Around the holidays, you’re often encouraged to “…be of good cheer.” That simple and pure sentiment motivates singer/songwriter/violinist Erin Zindle (of renowned Ann Arbor-based world/folk-fusion ensemble The Ragbirds) to coordinate epic musical extravaganzas to close out the year. This year’s Ebird & Friends Holiday Show features Michigan musical luminaries May Erlewine, Joe Hertler, Mark Lavengood, and many more.
The Ragbirds’ music, an eclectic patchwork of folk styles from around the world, arcing towards the ebullient aesthetics of Paul Simon and The Talking Heads, has a signature of folk, rock, and western pop hooks with Euro/Afro rhythms. The range of instruments includes Zindle’s soaring Celtic-styled fiddle, riling congas, shakers, guitars, melodica and more. It’s a smorgasbord of global sounds that still feels like a fine-tuned pop song. The always celebratory vibe of their songs perfectly complements the reverence of these holiday show parties.
Zindle emphasizes how much work goes into these variety show-styled concerts each year, praising the efforts of everyone joining in to pull off the production. “So many of my friends are also musicians and also touring all over the place, so we rarely cross paths, even though we live in the same town,” she explains. “So, having this deliberate gathering of musicians each year has become something we all look forward to. I love the diversity and creativity of the human race, bringing all these different artists together with an audience to experience these tunes just represents my favorite thing about humanity. Christmas time, I’ve found, is a really perfect time to celebrate those things.”
Gathering to Fend Off the Long, Cold Winter
Audience members can expect inspired and adventurously reimagined renditions of classic Christmas songs from the revue of artists, but more than emphasizing one holiday over another, the intent is to stoke a sense of togetherness, nostalgia, and hope. “It’s a unique time of year for everybody regardless of whatever holiday you celebrate,” Zindle says. “There’s just such awareness, at this time of year, where we’re getting ready for this long cold season ahead by gathering together.”
The show continues to get bigger and more memorable each year. Even though Zindle continues to regularly tour with The Ragbirds and work on music, she considers this show her greatest effort/achievement year-in and year-out. “It’s so much about everyone who is involved; it takes a whole community to make this show possible.”
There have been a lot of memorable moments, but last year might win the absolute poignancy prize. With Leonard Cohen’s passing in November of 2016, the cast of singers/musicians performed an encore with his immortal song “Hallelujah.” Zindle’s daughter came up on stage and reached out, to be picked-up and held during the song, and Zindle continued to sing in the embrace and shared-gaze of her daughter amongst friends in the ambiance of the Ark. “There were a lot of people crying,” she recalls with joy, “it was an intense moment.”
Zindle admits she may have shied away from overusing the word “upbeat” when describing her band’s music in the past, but now, especially now, her heart is in wanting to bring some hope to audiences through music, given this current climate of distress and division. “I try not to write something naïve or shallow,” she says, “but we really need some straight-up good words, right now.”
We need good cheer, right now.
The Ragbirds, meanwhile, are starting to work on the next batch of songs to follow-up 2016’s The Threshold & The Hearth.
Ebird & Friends Holiday Show
The Ark, 316 S. Main St. Ann Arbor | 734-761-1451
Thurs Dec 7th / Fri Dec 8th / Sat Dec 9th, doors at 8pm
$25 General Admission
More info: 734-761-1800 | theark.org | theragbirds.com