A SteamCRUNK extravaganza and a tap-dance showdown are just two presentations that will be led by Dorchester/Mattapan performers during the upcoming 36th annual First Night Boston. Local artists join national celebrities like soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples and folk icon Suzanne Vega in entertaining hundreds of thousands during the country’s oldest, largest and most-often-copied New Year’s Eve arts celebration.
This Saturday Dec. 31, First Night crams the hours between noon and midnight with art, music, dance, fireworks and ice sculptures (one of which this year salutes the Mayan calendar and the end of civilization as we know it!). Over 1,000 artists will be featured in 200 exhibitions and performances in 40 Boston locations.
One of the best-attended free public events will be the Panorama Magazine Grand Procession, which leaves from the Hynes Convention Center (HCC) at 5:30 p.m. for Boston Common.
In past years, Stephen and Cynthia Coker of Dynasty Productions (Mattapan) have stolen the show by coaxing fellow islanders to show off their sparkly, feathery costumes from the August Caribbean Carnival Parade, which this summer had the theme of “Portrait of a Proud Nation.” Expect the “mas” dancers to dazzle in outfits inspired by Native American garb.
Among the Dorchester processors will be students from Codman Academy, who, in cooperation with First Night’s Neighborhood Network, created giant puppets to carry. For the fifth year, third through fifth graders in the Thomas J. Kenny School Marching Band will be twirling flags and playing drums, flutes, clarinets, trumpets and trombones. Also “representing” along the route will be educators from Franklin Field/ Franklin Hill Dorchester “Healthy Boston.”
Several of the biggest indoor events also have Dorchester thumbprints all over them.
Illustrator Walter Sickert and partner Edrie Edrie moved to Ashmont Hill earlier this year, but on New Year’s Eve they’ll be at the Hynes Auditorium presiding over some phantasmagoric proceedings, which First Night organizers tout. “Boston Music Award 2010 Live Artist of the Year winner Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys bring their musically sophisticated Dada-esque SteamCRUNK carnival run amuck to First Night, as they host an evening filled with like-minded freaks.”
At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Melville Park’s Heinrich Christensen will be giving a 9 p.m. recital on the C. B. Fisk organ at King’s Chapel, where he is music director. For his “lucky thirteenth year,” the Nixon Street resident reports, “I will play Bach as usual and ‘11 anniversarists,’ i.e. composers born or died in 1811 or 1911: August Ritter, Jehan Alain, and Alexandre Guilmant.”
Dorchester dancers will be getting quite a workout. A Major Dance Company, based in Dorchester Center, offers lyrical jazz, hip hop and African dance demos in 1:30 and 3 p.m. shows at the HCC. Codman Square’s Sean Fielder will teach a master class at the HCC from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Then he and his Boston Tap Company will square off in a Riverdance-style friendly competition with the O’Shea Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance and Dot /Roxbury’s OrigiNation in a thunderous Tap Battle at 8:15. Finally, the Fielder and crew finish up with a 9:30 show in the HCC Ballroom.
Behind the scenes local residents keep this gigantic event running smoothly. Alene Burroughs (Mattapan) is First Night’s longtime office manager & marketing associate. Dorchester’s Emerson Kington logs yet another year as the HCC Site manager. Joyce Linehan of Ashmont Media continues as Director of public relations.
First Night admission buttons are $18 (same price as 2008!), available at the Shaw’s at 45 Morrissey Blvd and at the Edward Everett Square Tedeschi’s. An updated schedule can be found at firstnight.org.