First Night Morris County 2023 Offers Over 70 Performances

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MORRIS COUNTY — As has usually been the case in recent years, First Night Morris County in Morristown will offer New Jersey’s most ambitious program of family-friendly arts events on New Year’s Eve this year, with music, comedy, film, visual arts, and children’s entertainment at various venues, some of which also will be streamed or offered on-demand, online.

The 31st annual First Night Morris County will feature more than 70 performances at more than 20 downtown venues, free parking, shuttles, and two firework displays from 4:00 p.m. to midnight Saturday, December 31, with tickets starting at $25.00.

The event brings art, film, music, comedy, and family-friendly fun to Morris County in the form of a safe, alcohol-free, and substance-free community celebration.

Fireworks over the Green are coming back this year; depending on the weather, they will occur at 9:15 p.m. and midnight.

Early bird admission runs through Wednesday, December 21, at $25.00, or $22.50 each, when purchasing four or more.

Regular admission pricing begins Thursday, December 22, and runs through the event at $30.00 per admission or $23.75 each when purchasing four or more.

To purchase tickets and for more information, click here, visit the Mayo Box Office at 100 South Street or call (973) 539-8008 during regular business hours.

With the artistic guidance Morris Arts Director of Galleries and Morris Township resident Lynn Siebert provides, the program offers numerous performance genres, including theater, music from around the world, visual arts, world cultures, and children’s programs. Mark Boutros and Don Jay Smith’s work to curate the First Night Film Festival, held in collaboration with the Thomas Edison Film Festival, First Contact Film Festival, and MCEDA Film Committee, brings over 50 films for all ages and interests.

For $25.00, First Night attendees have access to all in-person performances, the family and children’s activities at Morristown High School, the Film Festival, two firework displays, and a midnight countdown to welcome in the new year, plus a live stream and on-demand access to more than films in this year’s Film Festival, a print program, and a mobile app. First Night attendees also receive complimentary parking and free shuttles.

With the waning of COVID-19, a full schedule of family and children’s programming returns this year, providing opportunities for hands-on participation for younger art aficionados and their families. Centered at Morristown High School, the family and children’s programming begins at 4:45 p.m. and includes various interactive performances, storytelling, international dance, painting, and LEGOs.

The schedule of children and family activities includes “Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother” by Kit’s Interactive Theatre, Folktales from Around the World with storyteller Julie Pascual, Square Dancing with Mary Moody, Bollywood and Contemporary Indian Dance with Mani, Fun with LEGOs with Maniac4Bricks, Paint Night with the Artsy Palette led by artist Patty Darden, the Children’s Fun Festival with Juggles the Clown, NJ Tap Soloists Maurice Chestnut and Jeffry Foote, the Hilarious Hypnotist Show with Mr. Hypno, StoryFaces with Christopher Agostino and “Dinoman Dinosaurs!” and his life-size inflatable dinosaurs.

This jam-packed schedule of family-friendly events repeats throughout the evening to provide multiple opportunities for family fun at First Night.

First Night is welcoming back fireworks over the Green with two displays.

This year’s visual arts exhibits include the Atrium Gallery exhibit “Through Women’s Eyes” at the Morris County Administration Building. The exhibit opens at 4:00 p.m. featuring the work of five female artists: Medy Bozkurtian, Isabella Pizzano, Lisa Moran, Kay Reese, and Marilyn Greenberg. Siebert curates the gallery.

Two exhibits at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) begin at 7:00 p.m.: The Morris County Art Association member exhibit at the Upstairs Art Gallery and Nina Nemeth’s “People and Places” at the Starlight Gallery.

Live opera performances will be provided by the Vocal Trio of Harmonious Beginnings at the Church of the Redeemer starting at 7:15 p.m. The performance delves into an array of Sacred, Broadway, Opera, and Americana with solo performances, duets, and classic presentations of three-part vocal harmony. The trio features the powerful vocal talents of performers Ted Chletsos, Lauren D’Imperio, and Stephen Lasher, accompanied by pianist Kristin Dabaghian.

Live Choral And Classical Music Performances

Live choral and classical music performances will occur at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Leading off the evening at 7:15 p.m. with the first two performances at Saint Peter’s is one of New Jersey’s leading choral arts organizations Harmonium Choral Society, directed by Madison resident Anne Matlack.

