NEW BRITAIN - Diane Carpenter was taking her usual walk in Walnut Hill Park Saturday morning when she happened to see a sign for a free “Sounds of the City” concert hosted by the New Britain Museum of American Art.
Hours later she was ensconced in a chair in the museum with more than six dozen other people, enjoying the music of Ed Fast and Conga Bop.
“I saw the sign and I came back,” the Berlin resident said. “It’s the first time I’ve attended one of these.”
Minutes later, Fast and his Latin jazz band were playing to a packed house, with dozens of people clapping to the beat.
The program, sponsored by the Charles Parker Trust for Public Music Fund, is designed to bring the music of the city’s rich cultural fabric to the museum.
The concerts coincide with the museum’s free Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon, allowing visitors to stroll about the collections and families to participate in “Art Cart” activities, said Kate Swanson, the museum’s manager of family and studio programs.
“This is fun and it’s also totally accessible,” Swanson said. “Families are attending the concerts and having lots of experiences.”
Saturday’s craft with the Art Cart, a traveling cart full of art supplies, involved making a microphone, which connected the museum’s Benton murals, featuring instruments, and the band, which was performing tunes such as conga player Bill Fitch’s “Insight” and Henry Mancini’s ballad from the movie “Reckless Activities.”
Fast explained to the crowd before many of the pieces the history of the music and would talk about his fellow musicians.
“It knocked me out when I heard it,” Fast said of Fitch’s “Insight.” He went on to explain that Fitch was from New Haven and he had the pleasure of meeting him and playing with him before starting the haunting, yet lively, song.
The concerts were meant to be staged on the grounds of the museum, but with a cloudy and at times rainy forecast in store, “we wisely moved the party inside,” the museum’s Jeffrey Mainville told the crowd.
The next concert takes place Sept. 15 and features a Caribbean steel drum band, Mainville said.
Massachusetts resident Elfreda Bartley-Henson was visiting the museum while in New Britain Saturday morning and wanted to stay for the concert.
“It’s great,” she said. “I think it’s a really nice addition to all the other programs they do.”