Three concerts, 15 minutes each, in three different locations.
That was musician Jan Jungden’s assignment as the first performer in the International Festival of Arts & Ideas’s Arts on Call series, which allows patrons to support artists by booking them and having them deliver a short outdoor concert at their home.
Jungden made the rounds on Friday, from Orange to East Rock to downtown, leaving dozens of concertgoers swinging in her wake.
Jungden’s first visit was to the house of Barbara Ann and Thomas Griggs, in Orange. Neighbors arrived as Jungden set up and prepared to play.
“Here we are!” said neighbors Paula and Shannon. “We didn’t bring any masks so we’ll just keep our distance.”
Barbara Ann, meanwhile, rounded up more neighbors, who were in front of their house already. “Come on over and hear the concert!” she said.
Jungden had brought a small portable keyboard, a single microphone, and a battery-powered amplifier, a setup that proved up to the task. Jungden, who lives is Storrs, is the leader of the Jan Jungden Trio, which plays jazz standards. She also plays in Fuse, which plays funk, R&B, soul, and hip hop. She heard about the Arts on Call through a fellow musician; she plays regularly all over the state and beyond — or did until the pandemic started.
“I’m so excited to be playing. It’s been a while since I played in front of an audience, as you can imagine,” she said. “This is one of my Covid-19 songs.” Without further ado, she slid into Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” with its suddenly timely lyrics.
No one to talk with All by myself No one to walk with but I’m happy on the shelf Ain’t misbehavin’ I’m saving my love for you
Babara Ann and Tom appeared to be smiling under their masks and held hands.
“Thought you guys were going to dance,” Jungden said.
As Jungden settled into “Well Allright, Okay, You Win,” it was clear how naturally the apartment formed nearly a small stadium. A few couples had blankets and early picnic dinners set up for the occasion, but as Jungden played, a couple other families came out of the building to join them. Above their heads, a couple second-story windows opened, and faces peered out.
“Is it summer?” Jungden said, noting the warm weather. Someone requested “Summertime.” Behind her, on the street, passersby in masks loitered to listen.
“I’m amazed at how short a 15-minute concert is,” Jungden said, “but we have time for several more.” As before, the audience, now numbering over a dozen, stayed until the end, filling the courtyard with applause at the end of each song.
“Great idea,” said one of the listeners at the end of the show.
“They turned out in the upper deck,” said someone else, motioning to the people in the second-floor windows.
“You just made us the hottest address in New Haven,” said someone else. They began discussing the idea of organizing more concerts.
Justin Zaremby, who had booked Jungden for his building, was thrilled. “We’re a close-knit building but we don’t get a chance to come together,” he said. “We need something to celebrate.” Arts on Call has musicians spanning several genres, but he gravitated toward the upbeat nature of swing. “Everyone loves jazz,” he said.
Zaremby is a nonprofit lawyer who is also involved with The Elizabethan Club, and he mentioned how he was struck by the creative response of the arts community to the pandemic.
“Everyone wants to do something,” he said. And “the Arts and Ideas Festival is a great New Haven tradition. You’d hate to have a summer without it.”
Jungden’s last stop of the day was on Temple Street; there she had been booked by Betsy Sledge. Sledge’s husband gamely tried to help Jungden with her gear.
“You have to curb your gentlemanly impulses for Covid,” Sledge reminded him.
Jungden quickly set up near the street corner. The Sledges had invited several friends and shortly before five a phalanx of cars arrived. A number of couples got out, all wearing masks. A few had brought folding chairs. They signaled air hugs and blew each other kisses.
“We got a nice little party going — socially distanced and everything,” Jungden said.
As her 15 allotted minutes wound to a close, the audience, as before, was not eager to disperse. Jungden voiced a sentiment that summed it up. “We have days that go by that seem the same,” she said. “It’s nice to get out and play for people.”