What does your heritage mean to you? A lot of Americans don't really think about it. But people in the European Multi-Ethnic Alliance of Tucson (EMAT) do. The nonprofit organization has activity and cultural clubs for anyone with a background from almost any European country--Holland, Norway, Hungary, Italy, you name it.
What does this have to do with New Year's Eve? EMAT will be hosting a dinner and dance event that night, which they've been doing for the past 17 years with a lot of success. While the party won't be culturally themed--how could they possibly represent every country in Europe?--it'll certainly be a good time.
Things will kick off with a delicious dinner at 7:30 p.m., and the dancing will begin at precisely 8:15. "Since it's not really an ethnic dance," says EMAT vice president Loretta Olson, "we're not going to have all kinds of foreign music or anything." Instead, the featured band will be the Street Minstrels, a talented trio that's been playing together for 20 years, and is made up of a guitarist, a violinist and a wind instrumentalist; they know how to play many kinds of music, from Mexican to Irish to classical. But for this event, they'll stick to big band tunes and music from the '50s and '60s--good, old American standards.
"It's not the typical music of young people nowadays," Olson admits, noting that most EMAT members are in their mid-40s or older. But she hopes to get more youth involved. "Most of those young people don't even know about their heritage," she laments. "And if they do, they're like, 'Who cares?'"
If you're young, show up and prove her wrong. If you're older, hopefully you still have enough vitality to go wild on a packed dance floor. The event costs $65 per person, and reservations must be made by Wednesday, Dec. 27. All ethnicities are welcome.
Any longtime Tucsonan who knows anything about the local music scene probably remembers the Mollys--and was probably depressed when they officially broke up back in 2003.
But don't be sad! The Mollys aren't really gone! They still perform special reunion shows twice a year, one on St. Patrick's Day, and one--you guessed it--on New Year's Eve. So this Sunday is one of your few chances to let them prove that they're just as good as ever.
And if you haven't heard the Mollys before, here's your chance to see what they're all about.
As one might gather from the band's name, the Mollys have a lot to do with Irish music. In fact, when leader Nancy McCallion first formed the group with singer Catherine Zavala and flute player Linda Winkleman, they identified as an Irish trio. But over the years, as the band grew, members came and went, and their diverse tastes and influences entered the equation, they evolved into something pretty hard to classify. Today, McCallion describes the music as Irish, Tex-Mex and Cajun, with some Middle Eastern-sounding stuff--all mixed together.
However you want to portray the Mollys, it can't be denied that they are great at what they do, and they're incredible to see perform. "(Our music) is really lively," says McCallion. "We've got a lot of energy, and Catherine Zavala and I have been singing together since high school, so we harmonize really well. ... And the accordion player is just a maniac."
Admission to the special New Year's Eve concert is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. And if you're worried about how to dance to such an eclectic blend of musical styles, don't be--McCallion says showgoers can express themselves however they want. If you can't decide between norteño-style dancing and doing an Irish jig, just jump up and down.
If anyone can rile people up for a big celebration, the folks at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference can. They always line up musicians with enough talent, experience and--most important of all--energy to keep their audience excited.
Have you ever seen a mariachi group perform? Those guys are rowdy. And they're not even all guys!
In fact, this New Year's Eve, you can get a taste of mariachi played by the fairer sex as the International Mariachi Conference kicks off the big 25th Anniversary Celebration. Headlining will be the Mariachi Divas, an all-female ensemble from Los Angeles that's been around since 1999 and has recently been gaining national fame. Besides being all women, this group is special because its members are from numerous ethnic backgrounds, including Mexican, Cuban, Samoan, Argentinean, Panamanian, Puerto Rican and even Swiss and Japanese. And they always go all out with a unique style of Afro-Cuban-tinged mariachi music that's perfect for dancing.
"(This group) is just a blast," promises Tina Roesler, the Tucson International Mariachi Conference's communications director. "They play a wide variety of Latin music, but it's all really spicy."
Los Gallegos, the other group performing on New Year's Eve, is also a lot of fun. A group of five multi-talented brothers from right here in Tucson, they play a nice blend of tejano, conjunto and norteño music and are thought by many to be the hottest new Southern Arizona band in their genre.
"They're definitely local favorites," says Roesler. "They're really good at getting people engaged and getting them to dance, which is good, because this event is going to be much more of a dance than a show." Rumor has it Los Gallegos will be doing an Elvis spoof.
The event will cost $150 per person, which includes dinner, dessert, champagne, party favors and fun. Call 838-3908 for reservations.
For all you jazz lovers who don't know about the Tucson Jazz Society's big New Year's Eve bash: It's a good thing you're reading this, because you really shouldn't miss this concert--people are coming from all over the country to see it.
The main draw is going to be the TJS Jazz All-Stars, a group of five talented men who are nationally and even internationally acclaimed. Dave Weckl, for example, was recently inducted into Modern Drummer Hall of Fame and declared "one of the 25 best drummers of all time." According to certain jazz lovers' Web sites, saxophonist Gary Meek is "an astute leader," keyboardist Jeff Lorber is "a treasure," and trumpeter Rick Braun is "at the top of his game." Not enough praise for you? Well, jazz legend Lionel Hampton calls Brian Bromberg "the greatest bass player in the world."
After the All-Stars play, attendees can let loose on the dance floor to some Latin jazz and classic R&B performed by Flaco Diaz and George Howard. At midnight, there'll be a champagne toast. And then ... more dancing! (If you can handle it.)
The whole evening, which includes a three-course "Dinner With the Stars" and free valet parking, will cost $125 per person. "This event is unique, because we've got so much star power in one room," says TJS executive director Patricia Possert. "Each one of the All-Stars is an award-winning musician. ... It's the biggest event in Tucson in terms of entertainment and everything you're going to get. That's the bottom line."