Manitou Winds concert sets reflective mood for holiday season

From staff reports

Local chamber ensemble Manitou Winds will present a special encore performance of its “Winter Songs & Carols” concert on Friday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, as part of the Glen Arbor Art Association’s Manitou Music Festival. Admission is free, and a freewill offering will be taken to benefit arts programs at The Leelanau School and future recording projects for Manitou Winds.

This year’s program will feature songs of Advent, winter solstice, and Christmas intertwined with poetry and prose, setting a reflective mood to kick off the holiday season. Five musicians, twelve different instruments will create a colorful collage of musical textures and styles. Two guest vocalists—Christy Burich and Emily Curtin Culler—will join the ensemble for eight of the songs.

More than a concert filled with holiday-themed music, “Winter Songs & Carols” examines the entire season of winter. “Each year we have an unspoken theme for the concert, some aspect of winter that we’re focusing on in particular,” says Jason McKinney, founder of Manitou Winds. “This year, we’re hoping to bring comfort and joy to those who may be having trouble feeling jolly this holiday season. For many, this may be their first Christmas without a loved one, or the holidays may simply be a reminder of broken families or financial hardship.”

Jason admits it’s risky to put together a holiday program that departs from the standard garland-festooned fare. “Our concert is not a downer,” he explains, “but I think it’s worthwhile to explore the notion that the holidays are not easy for everyone. Instead of glossing over those feelings, we’re inviting everyone to the table, focusing on how winter can be the gateway to a time of healing, peace, and renewal.”

Every selection on this year’s program is a unique arrangement created by the ensemble especially for this concert. Arrangements of traditional carols and folk tunes round out the program, along with songs by artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and Loreena McKennitt, performed by guest vocalists Christy Burich and Emily Curtin Culler. Selected poetry and prose, read by voiceover artist Jan Ross, will be interwoven into the musical program along with personal reflections by Christy Burich.

A variety of informational articles about our guest vocalists and some of the featured music for the concert will be posted on our Manitou-Zine blog each week leading up to the concert:

About Manitou Winds

With its home base in Leelanau County, Manitou Winds came to life in 2014, under the creative direction of Jason McKinney. Manitou Winds does not perform solely as a wind quintet—flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. Since several members of the ensemble play more than one instrument, they enjoy combining a variety of sounds to enhance the musical experience.

Rather than focusing solely on Classical repertoire, the ensemble also draws inspiration from many different sources from ancient to modern to even pop music. Adding to this air of spontaneity is their mutual eagerness to explore new or obscure composers from uncharted genres, and to invent repertoire through their own arrangements and compositions.

In 2017, their spring concert, “Music Speaks,” explored the mystical pathway between music and words, featuring works by artists ranging from Franz Schubert to Bruce Springsteen. In September, their “Variety: It’s the Spice!” concert contained music from Classical to folk, Handel to Stevie Wonder, and helped to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity of Benzie County and Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing. The ensemble also performed for multiple audiences at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival where they were named one of five must-hear acts by Northern Express.

Visit for upcoming concert dates, videos, and detailed bios for each member of the ensemble.