Locals take stage for First Night

On the night of Dec. 31, some folks are out on the town late; others are under the covers early to wake up fresh for the start of the new year. But there will be no relaxing for a sizeable number of Dorchester and Mattapan artists who will be part of 12 solid hours of cultural programming as they share their talents with over a million people as part of the 33rd First Night Boston, the oldest, largest and most-often-copied New Year's Eve arts celebration in North America.

The Family Festival at the Hynes Convention Center (HCC) starts off the festivities. The A. Major Dance Company (a punning reference to organizer Andrea Herbert Major) will once again present performances by 35 students from the Roxbury Center for the Arts, which - despite its name - is located in Dorchester. They'll be doing half-hour sets in HCC Exhibit Hall C at 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m.

In Room 202, from 1 to 6 p.m., visitors can experience "Sculpture4Change." Since October, Dara Cheek has been leading a dozen teens from the Bird Street Community Center through an exploration of mixed media called "Culture for Change." They've created an eight-by-nine foot, tree-like piece of public art from which they've hung "time capsules" with samples of their poetry. Visitors are invited to open the "fruit" and read the kids' verse. After First Night, the sculpture will be housed at Bird Street.

Last year, Dorchester-born Tony Fonseca ushered in '08 with CV Drumbeats, featuring 'tween and teen percussionists from the Franklin Park Development Tenants Association. This year he's performing with four adult Dot residents, graduates of his youth drumming programs in Dot and Roxbury: Edgar "Chico" Varela, Odair "Dai" Pinto, Johnny "Jon" Depina and Loridana "Lori" Pones. Catch their half-hour sessions in HCC Room 203 at 2, 3 or 4 p.m.

And speaking of drums, there will again be a drum line as part of the troop of 35-40 kids from the Thomas J. Kenney School Marching Band, under the direction of Jerry Chu. Last year the kids made their First Night debut in the Metro Grand Procession. This year "veteran" third through fifth graders return playing flutes, clarinets, trumpets and trombones and twirling flags.

Also in the procession Caribbean Band leaders and dancers from Mattapan modeling their sparkly, but hardly winter-worthy mas finery.

Dorchester jazz singer Fulani Haynes and the Jazz Collaborative invite revelers to "Swing Away the Blues" at the Park Plaza Terrace Room . "Swing, jitterbug and slow jam the blues away as this jazz band grooves into the new year!" Forty-five minute sets start at 8, 9:15, and 10:30 pm.

For the eleventh year, Melville Park resident Heinrich Christensen will be giving a 9 pm all-Bach recital on the C. B. Fisk organ at King's Chapel, where he is Music Director.

Behind the scenes as well Dorchester and Mattapan residents are overseeing and organizing to keep this trend-setting event running smoothly. Alene Burroughs (Mattapan) is First Night's Office Manager. Dorchester's Emerson Kington is the Hynes Convention Center Site Manager and Ashmont's Joyce Linehan is Director of Public Relations.

If all this activity has you wishing you could be part of something as colossal as First Night, it's not too late. If you'd consider being a Procession Marshall, Puppet Captain, Face Painter or Usher, contact Joyce Bishop at 617 542-1399, ext 26 or volunteer@firstnight.org.

First Night admission buttons are $18 this year and are available at about a dozen Dot locations including all Shaw's Supermarkets, Tedeschi and Store 24 outlets. Buttons are good for First Month (January) offering holders discounted admissions to attractions around the city including the JFK Library.