First Night: celebrating the arts Annapolis event welcomes the New Year


And you thought once Christmas was over, you'd seen your last presents for the year. Not with First Night Annapolis about to hit stride, you haven't.

In fact, there are treats awaiting everyone willing to spend $13 for a First Night button and take part in Annapolis' alcohol-free New Year's celebration of the performing arts.

For the strummin' and pickin' fans, guitars and guitarists of all types are an important part of First Night this year. In the Arundel Center, Virginia Blues legend John Jackson demonstrates the country picking he learned as a boy in Rappahannock County.

Vinny Valentino, described by the legendary George Benson as "a young genius with a brilliant tone and fresh ideas," brings his group, Here No Evil, to Asbury Methodist Church for five shows.

Lutenist Edgar Gilbert fills the Naval Academy's Alumni House with music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, while John Bullard and John Patykula perform Bach, Handel, Scarlatti and Scott Joplin on the guitar and banjo at the Circuit Courthouse and Mitchell Gallery.

Michael DeLalla creates mellow New Age sounds on his 12-string at the Chase-Lloyd House while Al Petteway, Washington's premier guitarist, performs jazz, folk, medieval melodies and classical selections at the Treasury Building.

For the history buff, Queen Elizabeth I will discuss military strategy with you this New Year's Eve. Just as she finishes laying odds on England's chances against the Spanish Armada, Benjamin Franklin will regale you with anecdotes, aphorisms and reminiscences of 18th century Annapolis.

When America's most famous kite flier is through, Thomas Jefferson will wax philosophical for you, then begin taking questions from a modern press corps.

Really! All this history and more!

For the classical music lover, pianist Angelin Chang, one of First Night's most popular performers ever, performs works by Chopin, Shostakovich and Debussy at the Naval Academy's Mitscher Hall.

The classical saxophone awaits you at Randall Hall on the St. John's campus and the Renaissance choral sounds of Palestrina and DiLasso will resound in the State House rotunda courtesy of the Musikanten Chamber Ensemble. Soprano Laura Mann and pianist Stef Scaggiari will serenade you at First Presbyterian Church.

Even Mozart comes to town, as his one-act comic opera "The Impressario" receives three performances at St. Mary's Church.

For Nancy and Tonya fans, The Ice Theatre of New York performs "Inspiration on Ice," an artistic study that explores the relationship between figure skating and interpretive dance. Four shows will be presented at the academy's Dahlgren Hall.

For lovers of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe holds forth at St. John's McDowell Hall. Norman George, the Bostonian who has been hailed by scholars as the "definitive" Poe, plays the role.

For silent-film fans, Charlie Chaplin and others will grace the silver screen at the St. John's Conversation Room as pianist Ray Brubacher accompanies the classics from the keyboard.

Do you feel the "talkies" ruined everything? You may find out you're not alone.

For entertainment with an international flair, how about Mexican folk dancing from the Maru Montero Dance Company? Or Songs of the Motherland from the Yale Russian Chorus? Then there's Scottish songster Carl Peterson and Celtic reels and jigs from "Ten Penny Bit." And don't forget Vietnamese folk music from the multitalented Nghia family and joyous African rhythms, courtesy of Color of Sound.

Topping off the evening will be pipers from the Chesapeake Caledonian Pipe Band providing the most authentic "Auld Lang Syne" imaginable and fireworks at midnight to welcome the New Year.

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