First Night Morris County keeps its WOW factor for 26th year

First Night Morris County

December 31, 2017 marks the 26th year of New Jersey’s biggest and brightest First Night, a New Year’s Eve family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration of the arts – with nearly 200 artists, 85 events in 24 venues – representing dance, theatre, music, world cultures, visual arts and children’s events, First Night Morris County.  For all 26 years, Morris Arts has been First Night Morris County’s 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 top venues (the White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera, etc.), won international recognition, performed on national radio/TV, in major films and/or collaborated with superstars of performing arts. On that night, one can experience everything from a Metropolitan Opera soprano to inflatable dinosaurs!


Featured At First Night Morris County L-R: John Ginty with his Hammond B-3 organ; Mary Olive Smith with Silk City (Larry Cohen, Danny Weiss and Barry Mitterhoff); The Cobra Brothers blues band; Rio Clemente, The “Bishop of Jazz;” Mauricio de Souza, leader of Bossa Brasil®.


On the Rock/Bluegrass/Blues front, The John Ginty Band rocks the house, showcasing Ginty (on Hammond B-3 organ), who toured/performed with the Dixie Chicks, Jewel, Santana and received two Grammy nominations as a founding member of Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Silk City brings its unique blend of bluegrass, roots and honky-tonk music and features artists who’ve performed with Hot Tuna, at Carnegie Hall, and with artists like Vassar Clements and David Bromberg. And, for gutsy, full-throated blues with a touch of funk, R&B, country and jazz mixed in, don’t miss the Cobra Brothers who have performed at The Stone Pony and The Bitter End.

Hankering for Jazz  and Swing? First Night would not be complete without our own sizzling jazz pianist, Rio Clemente (the “Bishop of Jazz”) whose inventive and sparkling improvisations astonish and inspire all. With performances at The Blue Note, NJPAC, international jazz festivals and The Whitney Museum, Mauricio de Souza’s band, Bossa Brasil®, adds a his special brand of smooth, Brazilian-tinted jazz  while James Langton takes it Nice & Easy, Swingin’ the Great American Songbook, recalling the glamor and the timeless standards of the era.

And how could anyone resist hearing the soaring, heart-stopping songs of Broadway? A Night of Broadway Stars transports the Great White Way to First Night, featuring actual Broadway stars singing their unforgettable songs from Broadway productions such as Phantom, Wicked, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.


Featured At First Night Morris County L-R: James Langton swingin’ the Great American Songbook; Folk Singer/Songwriter Christine DeLeon; Musical Satirist, John Forster (“The Jon Stewart of Music”); Pianist Laryssa Krupa; Dennis Kobray as Beethoven.


If Folk Music is your bag, be sure to catch the crystalline voice of award winning singer/songwriter Christine DeLeon. If you prefer musical satire, don’t miss “the Jon Stewart of Music,” John Forster, a four-time Grammy nominee whose works were recorded by Judy Collins, Roseanne Cash, heard on NPR and admired by the great musical satirist, Tom Lehrer, himself.


Featured At First Night Morris County L-R: NJ Festival Orchestra conductor Shuang Guo Wroe; Metropoliltan Opera Soprano Jennifer Check and her pianist Andrew Rosenblum; Harmonium Choral Society; Doug Haislip, trumpeter with Solid Brass Lite; Grammy-nominated Mallet Master, Greg Giannascoli.


If you prefer Classical Music, don’t miss the superb artistry and rare musical magic of Metropolitan Opera Soprano, Jennifer Check, whom the NY Times called “a rare talent that can send chills down a listener’s spine.” She has sung under the world’s top conductors (Levine, Maazel, Ozawa), in top venues (the Met, Covent Garden, Tanglewood, Spoleto Salzburg, etc.) and will be joined by award-winning pianist, Andrew Rosenblum who has performed internationally, as well as at the Kennedy Center and Alice Tully Hall. On the Juilliard faculty, Grammy-nominated mallet master Greg Giannascoli performed at Carnegie Hall, on NPR, PBS and has been called “astonishing…in artistry and virtuosity.” First Night also offers the artistry of the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, the piano virtuosity of Laryssa Krupa (with her trio), the grand brass of Solid Brass Lite and the polish and inventive programming of the award winning Harmonium Choral Society. One can even meet “Beethoven” himself as Dennis Kobray’s Meet the Musicians shares the life and works by the great composer.


Featured At First Night Morris County L-R: The Fan Dance performed by the Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori; Ara Dinkjian(with oud) and Tamer Pinarbasi (with kanun) play Music of the Middle East; Champion Irish Fiddler Brian Conway; AJ Block of the Didge Project plays the didgeridoo; Melanie Mitrano sings Portuguese Fado and Brazilian song; Viva Vallenato! Folk Music of Colombia.


