My favorite way to transition to the new year has been to attend the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace in the grand, awe-inspiring space of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The music that fills its cavernous space with such pure, sweet sound, inspires contemplation, hope, and even calm against the uncertainty ahead.
The event is the most inspirational and life-affirming – such a contrast to the crassness of most New Year’s Eve festivities.
“Tonight is so important, as we pray for peace, because we renew our commitment to goodwill and hopefulness,” stated Reverend James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral. “We dare to believe again that mean spiritedness and division must not have the final word. We invite the Spirit of Light to empower and embolden us, as we cast off despair and cynicism, and reaffirm that we will choose fairness, justice and kindness over the shallowness and destruction of ‘winner take all’ or ‘to the victor goes the spoils.’ As global citizens, we pray that the world will also be drawn to that light. We acknowledge that we must do our part to brighten and represent that light – across faiths, cultures and geographies to build more just societies.”
“We come because we care about justice, fairness, poverty, morality… we care about peace,” said the broadcast journalist Harry Smith. “But what we know now is that caring about these things is not enough. Peace needs to be won, justice needs to be fought for, causes need to be championed, poverty needs to be abolished.” Desire and good intentions aren’t enough, he said. These causes need “our involvement; movements need a head; legislators need new members. ..Causes without participating is little more than idle fantasy,” he said, adding a jibe at those who did not vote.
This year’s concert was especially poignant, featuring a New York Premier of “Light Shall Lift Us,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, a musical response to the tragedy that occurred at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016: the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. The inspirational work, which they dedicated to the victims and survivors of the massacre, was premiered June 16, 2016 in “One Voice Orlando,” a benefit concert Campbell helped organize with Opera Orlando. (A portion can be heard at youtube, https://youtu.be/YA9NozeWEcc).
I recalled sadly that last year’s Concert for Peace featured the world premiere of “Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel,” by librettist Virginia Sirota and composer Robert Sirota, honoring the victims of the Charleston massacre.
Judy Collins, the Cathedral’s Artist in Residence, spoke and sang of her 50 year friendship and collaboration with Leonard Cohen, that began with his composition which has become so identified with her, “Suzanne” which she recorded in 1966. (She said he also encouraged her to write her own music.) It was kind of a tribute to all those lost this past year. (See youtube, https://youtu.be/3lQg5QKDWt4)
Then, in a nod to current affairs and challenges ahead, she “read” and sang a letter to Vladimir Putin that recalled her tour of Russia at the age of 26 and what she saw there, interspersing it with refrains of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” her sweet, melodic voice ringing through the cavernous cathedral. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5fFU-f35oE).
Jason Robert Brown, Tony-Award-winning composer and lyricist, performed his “To Build A Home,” portraying an immigrant’s arrival to the heartland of the USA, from his musical TheBridges of Madison County, joined by soloist Elizabeth Stanley, who starred in the musical’s national tour.
Brown also performed a new composition, ‘Hope.”
The concert also featured the world premiere of a stunning choral piece, “Come, Lord, And Tarry Not,” from a new oratorio by composer Georgia Stitt, who played the piano and soprano Jamet Pittman and Randy Landau on bass.
Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music, began this year’s concert with selections from Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major, and finished with the optimism of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gloria/Et in terra pax from the monumental Mass in B Minor, and the beloved gospel song “This Little Light of Mine,” led by soloist Jamet Pittman, to herald the coming of the new year.
The “Light Shall Lift Us” celebration – which is offered as a free concert (though general admission and reserved seat tickets are available) culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft by audience members.
Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event, for the Episcopal church which prides itself as being a “unifying center of intellectual light and leadership, embracing people from across faiths and communities. There are concerts and events throughout the year.
The Cathedral itself is a marvel. Originally designed in 1888, with construction beginning in 1892, the cathedral has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. It started out in Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival style, but the plan was changed to Gothic Revival in 1909. A major fire on December 18, 2001 caused the cathedral to be closed for repairs until 2008. It remains unfinished with construction and restoration a continuing process – which inside, only adds to the mystique of the place. It boasts being the largest Gothic cathedral, and may be the world’s largest Anglican cathedral and church; it is also the fourth largest Christian church in the world.
