Fabulous Talents at 26th First Night Morris
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 26 years ago, First Night Morris has relied on Morris Arts, working for the last eleven years with Dr. Lynn L. Siebert to program the artists for this unique event.
CLASSICAL: First Night Morris may be unique among all First Nights in having a genuine Metropolitan Opera Soprano, Jennifer Check (with pianist Andrew Rosenblum) on its roster this New Year’s Eve! The NY Times cites Check’s “rare talent that can send chills down a listener’s spine ….” A Metropolitan Opera regular, Check has sung under leading conductors (Maazel, Levine, Ozawa) at the world’s top venues (The Met, Tanglewood, Spoleto, etc.). Following her Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center recital debuts, she has also performed internationally with symphonies from China to Utah. An award-winning pianist, Rosenblum has performed at the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall, with leading symphonies, operas, and music festivals in the USA and internationally. Thrill to their performance of Puccini’s classic O Mio Bambino, Gershwin’s classic Someone to Watch Over Me, Bernstein’s poignant Build My House as well as Puccini’s Vissi d’arte and Dvorak’s Song to the Moon. Extraordinary artists, rare musical magic!
The blinding speed and precision of Grammy-nominated marimba/percussion artist, Greg Giannascoli, have won him top honors at numerous international competitions. Giannascoli performed at Carnegie Hall, internationally and on NPR and PBS. On the Juilliard faculty, he leads master classes at top conservatories and has recorded five acclaimed solo CDs. Splendid Music Magazine wrote, “Giannascoli’s performance…was nothing less than astonishing, both in terms of artistry and virtuosity. Giannascoli is truly the mallet master.
ROCK: A two-time Grammy nominee as a founding member of Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Morristown native and Hammond B-3 organist John Ginty has toured/recorded with artists such as Jewel, Santana, and the Dixie Chicks. Ginty’s own album No Filter was named RMR’s #1 Blues/Rock album of 2015 and his new album, Rockers, debuted (2017) at #10 on the Billboard Blues Chart. The live, 4 piece John Ginty Band, features top NJ musicians and a “…passion and intensity that shines on every note,” said Michelle Wilson, Ink19.
BROADWAY: Bringing the Great White Way to Morristown, A Night of Broadway Stars is tops among Broadway touring concerts in the USA and has featured the actual stars from Broadway productions such as The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Cats, Wicked, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, Jekyll & Hyde, among others. Hear the fabulous voices and unforgettable songs from top Broadway shows right here at First Night!
JAZZ: A consummate jazz musician who has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and NJPAC, Rio Clemente, the “Bishop of Jazz,” holds his audiences spellbound with the sheer brilliance of his improvisations and his unique fusions of classical passage-work and jazz. His Juilliard training blends magnificently with his inexhaustible improvisatory talents.
And then there is Bossa Brasil with Mauricio de Souza, the critically acclaimed Brazilian-born jazz drummer/bandleader. He founded and performs with Bossa Brasil, releasing 3 albums and appearing at such renowned venues and festivals as the Blue Note, NJPAC, Québec International Jazz Festival, Smoke, Trumpets and The Whitney Museum. De Souza has been interviewed on WBGO, BBC and NPR, featured on the cover of Hot House Jazz Magazine, in Jazz Times Magazine, and NYC Jazz Record and his music is heard on WBGO, Pandora, Sirius XM, and Music Choice.
FOLK/ MUSICAL SATIRE:
Called a “self-contained Capitol Steps” and “the Jon Stewart of Music,” four-time Grammy nominee John Forster and his witty topical songs have been featured on NPR, collected on Broadsides (a duet album with Tom Chapin), and recorded by Judy Collins, Roseanne Cash, and Christine Lavin, among others. The legendary musical satirist, Tom Lehrer himself, adds, “You don’t need me anymore. Now you’ve got John Forster to kick around.” A prolific Broadway theatre writer, Forster keeps you laughing with his fierce, original musical satire.
For an inimitable sampling of Bluegrass, Roots and Honky Tonk, check out the renowned band Silk City which
includes guitarist Danny Weiss (who played with Vassar Clements and David Bromberg), mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff (of Hot Tuna fame and who’s performed the Metropolitan Opera, Smithsonian, Carnegie Hall, the Rainbow Room and on numerous film scores), lyrical bassist Larry Cohen and “roots” vocalist Mary Olive Smith (an original member of Alphabet City Opry). Silk City offers good times with great tunes, hot picking, dynamic vocals and an irresistible mix of bluegrass and rockin’ Honky Tonk, Roots/ County and Western Swing.
