It will be a multicultural night to remember when Annapolis rings in 1994 with First Night, the capital city's annual New Year's Eve celebration of the arts.
First Night's planners are excited that the cultures of Africa, India, Ireland, China and Russia will be featured so prominently this year.
"We think it gives people an opportunity to enjoy various art forms they might not experience otherwise," says First Night's director Lana Nelson. "It's a large part of what makes us special."
Fans of vocal music will be thrilled by the deep, dark choral sounds created by the Yale Russian Chorus, which will perform the evocative folk music of Russia, Latvia, Georgia and the Ukraine at the State House this year.
The group's credentials are the real thing: This is the only American ensemble ever invited to sing inside the walls of the Kremlin! (Perhaps its members will engage in some musical summitry with another First Night entrant, Maryland's own Frederick Chorale, which only recently serenaded the Clintons at the White House.)
One of Ireland's best exports, singer Mick Moloney, will hold forth at the Masonic Temple with his colleagues Eugene O'Donnell and Regan Wick. This threesome will enchant audiences with the inimitable joys of Irish music and dance.
The propulsive sounds and rhythms of Africa will make several appearances at First Night this year. Brice House at 42 East St. will provide the backdrop for Amartey Hedrolah, one of this country's best-known African drummers. The Sankofa Dance Theatre of Baltimore will raise the roof at Mitscher Hall on the campus of the Naval Academy with calls, chants, spirituals and songs of resistance. The troupe's gifted drummers and dancers have been heralded for their knowledge and love of the traditional melodies and rhythms of Africa.
First Night also has commissioned "African Portraits," a work the New Renaissance Chamber Artists will be presenting at the Banneker-Douglass Museum. This richly diverse musical narrative of African tribal life was composed by Michael White of New York's Juilliard School, who employed many beautiful poetic texts that are sung in both English and Swahili.
Black America's extraordinary contribution to music will be celebrated by the Jazz Gospel Ensemble of Washington, which will perform gospel music in the unmistakable style of New Orleans jazz. St. Anne's will rock, to be sure.
Eastern exoticism will be available at the St. Mary's High School gym, courtesy of Nritya Rangam, a dance company that re-creates the flavor and rhythmic spice of India with sequined costumes, swirling veils, ankle bells and the music of the sitar.
As you head to the City Dock to watch a demonstration of the dance and movement aspects of Kung Fu, courtesy of the Shoo Lin San Kung Fu School, the truth will hit you: For a $12 button they didn't just give you New Year's Eve. They showed you the world.
To receive, by fax, a copy of the First Night map and schedule of events, dial Sunfax at (410) 332-6123 and enter the code 5200.