First Night® Morris County Turns 21!

December 31, 2012 marked the 21st year for New Jersey’s biggest and brightest New Year’s Eve non-alcoholic celebration of the arts – with nearly 300 artists, 80 events in 24 venues – representing dance, drama, music, visual arts and children’s events. For all 21 years, the Arts Council of the Morris Area has served as First Night’s artistic programmer, researching and securing topflight performers who routinely attract 5,000-10,000 people from throughout the state and beyond. Click First Night 2013 Program  for all the details.

This year’s program featured nearly 70% new artists (or artists returning after several years), many of whom have played the White House, Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ole Opry, and similarly top venues. In one night, attendees were able to hear 5-time Grammy nominee and roots/bluegrass wonder, Cia Cherryholmes, with Stetson Adkisson direct from Nashville or a star-studded jazz lineup which included trumpeter Warren Vaché, Boardwalk Empire clarinetist Dan Levinson, Rio Clemente, Grover Kemble as well as guitar “gods” – the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli, a special guest with the fabulous Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. The house was rocking with The British Invasion Tribute who opened for Ringo Starr, played with Eric Clapton and offered the best of American and British classic 60s rock.






L-R: Songs of the Fall (Bluegrass and roots) with five-time Grammy nominee Cia Cherryholmes and Stetson Adkisson; Illusionist Anthony Salazar; Felicity Jones runs for queen of USA in Me Pluribus Unum; Guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli; Marimba master Greg Giannascoli; Random Test Reggae;   Féraba West African drumming, dance and tap.

Those intrigued by world cultures had the opportunity to hear tabla and sitar music of North India (The Kolkota Duo), music, dance (and costumes) of Russia (Barynya) and the unique combination of tap dancing with West African dance and drumming (Féraba).  The floors were burning with fast footwork of Colombia’s steamy Salsaoco, and full houses savored the passionate klezmer music of the David Glukh’s virtuosic ensemble or channeedl Bob Marley’s Caribbean vibe with Random Test Reggae.

Classical music lovers indulged in the beautiful sounds of Laryssa Krupa’s Nova Chamber Ensemble, Harmonium Choral Society, the New Philharmonic of NJ chamber orchestra, or the talented young pianists, Ana Gligvashvili and James Rosenblum. For those who preferred their classical music with a twist, there was The Sweet Plantain Quartet blends Beethoven, Bach, blues, Latin, jazz and rap, while marimba player Greg Giannascoli’s blinding virtuosity astounded and prizewinning WindSync charmed with its simultaneous acting/playing Prokofiev’s Peter & the Wolf.





L-R: The Kolkata Duo (N. Indian tabla and sitar); Jazz guitar wizards, Vinny Raniolo and Frank Vignola;  Jazz trumpet legend, Warren Vaché; The David Glukh International Ensemble (Fusion and Klezmer); The Sweet Plantain Quartet (Classical,rap, Latin, blues and jazz); and WindSync.

For theatre lovers, there was the renowned master of mime, Yass Hakoshima and the Titanic survivors’ touching stories (with the Travelling Literary Theatre). Laughter followed comedian Moody McCarthy,  hilarity reigned with Felicity Jones (Me Pluribus Unum), as she campaigned to become Queen of America and comic hypnotist Marshal Manlove had everyone’s imaginations in overdrive.  A reptile show, a comic folk singer, a champion drum and bugle corps, the Battle of the Bands, the organist from Yankee Stadium, Sesame Place’s music man, a flea circus, magicians, illusionists, early American music and old-time bluegrass rounded out the offerings. Mix in 2 visual arts exhibits and 2 sets of fireworks and you have an unbeatable way to herald 2013!





L-R: Dom Rizzo with friend (Let’s get wild with Rizzo’s Reptiles); Master of Mime, Yass Hakoshima; the Salsaoco Dance Team; The British Invasion Tribute (classic 60s British & American rock ‘n roll); the renowned clarinettist, Dan Levinson ( of Boardwalk Empire and Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks); Travelling Literary Theatre presents “survivors and their storie”s from the Titanic; Barynya’s remarkable Russian dancers.

  • “…First Night has raised the entertainment bar very high. Consequently, it is a tough act to follow. Yet, that is exactly what it does every Dec. 31…I touted First Night to a doctor pal …Weeks later, he still is raving about one of his most enjoyable New Year’s Eves. In this era of abundant entertainment choices, that’s saying a lot.”   Kevin Coughlin, Editor,
Hot off the press – some photos and videos from First Night December 31, 2012:
To see some of the performance by
Feraba (West African dancing, drumming and tap dancing), click here.
The David Glukh International Ensemble playing “Romania, Romania”, click here.
The Frank Vignola Duo with Bucky Pizzarelli – with Vignola performing “Stardust”, click here.
The Warren Vache Trio, with some great jazz trumpet playing by Warren, click here.
Dan Levinson’s Swing Wing, swing jazz at its best, click here.
Songs of the Fall with Stetson and Cia Cherryholmes Adkisson singing “So good to have you back,” click here…. and here for Cia’s solo, “Weaver of Lies”
Piano 4 hands with Ana Gligvashvili and James Rosenblum playing Brahms Waltzes, op. 39, click here.
Click  here to see videos and coverage by Kevin Coughlin and others  from (Other MorristownGreen videos and photos about First Night can be found here.
To see the Channel 7 Eyewitness news coverage, click on Channel 7 Eyewitness News IMG_1907.
Additional photos by Warren Westura for the Daily Record can be found here.
L-R: All photos on this row by Warren Westura for the Daily Record: The Warren Vache Trio; Random Test Reggae; Vinny Raniolo, Bucky Pizzarelli and Frank Vignola
and below, L-R (all photos by Arts Council); The Morristown Green at midnight; facepainting at the Children’s Fun Festival; Frank Vignola, Lynn Siebert, Bucky Pizzarelli; Dan Levinson.