BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Winter holidays in Aaron Wayne Otto’s culture are about honoring ancestors with ghost suppers and telling legends, stories that can only be related when snow blankets the ground.
“There are certain stories that you can’t tell any other time throughout the year,” said Otto, an Oden resident and a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. “There’s a time of year for telling them and this is the time.”
Native American traditions and flute music are among dozens of cultures that will be explored in A Winter’s Concert, a “seasonal journey through music around the world.”
The concert at 7 p.m. today at Circuit also features the music and traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Mardi Gras, the Beiwe Festival, the winter solstice, Appalachia, Scandinavia, Latin America and Slavia.
The event was created to recognize world traditions and to appeal to diverse musical tastes, said organizer M’Lynn Hartwell of Freshwater Events. Beside Otto and old-time fiddler and vocalist Samantha Cooper of Kalamazoo, performers include local favorites Jeff Haas and Joshua Davis, Ingemar and Lisa Johannson, Miriam Pico, Steve Stargardt, Laurie and Bill Sears, and TC Sings Community Chorus.
“I have a lot of friends that are from cultures and families that embrace other traditions than Christmas, and I think part of it is honoring them,” said Hartwell, who sometimes spends Hanukkah with her daughter and her daughter’s Jewish boyfriend. “And it’s interesting. We’re going to be representing in the souvenir program about 40 different cultural traditions.”
Ingemar Johansson will perform with Freya — wife Lisa and friends Sue and Gary Cook — in a segment on Scandinavian folk music. Johansson grew up in Sweden, where the holidays begin with the celebration of St. Lucia’s Day on today.
“It’s happening in every nook and cranny, every town and village,” said Johansson, of the festivities that include a procession led by a local girl portraying the Christian martyr in a white gown with red sash and a crown of candles on her head. “People visit each other in the morning and bring cookies and have coffee. This starts off the whole Christmas season. Also, it’s very dark there — up north in Sweden there’s hardly any light at all this time of year — so this brings light into this dark period.”
Hartwell said the world music concert was designed in part to help relieve the stress of holiday shopping and planning and includes a holiday sing-along and children’s activities downstairs so that audiences don’t have to hire a babysitter to attend.
“At the end I want people singing songs they’re comfortable with,” she said, adding that she hopes the event will become an annual community tradition. “People will leave happy and full of the holiday spirit.”
Tickets are $10 in advance at www.freshwaterevents.com or $15 at the door ($12 with the donation of nonperishable items). Proceeds will benefit TC Circuit’s wellness services to those affected by illness or trauma.