In less than a year living in the Woodbourne section of Jamaica Plain, Jennie Evans and Curt Newton had gained a good sense of their neighbors’ willingness to come together for a cause.
When they first moved into their home on Bourne Street last April, 10 people brought soup and introduced themselves. When a developer bought a piece of property in the neighborhood with plans to alter it significantly, various residents joined forces to oppose it.
So on Sunday morning, when the couple replied to a neighborhood e-mail thread suggesting the idea of joining together that night to sing as a group, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that it was met with support.
“People come out in numbers for fun and difficult things in this neighborhood,” said Evans, an acupuncturist and artist who, like countless other Bostonians, has been spending much time relegated to her home this week in the midst of a growing pandemic that has grown increasingly grim by the day. “So throwing this idea out, I knew it would be caught by some people.”
The idea — inspired by the viral video of locked-down citizens in Italy putting on a makeshift musical performance from their balconies — was simple enough.
For a few minutes that evening, those in the neighborhood could step out onto their porches or into the street, and take part in an impromptu group song.
By Sunday afternoon, the idea had gained significant steam, and a plan was hatched: That night, at 6, they’d gather to sing “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles.
“The speed with which it came together is an indication of how close people are,” Newton said.
During that evening’s inaugural performance, 15 to 20 people gathered on Bourne Street, careful to keep 6 feet from one another, as recommended to prevent the spread of the virus. In other parts of the neighborhood, some remained on their front steps, some ventured out into he street.
The performance, admittedly, wasn’t flawless. One neighborhood resident, a choral director, tried in vain to muster some semblance of order. There were reports of at least one cowbell.
Still, it was a welcome respite from the devastating events of the past few weeks — a brief dose of connection at a time when isolation has been not just the suggestion but a city and statewide mandate.
“We’re all going through our days getting inundated with information, and lots of e-mails about what’s going on in the world,” said Ken Sazama, a Woodbourne resident. “It’s just a nice, simple break, where it’s just singing and being together.”
In the two days since the first performance, the idea has continued to grow. Other neighborhoods across the city have organized similar events. In Woodbourne, where the group singing has become a nightly event, someone created a Google Doc for residents to suggest songs for upcoming evening performances — and a wave of suggestions have rolled in, many of which include titles or lyrics apt for the time: Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”; “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees.
On Monday evening, just an hour or so after state officials announced that the number of coronavirus cases in the state had increased to nearly 200, members of the group once again took their respective posts throughout the neighborhood.
Word of the event had spread, apparently, in the 24 hours since the first performance. Roughly twice as many people turned out this time. One person brought a trumpet, another drums. There were multiple guitars.
At 6 p.m. sharp, as the evening sun was setting, the group came to life, singing a trio of songs — centered on Bob Marley’s "Three Little Birds“ — and for a few minutes, at least, the world’s dire problems were forgotten.
Don’t worry about a thing, they sang. 'Cause every little thing ... gonna be alright.
Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.