Island musicians were the dominant revelers at the Vineyard Haven observance at the close of 2007.
The event could have begun at any time for members in the audience at the Katharine Cornell Theatre on Monday afternoon.
For some it began with a belly dancer revue. For many it was Johnny Hoy of the Bluefish singing a song dedicated to time slipping away.
Stagehands had a hard time getting the overhead theatre lights right, but while the lights flashed, Johnny moved on and sang wrapped in the change in time: “It’s been so long now, but it seems like it was only yesterday.”
Pianist Jeremy Berlin augmented the narrative song with delicate, whimsical lyrical phrases coming from his right hand. The song was a Willie Nelson tune, and while Johnny talked and sang the appropriate lyrics, his musicians wrapped themselves wistfully around them. Chris Anzalone danced his brushes on his snare drum.
Listening to live music is the way many Vineyarders spend their winter, and so it was appropriate that a cornucopia of varying styles of music began this New Year.
Next door at the First Baptist Church on Spring and William streets, Kevin Keady of Chappaquiddick, a songwriter and contemporary folksinger, sang a tune on a night often known for drinking and driving.
The song is called Zyx and is about a drinker of alcohol driving at night and getting pulled over by the police. The tells how the driver is able to get through a police officer’s first sobriety test by previously having memorized the alphabet backwards. His performance was assisted by the Island’s premiere mandolin player, Nate Davis.
Mr. Keady also sang a children’s song for the benefit of the few in the audience.
Youngsters Declan, Owen and Emma Kutscher sat with their parents and kicked their feet quietly in the pew to the rhythm of Mr. Keady’s tune. This was their third Last Night, First Day trip to the Vineyard. Their parents, Steve and Kelly, came to the Vineyard from Hartford for the annual event, just to enjoy the music and bring in the New Year.
Mr. Davis’s fingers weren’t finished when Mr. Keady put his guitar away. Mr. Davis turned around and resumed playing with Don Groover’s Squash Meadow, a contemporary bluegrass band.
Up the road at Centre street, the music in the Hebrew Center came from a compact disc player. Light-footed Tom Carberry and Janet Holladay gave a class in swing music.
With sweet bluesy music playing in the background, Mr. Carberry talked about the rudiments of lead dancing and how to follow swing. Holding Ms. Holladay’s hand, Mr. Carberry said: “The touch is light. You don’t need to swing hard. Swing gently.
“Billiards. The essense of swing is getting the ball rolling,” Mr. Carberry said. Three pairs of dancers followed his recommendation to the letter.
On upper Main street in Vineyard Haven, the dust never settled at the offices of Sail Martha’s Vineyard. The music began with Jim Thomas and his Spiritual Choir, and was followed by the band Kahoots and then by the two Silvas from Oak Bluffs.
Milo Silva, 20, began his set singing a tune and playing the igil, a two-stringed Tuvan musical instrument, played with a bow.
The music then shifted to blues. His father Maynard slipped in wearing a white shirt, black hat and black vest. Playing the harmonica and singing a wailing a blues tune: “I got a kind-hearted woman.”
Two celebrated Island musicians provided backup: Tom Howland played electric bass and Al Shackman played electric guitar.
The night was filled with a lot more musicians, playing at different venues throughout the town. It was a musical evening.
By 9:07 p.m., the fireworks over Eastville Beach had begun.