A hallmark of First Night Morris County and perhaps one of the core reasons for its longevity and appeal is the high quality of talent on the program. This year’s roster once again showcases outstanding performers representing multiple artistic genres. Since its inception 28 years ago, First Night Morris has relied on Morris Arts, working for the last thirteen years with Dr. Lynn L. Siebert to program the artists for this unique event.
Jazz pianist Ben Rosenblum
Rio Clemente, Bishop of Jazz
The Asaran Earth Trio
Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori
Music from China Ensemble
What a treat to bring the trio of Ben Rosenblum for the first time to First Night Morris. An “impressive talent (All About Jazz),” award-winning NYC jazz pianist, accordionist, and composer Rosenblum earned 4 stars from Downbeat for his 2017 debut album, Instead, and has toured extensively throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, and Japan. A featured soloist at Carnegie Hall, he has performed at Lincoln Center (NY), Kuumbwa Jazz Center (California), the Library of Congress (DC) and other top venues. His unique narrative style connects with his audiences on an emotional, intellectual and spiritual level. Of course, First Night would not be complete without our own Morristown star, the sizzling jazz pianist, Rio Clemente, the “Bishop of Jazz,” whose inventive and technically brilliant improvisations astonish and inspire all lucky enough to hear him.
Without leaving Morristown, audiences can be adventurous and sample cultural riches from Spain, Brazil, Hungary, Italy, China, and Korea at First Night. New to First Night Morris, The Asaran Earth Trio is a virtuosic, all-female multinational ensemble whose unique repertoire ranges from 13th-century Sephardic music to Hungarian folk song and includes contemporary and original works from around the world. Their unique arrangements for voice and percussion, colored by improvisation and contemporary harmonies, honor their own varied roots (Brazil, Hungary, Italy) and captivate listeners with their exquisite voices and the compelling, haunting quality of their music. Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori (KTDOC) will captivate the eyes and ears of audiences with their unique and fascinating blend of drumming and dancing. Preserving the rich heritage of traditional Korean dances, KTDOC performs a variety of dances showcasing the elegant costumes, their carefully synchronized, stylized gestures, dramatic drumming and movements which convey a wide range of emotions, relate tales of village life and depict the beauties of nature in visually stunning sequences. Equally entrancing is the Music from China Trio which has been hailed by the NY Times and Washington Post for their musical artistry. This renowned NYC-based ensemble, founded in 1984, has performed at the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chautauqua, the Smithsonian, festivals/residencies across the USA as well as with major symphony orchestras, chamber groups and such jazz greats as Ornette Coleman. The trio’s musicians will treat the First Night audiences to an exciting and hauntingly lovely program featuring classical and folk arrangements performed on traditional Chinese instruments.
Alan Kitty as Mark Twain
Mentalist Eric Walton
Christine DeLeon revisits the Roaring Twenties
Comedian/Musician Rob Paravonian
Comedian Andy Pitz
Coming to First Night Morris for the first time is The Mark Twain Experience, featuring Alan Kitty as “Mark Twain.” Writer, humorist, riverboat pilot, and inventor, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was a genuine American genius. Alan Kitty’s 40 years of research, programs, and performances in 22 states have made him one of the nation’s leading Twain impersonators. Kitty’s brilliantly crafted material, impeccable comic timing, and uncanny likeness make audiences wonder if the real Twain is still among us. Relish the wit and wisdom that “Mark Twain” offers on all facets of American life. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Also new to First Night Morris is the critically acclaimed Mentalist Eric Walton. Does fate govern our lives? Is it possible to see the future? Join the international award-winning critically-acclaimed showman, raconteur, and mind-reader, Eric Walton, for a theatrical foray into the realms of parapsychology, metaphysics, and the paranormal, in which he reads minds, identifies hidden objects, predicts future events, and challenges conventional ideas about the limits of human perception. Walton is “Dazzling” (Zink Magazine) and “100% pure theatrical magic” (NYTheater.com). And, as we embark on the 2020s, you can also time travel back to the Roaring Twenties with the crystalline-voiced Christine De Leon brings us back to the glittering jazz age through the enduring songs and dances of the 1920s.
To help us all laugh in the New Year, First Night will feature two wonderful comedians, both new to First Night but well-practiced and highly skilled in their craft. With the mind of a comedian and the soul of a musician, Rob Paravonian seamlessly fuses sharp comedy performances with top-notch musicianship. This perfect blend of abilities is evident everywhere from his viral Pachelbel Rant, his observations on popular music, to his well-crafted original songs. This versatile comedian, a regular at the Chicago Improv and Zanies clubs, was on Dr. Demento Show’s Funny Five, opened for Lily Tomlin, entertained troops in Afghanistan and performed in 49 states. And talented Andy Pitz is a regular at such top New York comedy sites as The World Famous Comic Strip Live, The Comedy Cellar and Dangerfield’s. He’s also appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Gotham Comedy Live, as a winner on Star Search on CBS and with national acts in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Laugh in the New Year with Andy and Rob!
