Music can nourish the soul and provide food for thought, but unfortunately, it can't be eaten when times get tough. Luckily, a group of local musicians have found a way to turn songs into sustenance: Wintersong, an all-ages holiday show at the Majestic Theatre on Dec. 6.
Singer-songwriter Anna Vogelzang hosts the second annual event, which comes on the heels of her fall tour. Proceeds benefit the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, which serves more than 140,000 hungry Wisconsinites each year. Vogelzang and the other artists on the roster -- Count This Penny, Dietrich Gosser, PHOX, Whitney Mann, Crane Your Swan Neck, Corey Hart and Paul Otteson -- will perform acoustic sets that turn a cold winter night into a warm celebration of community.
Wintersong is also an ode to Madison's spirit of giving. The 2012 event sold out the Gates of Heaven synagogue at James Madison Park and resulted in $885 in cash donations and 158 pounds of food. Vogelzang was floored by the event's success and sees potential for it to grow each year. In fact, the response to the 2012 show was so overwhelming that she feared having to turn people away in 2013.
"There was an amazing feeling and energy in the air that night. It was completely packed, sweaty and all acoustic, unplugged. It was very intimate," she says.
Vogelzang wanted to replicate that feeling in 2013 while also accommodating a larger audience. Soon she and her team turned to the Majestic Theatre for help.
"We decided to team up with the Majestic in order to support a larger audience, and we hope to raise more money for Second Harvest while keeping that intimate, acoustic feel that was so special last year," she says.
Though Wintersong is primarily a philanthropic event, Vogelzang also sees it as a celebration of family and holiday spirit. The idea for the fundraiser originally came from her husband and bandmate, Andrew Young.
"[He] and I make a Christmas record every year for our families. In 2011, at a late-December show at the Project Lodge, we played one of our original holiday tunes, which was comical, to say the least." she says. "He said after the show, 'It'd be awesome to do a winter show where everyone covered holiday songs next year.'"
Vogelzang decided to turn his idea into a reality. Making the concert into a charity event seemed like the ideal way to spread the holiday spirit and thank the music community for another year of support, she says.
With more than eight albums and several national tours under her belt, Vogelzang has a lot to be thankful for. Having built a large network of fans and fellow musicians in the local music community over the past decade, she simply emailed friends to pull together the original Wintersong roster.
"It basically ended up being my dream Madison folkie lineup," she says. And a few of the performers say Wintersong was the highlight of 2012 for them, too.
"Being in a beautiful room with so many of our favorite musicians, singing songs that are woven into so many memories, it might actually be impossible to top that," says Amanda Rigell of Count This Penny. And Whitney Mann says members of several Wintersong acts became friends -- or even better friends -- thanks to the event.
The evening was also a chance to get creative with a theme, Mann says.
"It's interesting to see what everyone comes up with for holiday songs, traditional or original," she notes.
In addition to covering Christmas carols and other holiday favorites, some of the performers have penned songs that reflect different facets of wintertime in Wisconsin.
"I'm pretty sure each act will pull out something surprising or one of a kind. Never-before collaborations, new songs, old songs," Mann says. "It's that kind of show. We just let our hair down and have a good time."
To surprise the performers and the audience, Vogelzang is keeping some of the event's details under wraps. Though she hints that reindeer antlers and Santa hats may make an appearance, she insists the real stars of the show are "giving, warmth and friendship."