December 31st marks the 22nd year for New Jersey’s biggest and brightest New Year’s Eve family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration of the arts – with over 200 artists, more than 80 events in 25 venues – representing dance, theatre, music, visual arts and children’s events. For all 22 years, Morris Arts has served as First Night’s artistic programmer, securing topflight talents who attract thousands of people from throughout the state and beyond. Once again, nearly 2/3 of the program features new artists (or artists returning after several years), many of whom have performed at top venues (the White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden), won Grammy awards, MacArthur “genius” grants, performed on TV, in major films and/or collaborated with superstars of performing arts. On that night, for a remarkably affordable price ($17.50-$25!), one can experience everything from Rock to Chinese shadow puppetry.
On the jazz/rock front, you can hear rock star (and Grammy winner) John Ginty and a star-studded jazz lineup including the four guitar legends (Bucky Pizzarelli, the fabulous Frank Vignola, Vinny Raniolo and Gene Bertoncini), not to mention gypsy jazz with “Boardwalk Empire“ clarinetist Dan Levinson and classic jazz with our own “Bishop of Jazz,” pianist Rio Clemente.
Above: Chinese Theatre Works’ Shadow Puppet Theatre’s Tiger Tales.
On the blues, bluegrass and blends front, be sure to catch Matuto’s unique bluegrass/Brazilian blend or groove with R&B keyboardist (and Yankee Stadium organist) Ed Alstrom and harmonica virtuoso Rob Paparozzi (of Blood Sweat & Tears, The Blues Brothers Band), the Cobra Brothers (blues) and the blues kazoo “stylings” (and general “old time” fun) by the Philadelphia Jug Band.
Outstanding classical music provided by such select ensembles as Harmonium, the NJ Festival Orchestra, the Nova Chamber Ensemble, Solid Brass Lite, and organist Mark Hyzcko.
L-R: Barynya’s French Can Can dancers; Rochel Coleman as Nat Love (a.k.a. Deadwood Dick), 19th century black cowboy; Robert Costello as Abraham Lincoln; NJ Tap Ensemble virtuoso, Maurice Chestnut.
Do world cultures intrigue you? Sample Chinese Theatre Works Shadow Puppet show, watch BALAM’s performances of Balinese, Spanish and Baroque dancing, enjoy Barynya’s French Can-Can and Roma Gypsy dancing, practice your limbo with the Conroy Warren Trio’s Caribbean music, and invoke Mexico’s sunny warmth with Mariachi Citlalli. Burn up the floors with Colombia’s steamy Salsaoco dancers and savor the passion of klezmer and Eastern European fusion with David Glukh’s virtuosic International Ensemble…Or, just for fun, sample the intriguing mix of bluegrass/Norwegian Hardanger fiddle playing with the Brittany Haas and Dan Trueman Band!
Meet “President Abraham Lincoln,” composer “Franz Schubert” or “Nat Love,(a.k.a. Deadwood Dick),” a 19th century black cowboy! Love “Downton Abbey”? Learn the Minuet with In Good Company…or enjoy Renaissance court music played on replica period instruments by the costumed Early Music Players of NJ.
L-R: Dinoman with lifesize adolescent T-Rex; Illusionist Benjamin Lipman; StoryFaces (facepainting/story telling); Theremin master, Kip Rosser.
Kids will delight in Dinoman’s Dinosaurs (with lifesize inflatable dinosaurs), Rizzo’s live reptile show, the Gizmo Guys comedy juggling act, illusionist Benjamin Lipman’s comedy magic, and Mr. Fish’s superb circus skills in knifethrowing and bullwhips. This year’s new early session for younger children also features StoryFaces, where stories come to life through facepainting, Art 4 Kids with fine artist Christine Wagner and Imagination LEGO! (building with LEGOS). The Children’s Fun Festival promises its lively mix of magic, juggling, costumed characters, mask making, balloon animals and facepainting.
Feeling adventurous? Have your mind “read” by Mentalist Marshal Manlove or experience the “alien” music of Kip Rosser on the theremin, the only instrument played without being touched!
Laugh your way into the New Year with Comedian Brad Trackman (who opened for Dana Carvey and Joan Rivers) or the Tom Lehrer-style musical satirist John Forster– not to mention the abomidable snow fleas of George Esparza’s new winter Flea Circus.
“Tap” your inner Terpsichore with NJ Tap Ensemble soloists, Maurice Chestnut and Jeffry Foote and get into a Pete Seeger groove with Spook Handy’s Americana folk singing.
Two visual arts exhibits (displaying over 200 artworks) and two sets of fireworks top off that magical evening known as First Night Morris County.
To check out the full lineup of artists, click on First Night Program.
One inexpensive admission (before 12/ 22: $20/ticket;$17.50 for 4 or more; prices go up 12/22-12/31/13) covers all events at First Night. Every venue is indoors and a free shuttle will take you to all locations. For more information, the latest program updates, to volunteer or to purchase tickets, please visit the First Night Morris County website at www.firstnightmorris.com or call (973) 455-0708.®
Last year’s First Night was full of special performances:
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, Morris Arts 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.
Here are some of the artists who performed that night:
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.
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.
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, MorristownGreen.com