Harmonium Choral Society (courtesy of Morristowngreen.com)
Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey
Contemporary Troubadour, Lara Herscovitch
Mike Agranoff, folk singer/humorist
Fasten your musical seatbelts and prepare to be entranced yet again by the outstanding Harmonium Choral Society. From a Renaissance processional to the rich romanticism of Bruckner and the mysticism of Erik Esenwalds, Harmonium’s richly diverse programming and high artistic level has something for everyone. This year’s program strives for gender equity with gorgeous works by Patricia van Ness, Rosephanye Powell, Sarah Quartel, Melissa Dunphy, Mari Esabel Valverde, Andrea Ramsey, and Annie Lennox. Come be dazzled by this remarkable vocal ensemble under the inspired direction of Dr. Anne Matlack. Classical music lovers will also enjoy the award-winning Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey which explores great orchestral works from the 17th through the 21st centuries under the baton of conductor/artistic director Dr. Robert Butts.
Get in the groove of old-time rock ‘n roll with The TONES who deliver a fresh and terrific blend of Classic Rock, R&B and “Three Chords and the Truth,” recrafting the music they love. They draw on music by the Eagles, Van Morrison, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Ray Charles, and the Allman Brothers and they are sure to rock the house at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on New Year’s Eve. Be there or be square!
If acoustic FOLK MUSIC is your bag, you don’t want to miss the artistry and uniqueness of Lara Herscovitch: Contemporary Troubadour. Informed by decades of international humanitarian work, this former Connecticut State Troubadour sings her “marvelous, inventive and thought-provoking songs (NJ.com)” that inspire, inform, uplift and entertain – all with a voice “like expensive liquor” (Performer Magazine). Telling stories of misfits, underdogs, courage, love, loss, hardship, and hope, Herscovitch has performed on Prairie Home Companion and tours from Maine to Miami. Blending modern folk with blues, jazz, and pop, “Lara reminds us,” as NPR’s Colin McEnroe observed, “that music can be heroic when it springs from a strong heart.” Another treat: Mike Agranoff, that category-defying folksinger/humorist whose repertoire encompasses traditional ballads, fiddle tunes, Tin Pan Alley and his own witty pen. With a skilled hand on guitar and concertina, he captivates his audiences, delivering unforgettable stories, deliciously sly parodies, and heart-stopping spoken word pieces.
Art 4 Kids
Fun with LEGOs
Kit’s Interactive Theatre – Grace, The Pirate
Circus Magician Benjamin Lipman
Square dance caller, Mary Moody
Rizzo’s Reptile/Wildlife Discovery
Gina’s facepainting at the Children’s Fun Festival
CHILDREN’S/ FAMILY PROGRAMS:
During the early session for younger children (4:45-6:45 pm), marvel at audience members encased in giant bubbles, bubble volcanoes, smoke-filled bubbles and other terrific bubble tricks with OMG Bubbles. Join in the art-making activities with artist Samantha (“Sam”) Matthews’ Art 4 Kids and try your hand-building with Fun with LEGOs®. For young and old alike, Kit’s Interactive Theatre features Kitty Jones as Grace, the Pirate and casts the audience right into the show, as part of her pirate crew! Who knew New Year’s Eve included a search for Black Beard’s hidden treasure?! Featuring circus magic, perennial favorite Benjamin Lipman’s Comedy Cascade combines circus arts, vaudeville, and humor with juggling, mime and magic. Try your hand (and feet) at Square Dancing with Caller, Mary Moody who calls reels, line, circle and square dancing to western, jazz and Broadway tunes. Neither experience nor partner is needed to participate in the fun (and dancing) for all ages. Love animals? Who could resist the ever-popular Rizzo’s Reptile/Wildlife Discovery which showcases live reptiles (and other animals) – under the watchful eye of a seasoned animal handler. And feel free to clown around with Juggles, the Clown or enjoy face painting and glitter tattoos with Gina’s Facetag at The Children’s Fun Festival.
This is just a sampler of the world-class performances which have become a hallmark of First Night Morris County. There are programs to suit every age and taste along with two visual arts exhibits (displaying over 50 artworks) and two sets of fireworks. You don’t have to travel the world or spend a fortune for tickets to experience world class live performance. It will all be in Morristown on New Year’s Eve.
One inexpensive admission ($22.50 -$25) covers all events at First Night®. Every venue is indoors, complimentary parking is included and a free shuttle will take you to all locations. Click Here To Purchase.