The cathedral houses one of the nation’s premier textile conservation laboratories to conserve the cathedral’s textiles, including the Barberini tapestries. The laboratory also conserves tapestries, needlepoint, upholstery, costumes, and other textiles for clients.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street), New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7468, www.stjohndivine.org.
New York City again hosts some of the world’s premier New Year’s Eve celebrations, some extending through the holiday weekend. There are festive ways to welcome in 2017 across all five boroughs, including the iconic ball drop in Times Square, as well as a divinely inspired concert at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and a Midnight Run in Central Park, complete with fireworks.
New Year’s Eve in Times Square
An estimated 1 million revelers in New York City will watch the 110-year-old tradition of the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. A 12-foot-diameter geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford crystals, the ball weighs 11,875 pounds and is powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LED lights, capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors. At 11:59 pm, the ball begins its descent atop One Times Square as millions of people count down the final seconds of the year and celebrate the beginning of a new year.
New Year’s Eve events taking place in Times Square include:
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest:A cherished annual tradition since 1972, the show will kick off New Year’s Eve celebrations live from Times Square with host Ryan Seacrest and comedian Jenny McCarthy. Pop star Fergie will also be co-hosting the Billboard Hollywood Party, featuring celebrity performances throughout the night. For more information on upcoming performances, visit dickclark.com.
New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall:When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day, thousands of confetti pieces will rain down upon revelers in Times Square, each containing a special wish from people across the globe. Visitors and locals looking to submit their wishes can submit in person at the Mobile Wishing Wall in Times Square or online via timessquarenyc.org starting on December 1. Visit timessquarenyc.org for specific locations and times.
Madame Tussauds New York:Located within walking distance from the ball drop, families can hang out with over 200 life-size wax figures of their favorite celebrities as Madame Tussauds celebrates the New Year. This year’s event includes passed appetizers, open bar for ages 21 and over and access to the attraction’s themed rooms, including the new Ghostbusters Experience that opened earlier this year. Visit madametussauds.com for more information.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square:With over 500 amazing exhibits and 20 galleries, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square will once again be holding a New Year’s Eve celebration to ring in 2017. Ripley’s New Year’s Eve party will feature a live DJ, dancing, open bar and face painting for the kids, complete with a champagne toast at midnight. For more information, visit ripleysnewyork.com.
Good Riddance Day: On December 28 from noon to 1pm, Times Square New Year’s Eve and Shred-it will bid farewell to bad memories from 2016. Mobile shredding trucks and mallets will be available for attendees to shred or destroy items like old love letters, pink slips and cellphones. Shred-it is also offering a contest on their website to win a trip to NYC for Good Riddance Day and to experience the ball drop. Those who can’t make it to Times Square can submit items to be shredded on shredit.com or tweet with the hashtag #GoodRiddanceDay.
Visitors looking to dance and dine the night away will find several restaurants and venues with New Year’s Eve offerings around Times Square. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar(two locations in Times Square), AMC Empire 25, Aureole New York by Charlie Palmer, Blue Fin, Chevys, Dallas BBQ, Dave & Buster’s Times Square, Dos Caminos, Fig & Olive, Glass House Tavern, Planet Hollywood Times Square, STK New York City Midtown, St. Andrews Restaurant & Bar and others will welcome 2017 in style. For tickets to these and other Times Square events, diners should call restaurants and venues directly or visit balldrop.com for select event tickets.
This is an event that you should do at least once in your life, but involves a bit of physical challenge, since you have to arrive by 3 pm and basically stand there without access to a bathroom or food (outside the perimeter) until after midnight. Dress in layers; bring water and snacks and of course camera and cell phone to share the experience.