First Night’s generous sampling of World Cultures includes the Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori whose elegant costumes and distinctive movements showcase the rich traditional dances of Korea. Savor the intricate and exotic Music of the Middle East, which spotlights two of the world’s best on their respective instruments, Armenian oud master Ara Dinkjian and Turkish kanun virtuoso Tamer Pinarbasi.  Melanie Mitrano performs the haunting songs of both Portuguese Fado and Brazilian song traditions while Irish (and other) eyes will be smiling at the music of champion Irish Fiddler, Brian Conway (with guitarist John Walsh) who has performed and recorded to international acclaim. Groove on those good vibrations from The Didge Project which blends the sounds of the Australian aboriginal didgeridoo with world rhythms and tribal beats.  And, if you love Latin Dancing, join in the salsa, merengue and tango with Daniel Herrera’s DREAMS dancers or move to the joyful, infectious rhythms of Folk Music of Colombia with Viva Vallenato’s cumbia and vallenato.


Featured At First Night Morris County L-R: Comedian Moody McCarthy; Magician/Illusionist Great Scott (Drukker); HypnoMarc (Marshall); Lou Del Bianco, grandson of Mt. Rushmore’s Master Carver; Robert Costello as Abraham Lincoln; Kit’s Interactive Theatre/Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother; The Mayhem Poets; Storyteller Julie Pasqual.


Do you love Theater/Comedy?  Laugh your way into the New Year with the wit and warm humor  of Comedian Moody McCarthy, featured on late night shows with David Letterman (twice), Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Last Comic Standing, Star Search, America’s Got Talent and Gotham Comedy Live. Laugh more with HypnoMarc’s Comedy Hypnotism where you might feel an imaginary heatwave or talk to your shoe! Laughs also accompany award-winning Master Magician and Illusionist Great Scott!, who, with his feathered partner Thurston (a blue/gold macaw), spellbound audiences on Conan O’Brien and David Letterman. Beethoven is not the only historic “giant” appearing at First Night: Robert Costello becomes Abraham Lincoln, sharing his folksy stories, sorrows, and triumphs as the 16th President. Lou Del Bianco tells the story of his grandfather, the Master Carver of Mt. Rushmore while the theater-trained verbal virtuosi known as The  Mayhem Poets blend poetry, hip hop, improv, stand-up comedy and theatre to tell gut-wrenching truths about life. For children of all ages, Kit’s Interactive Theater drafts the audience directly into the performance of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and Storyteller Extraordinaire, Julie Pasqual, brings her uniquely playful, physical theater skills into play, sharing stories from around the world.


Featured At First Night Morris County L-R: New Jersey Tap Ensemble Soloists Maurice Chestnut and Jeffry Foote; Daniel Herrera’s DREAMS Dancers; Drum Dance performed by Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori; Square Dance Caller, Mary Moody; Allan Gorman’s Williamsburg Red; Nancy Ori’s Flag; Tim Mullen’s Waterlilies.


When it comes to Dance, First Nighters can savor the fancy footwork and dazzling routines of New Jersey Tap Ensemble soloists Maurice Chestnut (who danced with Savion Glover) and Morristown’s own Jeffry Foote or delight in the elegant beauty of Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori. Latin Dance is alive and well with Daniel Herrera’s D.R.E.A.M.S. dancers and no partner or experience are necessary to try Square Dancing with Caller, Mary Moody.


Featured At First Night Morris County L-R: Dinoman Dinosaurs!; Mr. Fish and Phenomenal Physics; Fun with LEGOs®; Rizzo’s Reptile Discovery; Art 4 Kids with “Sam” Matthews; Juggles the Clown (at Children’s Fun Festival).


Children’s/ Family Programs: Who could resist Dinoman Dinosaurs! with Bob Lisaius’ life size, inflatable dinosaurs? And Rizzo’s Reptile Discovery shares live reptiles (and other animals) – under the watchful eye of a seasoned animal handler. Catch the clowns, face painting balloons, and organ grinder at The Children’s Fun Festival or visit Transformations Facepainting where each face becomes a living work of art.  Perennial favorite and skilled circus performer, Mr. Fish will be back to amaze audiences with Phenomenal Physics, sharing tricks that actually have scientific explanations.

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 the always popular Fun with LEGOs®. New to this year’s early session is the acclaimed Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori, with their dazzling costumes and choreography, and Square Dancing with Caller, Mary Moody, with fun for the whole family.

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, visit our schedule page by clicking here.

One inexpensive admission (before 12/21: $20/ticket; $17.50 for 4 or more; prices go up 12/22-12/31/16) covers all events at First Night®. Every venue is indoors and a free shuttle will take you to nearly all locations. For more information, the latest program updates, to volunteer or To Purchase Tickets Please Click Here.