The final two performances of the evening at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church are courtesy of the award-winning Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey (BONJ), whose performance begins at 9:45 p.m. The orchestra, directed by Madison resident Robert Butts, explores orchestral music from the 17th through 21st Centuries.

Live reggae and Irish music performances will occur at St. Peter’s Parish House. Random Test Reggae Band will begin at 7:15 p.m. and will pay tribute to Reggae and Soca Music pioneers.

Following them will be All-Ireland Fiddling Champion Brian Conway and Kieran Flanagan beginning at 10:00 p.m.

Live Jazz Performances will take place at the United Methodist Church, featuring the new addition of Winard Harper and His Jazz Group, followed by Morristown native Rio Clemente with his band, the Bishop of Jazz, and his Abbotts.

Winard Harper and His Jazz Group will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the United Methodist Church. Winard Harper studied at the Conservatory of the University of Cincinnati and Howard University. He was part of the Young Lions with his brother Phillip and members of The Harper Brothers.

Winard performs regionally and has recorded seven albums featuring a host of special guests, including his latest project, Winard Harper & Jeli Posse.

The Bishop of Jazz and his Abbotts will take the stage at the United Methodist Church beginning at 10:00 p.m. Clemente, who has performed at the White House, is an official member of the Morristown Hall of Fame and has served as music director for the Generations of Jazz program of the New Jersey Jazz Society. NJ Monthly magazine named him among its “Top 40 New Jerseyans,” and the New Jersey Jazz Society has named him “Musician of the Year.”

In-Person Film Festival 

The in-person Film Festival returns at the Hyatt Regency Morristown and the Morris County Administrative Building, featuring more films at two venues beginning at 6:00 p.m. Under the direction of Mark Boutros and advisor Don Jay Smith, this year’s Film Festival is held in collaboration with the Thomas Edison Film Festival, First Contact Film Festival, and the MCEDA Film Committee, featuring films chosen specifically for the First Night Morris County audiences.

With specific category segments for short films and feature films, each having its performance blocks, most movies are for all ages, with some for teens and adults and one for young adults and adults. All films are available on-demand through 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 1, via the First Night Morris County website or mobile app.

Performances at the Mayo Performing Arts Center begin at 7:00 p.m. This year’s program again includes both live in-person performances and a live stream, courtesy of MPAC, which is accessible through the First Night Morris County website and mobile app.

“Once again, we are thrilled to partner with the Mayo,” said First Night Morris County Chairman Walter Deutsch. “The Mayo provides a top-notch performance venue, box office, and a live stream for those who cannot attend in person. We are so grateful for their continued support.”

The first performance of the evening at 7:00 p.m. is Johnny Peers and the Muttville Comix, a slapstick comedy dog show. Peers will lead more than a dozen rescue dogs through tricks as he plays the straight-man role in this family-friendly show.

Following Peers, the John Ginty Band will take the stage at 9:45 p.m. Born and raised in Morristown, John Ginty is a two-time Grammy winner and has spent decades as a session keyboardist and band member for such artists as Jewel, The Chicks, Wu-Tang Clan, Whiskeytown and The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Stand-up comedy will return to the Hyatt’s Regency Room at 7:15 p.m., opening with comedian Buddy Fitzpatrick. A regular at all the prominent showcase clubs in New York City, Fitzpatrick is a regular on Comedy Central and has made appearances on A&E’s An Evening at The Improv, Caroline’s Comedy Hour, and Gotham Comedy Live on AXS.tv. He has also appeared on The Sopranos.

Comedian Brad Trackman will take the stage at 10:00 p.m. Trackman has made many t.v. Appearances include The Late Late Show; Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen, Gotham Comedy Live, NBC’s Friday Night, Star Search, and his own Dry Bar Comedy Special. Trackman has opened for Dana Carvey, Robin Williams, Damon Wayans, and Weird Al Yankovic.

“With more performance venues than ever, this year’s event has a stellar line-up that spans too many genres to list,” said First Night Morris County Chairman Walter Deutsch. “We are very excited to bring back the children and family programming at Morristown High School and welcome back fireworks over Morristown at two points in the evening: 9:15 p.m. and midnight, offering our youngest participants an opportunity to enjoy the magnificent display.”

Click here to purchase tickets.