By Sharon Sheridan, MG correspondent
Saluting the new year at First Night in Morristown was a crosscultural — even intergalactic — experience. Where else can you encounter Delta blues, Japanese drumming, South American woodwinds, celtic harp, Native American dancers, American jazz and a smattering of Klingon, all in one town in one evening?
Down at the Market Street Mission, songwriter/comedian Carla Ulbrich made sure no one had time to feel blue about any blown 2010 resolutions, thanks to her lineup of clever lyrics and parodies. She began the evening with a song “about finding the perfect man. It’s fiction.”
“Won’t you please do something stupid so I can get over you? If you really cared about me, it’s the least that you could do.”
A South Carolina native, she mused on moving to New Jersey with her husband — “that is true love” — and (mis)perptions of her home state. “My neighbor didn’t even know there were two Carolinas,” she confided, “so I told him it was East and West.”
She reminded the audience of some of the Southern state’s great celebrities — “We’re very proud of Vanna White because she can spell” — and its motto: “Thank God for Alabama.”
“One thing you don’t have in New Jersey, and I do miss them: You don’t have any Waffle Houses,” she said. “It’s a crime. … It’s the crossroads of America. Everybody goes to Waffle House — except y’all.”
“The guy who changes the light bulbs changes everything,” she said, noting the frequency of inoperable lights in Waffle House signs, and the odd lettering that ensues.
“Waffle House is ‘awful’ House without the W. … What is Waffle use?”
Displaying a little cultural diversity, she then announced: “I’ve written a duet for myself and a Klingon.” Her husband Joe Giacoio — “we have all our arguments in Klingon” — joined her onstage for a rendition of “I say potato, you say [insert indecipherable Klingon dialect]. … Let’s call the whole thing off!”
“Don’t you know any English,” she finally asked.
“Surrender or die!” he replied.
Ulbrich also addressed holiday disappointments, to the tune of “Let it snow.”
“You didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas, even with your 10-page wish list. But it’s 25 years ago. Let it go, let it go, let it go!”
A few blocks away at the Masonic Lodge, Andes Fusion sparked nostalgia of a different sort with a mix of traditional and contemporary South American music using percussion and a variety of woodwinds and strummed string instruments. A cheer rose from one corner of the room when the group announced it would play a Bolivian rhythm called San Juanito, or “Little John.” Soon, Norma Borja of Bloomfield, originally from Ecuador, and Patricia Chavarria of Caldwell, a Peru native, were dancing to the beat while the audience clapped.
A rendition of the Peruvian song “The Flight of the Condor” — familiar to Simon and Garfunkel fans, among others — also drew enthusiastic crowd response.
The band concluded with a “happy song” called “Poncho.” Borja and Ruthann Furst of Livingston quickly rose to dance. Soon, Jeanys Monak of East Rutherford, a Colombia native, joined them, watched by her sister, daughter, son-in-law and 1-year-old grandchild.
It was just the response the musicans had encouraged when introducing the song. “You are free to dance. It’s New Year’s!”