Music Takes Center Stage At First Night Chatham

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Community events

Ready to rock out are First Night Chatham volunteers Carol Garey and Paul Stuka. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM — As any seasoned First Night reveler will tell you, Chatham’s family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration wouldn’t be the same without music. But this year, they’re striking up the band like never before.

Inspired by new musical acts like Chicago Total Access, a Chicago tribute band; Beatles tribute band Studio Two; and rock band The Placeholders, First Night organizers chose “Strike Up the Band” as the theme for this year’s event.

There are many fun, new musical acts this year, First Night Committee Chairman Sally Stratman said. Among them is the 20-piece New England Digital Accordion Orchestra, featuring musicians from four of the six New England states, playing Roland V digital accordions.

“These accordions actually sound like tubas and trumpets,” Stratman said. “Apparently they’re wonderful.” The orchestra performs in many genres including jazz, standards, classical, big band, Broadway, ethnic, country, and rock. The orchestra may sound like a brass band, a full-out symphony, marching band, or a classic big band. Each accordion is capable of playing two or more “instruments” at the same time, even varying the volume of each. The ensemble is complemented by drums, percussion, guitar, and vocals.

But for many First Night fans, ringing in the new year means enjoying old favorites, including local music acts that return year after year. Enjoy the Cape Cod Jazz Quartet, the We Are The Men male choir, Tim Sweeney, Thom Dutton, the Clancy Tradition, and the Cape Cod Fiddlers, among others. The Cape Cod Ukulele Club will even be performing.

First Night is also a chance to see the players of Monomoy Theatre. Though the theater property was sold and is being restored and redeveloped, Alan Rust, Bernard Cornwell, Ellen Fiske and 15 other Monomoy favorites will be performing scenes and songs from musicals based on Shakespeare's works. The performance happens at 8 p.m. in the Congregational Church. For this and other performances at the Congregational Church, it’s worth noting that the elevator is out of commission because of a construction project, limiting access for people with mobility limitations. But aside from that temporary problem, all of First Night’s other indoor venues are ready to go and accessible to everybody.

Everybody who has a First Night button, that is. While many of the outdoor venues don’t require them, buttons are needed for admission for most of the indoor acts. They are on sale now for $22 for adults, and $5 for children ages three to 11. Younger kids are admitted for free. Around 6,500 buttons are sold each year, and last year, organizers came within about 100 buttons of selling out. They can be purchased at various downtown Chatham merchants or by visiting

As always, the festivities start with the taking of the annual town photo at the lighthouse at noon, and the Carnival Caper road race at 3 p.m. Through the afternoon and early evening, there are lots of offerings for families with children, and at 6 p.m., the Noise Parade will clamor its way from the Methodist Church to Veterans Field for the early fireworks celebration.

As the evening progresses, there are more offerings for older tastes in entertainment and music, keeping the party going until midnight. Though the Countdown Cod is taking a year off, there will be a traditional New Year’s Eve countdown at the Oyster Pond with another round of fireworks to welcome 2020.

It’s too early to know for sure what the weather will offer, but in the past, First Night Chatham has taken place on unseasonably warm nights and in the bitter cold, in the clear and in all types of precipitation. Dressing for the weather is essential.

The best approach to parking is to use the lot at the Monomoy Middle School on Crowell Road, and then hop the First Night shuttle bus to the center of town.

“It works very efficiently,” Stratman said. “People really don’t have to wait very long for a bus.”

As local events go, First Night Chatham is a huge undertaking, and happens only because of the work of volunteers, who number up to 350.

“It’s terrific every year. People step up and it’s a great occasion,” she said.

For up-to-the minute information and detailed information about each act, visit The full schedule also appears in last week's special section to The Chronicle, which is available for free at