MORRIS COUNTY — December 31, 2018 marks the 27th year of New Jersey’s biggest and brightest First Night, a New Year’s Eve family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration of the arts – with more than 100 artists, 81 events in 23 venues – representing dance, theatre, music, world cultures, visual arts and children’s programs.
For all 27 years, Morris Arts has been First Night Morris’ artistic programmer, securing topflight talents who attract thousands from throughout the state and beyond. More than half of the program features new artists (or artists returning after several years), many of whom have performed at world class venues, won international recognition, performed on national radio/TV, in major films and/or collaborated with superstars of performing arts.
On December 31, you can experience everything from a gypsy/neo-Balkan Trio, a Moldovan piano virtuoso, or a legendary hot jazz guitarist to a one-man sideshow, a champion Irish fiddler or a live reptile show.
On the Rock/Bluegrass/Blues/ Zydeco/Drum front: The John Ginty Band rocks the house, showcasing Ginty, who toured/performed with the Dixie Chicks, Jewel, Santana and received two Grammy nominations as a founding member of Robert Randolph & the Family Band. The Feinberg Brothers’ 5-piece band embodies classical bluegrass.
For gutsy blues, catch the Cobra Brothers. Got rhythm? Connect with Dana McCurdy’s Community In Rhythm Drum Circle. For flavors from New Orleans, the Zydeco Revelators offer that sweet Cajun accordion, cool rubboard vest mixed with zydeco classics, rock and jam band in an irresistible “jambalaya” of sound.
Lookin’ for some Jazz? After a near fatal accident, guitarist Frank Vignola is back with his Hot Jazz Guitar Trio, including guitar partner Vinny Raniolo and bassist, Gary Mazzaroppi. Vignola has performed with Lionel Hampton, Ringo Starr, Wynton Marsalis and other superstars First Night would not be complete without jazz pianist, Rio Clemente (the “Bishop of Jazz”), with his inventive and sparkling improvisations.
For Folk Music, catch the wit and wordplay of comedy folk singer, Carla Ulbrich, with her songs about wedgies, Waffle Houses, and Klingons. Remembering Pete Seeger, Spook Handy “keeps the flame alive,” in his ongoing World Tour. The Windborne Singers, a unique quartet of vocal chameleons, will captivate you with the purity of their voices, close harmonies and a fascinating repertoire spanning centuries and cultures.
First Night’s Classical offerings include the superb artistry of Moldovan piano virtuoso, Maria Sumareva, winner of international piano competitions who dazzles with a repertoire spanning the Baroque through contemporary. The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey explores great orchestral works from the 17th through the 21st centuries, while the Solid Brass Quartet’s grand and resonant brass features music from the Renaissance, Baroque and contemporary eras.
Harmonium Choral Society will feature South and Central American Christmas music, spirituals, Yiddish and American works. And, for “something completely different,” check out the Electro/acoustic Oboe mastery of Matt Sullivan and his sonic explorations.
First Night’s sampling of World Cultures includes the global fusion ensemble, Afrika meets India, blending the rich rhythmic and melodic traditions of India and Africa. Irish (and other) eyes will smile at the music of champion Irish Fiddler Brian Conway. Tavche Gravche, a Gypsy/neo-Balkan trio, offers a unique, fiery mix of Balkan/Eastern European and Mediterranean melodies. Try the joyous music of Random Test Reggae or Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre, or Shubanjali’s dancers who highlight Indian Classical/Folk Dance.
First Night audiences also can enjoy the dynamic rhythms of NJTAP2, whose young artists showcase the great American art form of rhythm tap dancing. Also, if you love line dancing or square dancing, neither experience nor partner is needed to participate in Square Dancing with caller, Mary Moody – fun for all ages.
Looking for Theater/Comedy? Laugh your way into the New Year with the wit and wry humor of comedy stars, Erin Jackson and Tom McTiernan. More laughs are in store with Mr. Hypno’s Comedy Hypnotism as hypnotized volunteers discover such hidden talents as ballet dancing or cow milking! Illusionist Benjamin Lipman’s Comedy Cascade combines circus arts, vaudeville and humor with juggling, mime and magic.
The Loose Canons are master purveyors of musical parody. America’s Got Talent semi finalist David Darwin astounds audiences with his contortions, sword swallowing, glass walking, magic, juggling, fire manipulations and comedy. And, if you love history, don’t miss Living Voices: Our Revolution, a moving account of the American Revolution,told from the perspective of an African-American soldier.
Children’s – Family Programs: Who could resist Dinoman Dinosaurs! with Bob Lisaius’ life size, inflatable dinosaurs? Rizzo’s Reptile Discovery shares live reptiles (and other animals). Catch the clowns, face painting and glitter tattoos at The Children’s Fun Festival or visit Transformations Facepainting where each face becomes a living work of art. Skilled circus performer Mr. Fish explores The Mystery & History of Magic. Another favorite, Storyteller Julie Pasqual, brings her uniquely playful, physical theater skills, sharing stories from around the world.
The early session for younger children (4:45-6:45pm) includes hula hooping with Whirled Revolution, art making activities with artist Samantha (“Sam”) Matthews’ Art 4 Kids and Fun with LEGOs®. New to this year’s early session is the NJTAP2, an ensemble of young tap dancers, sharing their skills in rhythm tap dancing as well as Square Dancing with Caller, Mary Moody, with fun for the whole family.
Visual Arts:No experience is necessary to try Zentangle, a unique method of drawing using structured patterns, guided by art teacher Mimi Topping. And, as in years past, three visual arts exhibits (displaying over 300 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 here.