Without leaving Morristown, you can sample the cultures of Ireland, the Middle East, Portugal, Brazil, Korea, Colombia and even the Australian outback.
Irish (and all other) eyes will be smiling at the performance by All-Ireland fiddling champion Brian Conway, considered one of the best Irish fiddlers of any style. Conway recently retired as an assistant district attorney and now devotes his full energy to the rich tradition of Irish fiddling. He has performed throughout North America, Ireland and Europe and recorded to critical acclaim. Irish-American guitarist, singer and producer John Walsh, joins him onstage.
Music of the Middle East (with the Dinkjian-Morrison Duo) highlights the talents of Ara Dinkjian, widely considered one of the world’s finest oud players. He will perform original music reflecting his Armenian/Anatolian heritage and showcasing the intricacy, nuance and passion of traditional Middle Eastern repertoires. Joining him onstage, internationally trained Adam Morrison is a NYC based keyboard player, composer and teacher – known for his work in ethnic music, jazz and new music. Morrison has performed internationally, composed for film and dance and worked on projects for the Discovery channel and the John Oliver show. One can also sample the rich visual spectacle of the Korean Traditional Dance of Choomnoori, the infectious cumbia rhythms of Colombia (with Viva Vallenato), the haunting songs of Portugal and Brazil (sung in Portuguese by Melanie Mitrano) and the exotic sounds of the Australian aborigine dronepipe, the didgeridoo (with The Didge Project).
From Letterman to Morristown…laugh your way into the New Year with the hilarious comedy of Moody McCarthy, a stand-up comic who lives in New York City with his family “and 8 million neighbors.” Moody is heard on Sirius XM radio, appears in the top clubs, and on TV, including on Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, David Letterman (twice), Last Comic Standing, Star Search, America’s Got Talent, and Gotham Comedy Live. His witty, self-effacing observations on life are smart, original and universal in their appeal.
At once poignant and hilarious, The Mayhem Poets have been dubbed “an amazing ride” by the NY Times. This theater trained, comedically gifted trio blends hip hop, theater, improv and stand-up comedy, performing on The Today Show and Eyewitness News after winning 1st place and a grant for $100K in the Microsoft Idea Wins Challenge. Using language in a very contemporary and unique way, they elevate the poetry slam to a new level.
Coming to Morristown from appearances on Conan O’Brien and David Letterman, Master Magician and Illusionist Great Scott (Drukker) astonishes with his mix of illusion and comedy. Voted Magician of the Year three times by the independent Magical Performer’s Society, he performs with Thurston, a blue and gold macaw (with a 150 word vocabulary) and will provide an evening of unforgettable magic, illusion and laughter.
For a touch of history and drama, Master Storyteller Lou Del Bianco portrays his grandfather Luigi Del Bianco’s unique contribution as the chief carver of Mount Rushmore, our nation’s greatest memorial. Learn about Luigi’s special relationship with “The Master,” Gutzon Borglum and how Borglum depended on “Bianco” to help him fulfill his dream. Historic photos, documents and video highlight this remarkable story.
Who needs a drum when you have feet? New Jersey Tap Ensemble soloists Maurice Chestnut and Jeffry Foote fascinate audiences with their complicated rhythms, fancy footwork and fun. Chestnut, who appeared at Birdland, the Apollo Theatre, and Carnegie Hall, danced in movies, and worked with Savion Glover on Broadway and Dancing with the Stars, joins Morristown native, dancer and actor Jeffry Foote as they demonstrate dazzling routines and invite the audience to “tap” its own inner talents. Their charming interactive tap dance presentation delights all ages.
CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING includes everything from Dinoman (with life size inflatable dinosaurs) to Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, an interactive theatre performance where the audience acts out the story! LEGOs, live reptiles and hula hoops, art projects, circus science and even square dancing provide a wealth of choices for the youngest among us.
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 three visual arts exhibits (displaying over 200 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 (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 visit the First Night® Morris County website at www.firstnightmorris.com or call (973) 455-0708.