The official theme of First Night Annapolis may be "Happy New Year" (what else), but the folks in charge of organizing the show this yearseem to have chosen "Mix and Match" as their own angle.
Charged with transforming the Annapolis Historic District into an artistic smorgasbord of family-oriented fun to welcome the New Year, this largelyvolunteer organization has managed to increase the eclectic content of the event that proved so successful with its debut last year.
"What we have done is listen to what people said they wanted," said Elizabeth Welch, who with partner Lana Nelson has been one of the chief organizers of the festival. "So we gave them more performance sites and deepened the ethnic diversity of the performers."
The night will feature more than 40 artists and groups performing at 31 different sites from early afternoon until midnight.
Shows will be at the State House and other state buildings, the Annapolis City Hall onDuke of Gloucester Street, St. John's College, the Circuit Court House on Church Circle, the U.S. Naval Academy and various store windows, schools and historic houses.
Welch emphasized that what is important about this year's First Night is not so much the number of performances as the depth and diversity of the performers.
One performer, Nguyen Dinh Nghia, could almost summarize the planned diversity ofthe night all by himself. His performances
combine Vietnamese folk music and traditional reed instruments with Western classical flute.
Nghia, who has been in the Washington area since 1984, said he wanted to combine the styles in order to "make the music richer, so that the different generations can come together. Not many Westerners know about Asian music or culture, so this will help to teach people about each other."
In addition, Nghia said, incorporating Western styles helps enrich his own musical tradition because it expands the musical possibilities for his own instruments.
He will present thissynthesis in the Council Chambers of the Annapolis City Hall at 7, 8:15, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. New Year's Eve.
Gettysburg, Pa.-based RayOwen is another performer committing amalgamation that night, as he presents his own program of what he calls "classic American tunes -- and humor." He will start with a 4:30 p.m. children's show at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Then he moves up to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, for shows at 6:30, 7:15 and 8 p.m., before returning toGettysburg that night to close out the year at home.
Variously described as a country-and-western singer or a folk singer, Owen says, "I'm both, and more. I perform what I call 'classic American tunes' -- country, folk, jazz, the blues. I mean, how would you describe a song like 'Ain't Misbehavin' ' that was written by Fats Waller, now that it's been recorded by Hank Williams Jr.?"
A more unified music tradition will be represented by the six-member group Capriole, performing the music and dances of 17th-century Restoration England, including the work of composer Henry Purcell.
No strangers to the First Night phenomenon, Capriole has performed at First Night events in Boston and Charlotte, N.C. In Charlotte, member Gail Johnson recounts, "one of the First Night Annapolis talent scouts caught us there, likedus and called us up."
The group is based in Williamsburg, Va. It has performed in Europe and New York City, in addition to its regularcircuit, which includes the Virginia cities of Williamsburg, Norfolk, and Richmond.
The group's performances at the First PresbyterianChurch, marking their Annapolis debut, are scheduled for 7:30, 8:30,9:45 and 10:45 p.m.
Johnson, who plays harpsichord for the group,described First Night as "a wonderful alternative. I've never been one for parties where all you do is eat and drink, so this is a great way to
spend New Year's Eve."
Her associates include bass baritone James Weaver (who also performs with the Smithsonian Chamber Singers); violinists Kevin Bushee (pronounced boo-shay) and Ann Loud, anddancers Diana Freedman and Chris Hendrix.
New Age Vaudeville, a type of street theater combining influences of the past and present inways that change with every performance, also will make its presenceknown on the streets of Annapolis this New Year's Eve.
Storyteller Bill Mayhew, plus street performers Jim Frank, also known as Nymblewyke, and Cybelle Pomeroy, as Jesterbelle, are three of the area's top names for this type of entertainment.
All three are alumnus of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. They work closely with their audiences to enchant, amaze, delight and otherwise entertain.
Other practitioners of this new/old art that may be seen on the streets New Year's Eve include magician, raconteur and former merchant sailor Steve Hammill; Joe Nicely as Ip the Fool; and impressionist Steve Garner, also known as "The Professor."