But there are other ways to enjoy a unique New York New Year’s Eve:
Last year, I attended the New Year’s concert at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine– a truly spectacular setting, as uplifting as the music and candlelight. A signature New Year’s Eve event founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual Concert for Peace brings together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music. This year, the Cathedral will introduce a new work by composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell called “Light Shall Lift Us.” The program will feature soloist Jamet Pittman and includes other works from Joseph Haydn’s “Morning” Symphony and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor. You can purchase tickets. Also, there are a limited number of general admission seats are free and open to the public (people line up hours in advance). Later in the evening, a special late-night service will be held to ring in the New Year. (1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street,New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7540, firstname.lastname@example.org, stjohndivine.org.
Another of my favorite New Year’s Eve events is the New York Road Runners Midnight Run. The evening kicks off at 10 pm with music and dancing at the bandshell. Then, when the clock strikes midnight, and there is a spectacular fireworks display over the famous fountain, runners start a four-mile NYRR Midnight Run, dashing their way into 2017. The music, dancing and fireworks are free, but there is a fee to participate in the race (registration is open to the public and required; visit nyrr.org).
Other festive events happening in Manhattan:
Apollo Theater:With its 10th annual Kwanzaa Celebration, the Apollo Theater invites visitors to enjoy a day in Harlem on New Year’s Eve, with dance performances by Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and music honoring the holiday of Kwanzaa. The event will also celebrate the Forces of Nature dance school’s 35th anniversary and is hosted by radio personality Imhotep Gary Byrd. Visit apollotheater.org to purchase tickets.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan:Families can enjoy a kid-friendly New Year’s Eve bash at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The museum will offer a New Year’s Eve Dance Party with DJ Chela, along with a New Year’s Eve ball drop just for the kids. Visit cmom.org for more info.
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises:For an unforgettable evening sailing around New York Harbor, Circle Line cruise ships will once again offer their New Year’s Eve cruise sailings. The party cruise includes hors d’oeuvres, a full open bar, party favors, a DJ and a midnight champagne toast. The cruise boards at 9pm and sails from 10pm to 1am. (Must be 18 years old to board and 21 years old to drink alcohol.) For more information or to purchase tickets, visit circleline42.com.
Empire State Building:New York City’s iconic Empire State Building will join in the celebration of New Year’s Eve with their annual display of colorful confetti lights around the spire of the building. When the clock strikes midnight, the building will sparkle white to signify the new year, a must-see for visitors and locals alike.
Luminaries at Brookfield Place:Currently in its second installation at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan, Luminaries is a three-dimensional interactive light display in the Winter Garden atrium that cycles through a palette of festive colors when someone touches one of three “wishing stations.” During New Year’s Eve weekend, Luminaries will be displaying its holiday colors that dance to the tunes of Michael Bublé and Tony Bennett’s winter classic songs. Visit artsbrookfield.com for more information.
Madison Square Garden:Popular nineties band Phish will make their return to Madison Square Garden from December 28–31. The band’s loyal fans are invited to rock out into the New Year as they jam out with their unique style of live music. For more information, visit thegarden.com.
The Metropolitan Opera:French romanticism will return to The Metropolitan Opera with the opening of Roméo et Julietteon New Year’s Eve. Running through March 18, this classic love story will include four graceful duets with Diana Damrau as Juliette and Vittorio Grigolo as Roméo. For more information, visit MetOpera.org.
Merchant’s House Museum:Relive the cherished tradition of making house calls on New Year’s Day as the Merchant’s House Museum continues the 19th-century tradition with their Come Calling event. House tours, readings, punch and confections will all be part of the festivities, as well as a holiday raffle drawing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit merchantshouse.org.
New York Philharmonic:On New Year’s Eve, music director Alan Gilbert will conduct the New York Philharmonic’s special New Year’s Eve celebration. This year’s show will feature mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato performing American classics by Rodgers & Hammerstein, as well as Copland and Lerner & Loewe. For more information, visit nyphil.org.
New York Water Taxi:Families looking to enjoy a kid-friendly evening can party the night away with New York Water Taxi’s New Year’s Eve Family Cruise. With the City’s magnificent skyline as the backdrop. the cruise will sail along New York Harbor and includes hors d’oeuvres, a dinner buffet with dessert, juice and soft drinks and a cash bar for those 21 and older. TVs onboard will be livestreaming the ball drop. Tickets can be purchased online at nywatertaxi.com.
