  These programs are sponsored by the Portland Public Library with a grant from the Eunice Frye Foundation.

“The stories are sprinkled with humor and very sing-able songs, because I provide sheets with words to encourage and invite the audience to sing along, which they usually do,” says Parent.

Parent was a school teacher for seven years before he began his career as a story teller, singer, writer and workshop leader in the tradition of a “raconteur”.  He affirmed his French connection to stories he told by listening to oral history interviews with his family and friends, coupled with visits to Quebec and France

Franco-Americans enjoy a rich history of story telling handed down through generations of raconteurs. Parent revives this custom by conducting workshops and educational entertainment with a focus on storytelling. 

French raconteurs, of course, learned their storytelling talents from ancestors who carried their skills to New France from the medieval times. 

“Telling stories is an entertaining way of sharing the Franco-American culture and teaching it to others,” he says. 

Last year, he adapted the French-Canadian folk tale, “The Golden Phoenix”, a story he presented to junior high students in Auburn. It’s a story about a bird with mystical powers and the basis for the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale, “The Golden Bird”.

Parent created an award winning audio-tape titled “Sundays at Grandma’s and a one-man show titled “Grandpa’s Birthday”, based on stories he collected from his family and members of the Franco-American community. 

Parent co-authored with Julian Oliver a collection of Franco-American folk stories, with a few translated from French to English, in the anthology “Of Kings and Fools”.

A bilingual educational music program on CD titled, “Chantons, Let’s Sing” includes a selection of Franco-American songs sung in French and English. He also performed with fellow actors Susan Poulin and her husband Gordon Carlisle in the original play, “A Frog Stuck in the Ice – A Franco-American Story”. His one-man show titled “One More Thing” is based on the play. 

Portland Public Librrary and teh Eunice Frye Foundation

Performances at 4 Portland senior housing residences are sponsored by the Portland Public Library with a grant from the Eunice Frye Foundation.

Performances at 4 Portland senior residences are at the following dates and times:

75 State Street - performances are at 2:30 PM on January 23, February 26, March 26 and April 10

100 State Street - performances are at 2 PM on February 4, March 11 and April 8

Osher Inn/Atrium (The Cedars) at 640 Ocean Avenue - performances are at 3 PM on January 22, February 6, March 6 and April 3

Park Danforth - at 777 Stevens Avenue, are at 1:30 PM on February 20; the March and April dates are to be determined. 

Michael Parent’s website is http://www.michaelparentstorytelling.com/ 

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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