Ushering 2007 on a high note

My 14-year-old granddaughter Marie, her friend and I are about to discover whether First Night Annapolis can in fact delight all ages and tastes.

At Sunday's 16th annual New Year's Eve event, a family-oriented, alcohol-free celebration of the arts staged downtown, we plan to sample each other's cultures while savoring our own.


The event starts with First Act from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Here the youngest celebrants and their parents will be entertained in several rooms with balloon games, face painting, arts and crafts, clowns and puppets.

Starting at 6:30 p.m., First Night performers will put on continuous half-hour shows at downtown locations, from churches to civic and commercial establishments. (A listing of these events can be found at We of more sophisticated tastes will find art, history and music in abundance.


The Annapolis Opera will host a program at McDowell Hall of St. John's College, featuring some Barber of Seville arias to generate interest in the company's major spring production of this Rossini favorite.

Soprano Diana Boensel, who has sung leading roles in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte and in Smetana's The Bartered Bride, as well as bass Jeff Tarr will offer arias from Cosi and Barber.

Mezzo-soprano Carla Dirlikov and her husband, tenor Michael Gallant, will sing "Habanera" from Carmen and Granada, respectively, in addition to joining together for a duet of "Tonight" from West Side Story.

Having been bowled over earlier by these newlyweds, I can't imagine a better way to end the year and start 2007.

Promising an appealing change of pace for the discerning New Year's reveler is Debbie Barber-Eaton -- Rhapsody in Heels, a cabaret act to catch at 49 West. Barber-Eaton has stolen scenes and large segments of shows at Toby's Dinner Theater in Columbia, and delivered her own magic at Annapolis Summer Garden, so I expect she'll shine in this venue.

"There's nothing like a live performance that has never been before, and will never be again. It lives only in this moment," Barber-Eaton says. "I have spent most of my artistic life in musical theater, but I have always been fascinated with the genre of cabaret because of its intimacy with the audience. In cabaret the performer appears as herself. There is no character to hide behind so the performer's heart is revealed."

What does Barber-Eaton look forward to most? "Seeing the smiles on my son's and my husband's faces in the audience and celebrating the New Year in my own hometown."

Marie and her friend plan to catch "Screaming Puppets" and "Open Mike." These might not damage my opera-oriented ears, although I'll skip joining them at the Annapolis Recreation Center, where they'll catch some of the 2006 winners of Anne Arundel County High School Battle of the Bands.


These winners include Broadneck's "Revolta," which will go on at 7:30 p.m., and Southern's "Sonic Bloom," scheduled for 8:30 p.m. with first-place winner Archbishop Spalding's "Think" to take the stage around 10:30 p.m.

Our current plan is to meet each other so we can join the march down Main Street to catch the midnight fireworks display at City Dock before catching the shuttle back to our parked car. The logistics couldn't be easier: We drive to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and board free shuttle buses to downtown. The shuttles will circulate around town all evening, with the last return trip to the stadium at 12:45 a.m.

Admission buttons cost $18 for adults, $14 for seniors 65 and older and teens 13 to 17, and $10 for children 6 to 12 and may be purchased in advance at all Giant Food and Ledo Pizza stores as well as the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, 26 West St.

On Sunday, tickets priced at $22 for adults, $17 for seniors and teens and $14 for children 6 to 12 may be purchased at the stadium.