World Yacht Cruises: World Yacht Cruises will feature a Montauk-esque buffet and celebration aboard its North River Lobster Company sailing. The cruise includes a standard open bar, live DJ and an extensive buffet from 10pm through 1am. For this and other New Year’s Eve sailings with World Yacht Cruises, visit worldyacht.com.
Ringing in the New Year Brooklyn-Style
Coney Island USA: For those who want to experience the thrill of the ball drop without the crowds of Times Square, Coney Island will be hosting a New Year’s Eve celebration with an LED ball drop simulated on the Parachute Jump, along with a stunning 3D laser light show and a circus sideshow fire finale. Select boardwalk restaurants and attractions will be open, including The Thunderbolt and B&B Carousell. For more information, visit coneyislandusa.com
Prospect Park Fireworks: Visitors and locals can celebrate New Year’s Eve in Prospect Park under Brooklyn’s beautiful annual fireworks display at midnight, sponsored by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. This event is free and open to all ages and includes hot refreshments and entertainment. Grand Army Plaza, West Drive in Prospect Park and Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 95th Street are the best places to see the spectacular fireworks show. For more information, visit prospectpark.org.
Time’s Up 19thAnnual New Year’s Eve Bike Ride: Celebrating its 19th year, environmental education group Time’s Up will once again host their New Year’ Eve bike ride and outdoor after party. Bikers and skaters can start the year off right by meeting up at 9:45 p.m. on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge, then ride through Washington Square Park and Madison Square Park before partying the night away at Belvedere Castle in Central Park. For more information, visit times-up.org.
Coney Island Polar Bear Club Annual New Year’s Day Swim:On New Year’s Day 2017, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club invites those brave enough to take a plunge into the Atlantic Ocean to bring in the New Year and to benefit Camp Sunshine, a charity for children with life-threatening illnesses. The yearly tradition is open to the public and starts at 1pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance, with free admission to the New York Aquarium for registered attendees. For more event details, visit polarbearclub.org.
New Year’s in The Bronx
Havana Café New Year’s Eve Party: Bringing the soul and taste of Havana to the Bronx, Havana Café will feature a special four-course dinner and one free cocktail starting at 8:30pm on New Year’s Eve, followed by an open bar starting at 11pm. The party continues until 4am with party favors and dancing. Visit bronxhavanacafe.com for more info.
New York Botanical Garden:Throughout New Year’s Eve weekend, visitors can check out the exciting winter wonderland at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show. Featuring more than 150 landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, visitors can watch as model trains zip through a miniature replica of New York City, which is sure to delight kids of all ages. Check out nybg.org for more info.
Queens Welcomes 2017
Elli Kokkinou at Melrose Ballroom: One of Greece’s most popular singers, Elli Kokkinou, will ring in 2017 at Astoria’s famous Melrose Ballroom. Visit melroseballroomnyc.com for tickets and more information.
Resorts World Casino:As New York City’s only casino, Resorts World Casino invites those 21 and older to celebrate New Year’ Eve at Club360 with live performances by Tavares & France Joli. Party favors, a drink ticket and a champagne toast at midnight are just some of the exciting offerings throughout the night in addition to its 3,000 slot machines. For more information, visit rwnewyork.com.
Staten Island Happenings
New Year’s Eve at Nicotra’s Ballroom: Beginning at 7:30pm, Nicotra’s Ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island will host a New Year’s Eve Gala. The gala includes a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, live DJ and a champagne toast as a live feed from Times Square shows the exciting ball drop. The Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island will also feature a special room rate, which includes a buffet breakfast and admission to the gala. For more info, visit nicotrasballroom.com.
Brioso Ristorante:Visitors and locals can spend their New Year’s Eve in a quaint and festive setting at Brioso Ristorante in Staten Island. Featuring a sumptuous menu of delicious and authentic Italian cuisine, Brioso has been a New York City staple since 1995. To book a reservation and to learn more, visit newyork.briosorestaurants.com.