Annual holiday revue featuring Michigan musicians celebrates 15th anniversary in Ann Arbor

The annual Ebird and Friends Holiday Show, hosted by the Ann Arbor-based folk-rock band the Ragbirds, will celebrate its 15th anniversary on Dec. 8-10 at the Ark in Ann Arbor. The show, which features a variety of holiday covers and originals performed by 21 Michigan musicians, has been a longstanding holiday tradition for many local artists and music fans. 

Founder, organizer, and Ragbirds frontwoman Erin Zindle (the titular "Ebird") explains that the inspiration for the show came from her own childhood experiences. 

"I grew up in a very large family, singing together on Christmas Eve," she explains. "My dad is one of nine kids, and they all would sing in harmony. I didn't realize it was a really special thing." 

In 2007, just a few years after the Ragbirds got their start, Zindle decided to try and share that tradition with her fellow local musicians.

"I had this wonderful community of musicians all around me and we used to run into each other and have great experiences every time," she says. "But it was so hard to get my musical friends all in the same room together. So combining those two ideas together is where this started."

Since then, the show has grown into a highlight of the holiday season for many in the area, attracting sponsors like Bank of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor's 107one, Shar Music, Zingerman’s, and more. 

"I believe that the heart of the show has stayed the same," Zindle says. "Every year consistently stirs up this great connection of love and joy and this feeling of community. I get a chance to connect different people in my life all together, and a lot of great collaborations have come out of it."

She also sees the show as a chance to give back to her fellow artists. 

"All these musicians work so hard all year round," she notes. "They're egregiously underpaid." 

Ticket sales and local sponsors help to cover musician payments, overhead costs, and meals for the entire production. 

"It makes us feel like a part of this community – like our community around us is coming around and saying, ‘Hey, you guys should have a nice meal,’" Zindle adds.

The musicians collaborate with a house band on a collection of numbers for the show — some collaborative and some solo — usually with holiday or winter themes. 

"We love to get really creative on the traditionals and make our own arrangements and just get wild with it," says Zindle. "It's just a fun theme for a bunch of creative people to riff on." 

Featured musicians at this year’s show include Flint songwriter and rap artist Tunde Olaniran, Emilee Petersmark of the Grand Rapids indie-folk trio the Crane Wives, Ypsilanti indie rocker Timothy Monger, and many more acclaimed acts like Chris Dupont and Kylee Phillips, Mark Lavengood, Jen Sygit, Aaron Jonah Lewis, Brad Phillips, Ross Huff, Jonathan Brown, TJ Zindle, Jona Vibrato, Brennan Andes, Tim Haldeman, Jess Merritt, and many more. 

The Ebird and Friends 15th Annual Holiday Show will take place at 8 p.m. Dec. 8, 9, and 10, plus a matinee at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. Tickets are available here.

This year, a special version of the show performed at the Leon Loft will also be livestreamed and uploaded for free to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. Learn more.

Sabine Bickford Brown is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at sabinebickfordbrown@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Jones.