Ebird & Friends celebrate the holidays & A2’s musical diversity at The Ark


Erin Zindle, Ebird & Friends Holiday Show

Erin Zindle's annual Ebird & Friends Holiday Show is a December tradition.

Growing up, Erin Zindle -- leader of the Ann Arbor global-roots band The Ragbirds -- loved her extended family’s Christmas Eve gatherings. Her “very large and very musical family” would traditionally gather to perform Christmas songs together. “It was my favorite thing all year round. Honestly, it was better than the presents,” she says. “I was known for making everyone sing all seven verses of everything. I didn’t want it to end.” That’s the spirit she and her fellow musicians will re-create at the annual Ebird and Friends Holiday Show at The Ark Dec. 7-9. “It was just a real natural extension of that childhood experience,” Zindle says. And indeed, the holiday concert has become a tradition all its own, now marking its 10th year.

Although when the first Ebird & Friends Holiday Show was coming together in 2008, it wasn’t necessarily conceived as an annual event. But “by the actual start of the show, we all were just glowing and sure we were going to do it over and over,” Zindle recalls. In the name of the show, “Ebird,” of course, refers to Zindle. The “Friends” include her fellow members of The Ragbirds, but for the holiday show, many other local musicians join in as well. Depending on the song, there may be a string section, a horn section, and/or background vocalists. Special guests will sing lead on some songs; some songs will be instrumentals.

The show will involve 25 total performers, listed on the Ragbirds’ website. Many of the names are familiar to local music fans, including May Erlewine, Joe Hertler, Rachael Davis, and Peter Madcat Ruth. Zindle says the concert will encompass many different musical styles. Part of the goal is to showcase the diversity of the Ann Arbor music scene. Some of the songs will be holiday standards, while others will be Ragbirds originals and a few lesser-known holiday songs by other artists. “Many are original arrangements that make the old songs fresh and new,” Zindle says. “We do some pretty creative and complex arrangements.” It’s been rewarding to see how a lot of families make the Holiday Show part of their seasonal traditions, Zindle says: “It grows every single year.” This year, for the first time, there will be four shows at The Ark over three days, including a Saturday matinee. That’s an important outlet for families with younger children, Zindle notes. And for those who still can’t make it to one of the concerts, a DVD of the 2015 show is available. Zindle says the Holiday Show is a great way to bring people together during a challenging time in the world. “The heart of it is trying to find the things that unify us,” she says. “It’s just so full of joy.”

Bob Needham is a freelance writer; the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.

The Ebird & Friends Holiday Show takes place at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8; and at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.