KEUKA PARK — The ever shorter days and ever longer nights we’ve seen are coming to a turning point. Saturday, Dec. 21, brings the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere — the night when the Northern Hemisphere is leaning its farthest from the sun. After that, we start tilting closer, enjoying more of the sun’s light and warmth.
This promise of hope and light amid a time of cold and dark has been associated with many seasonal festivals over the millennia, from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia to the Germanic festival of Yule — and, of course, Christmas, in which the Christian observance of Jesus’ birth has intertwined with customs and traditions from other sources.
“It’s the day in which the sun stops moving farther away and starts getting closer,” said Craig Hohm of Penn Yan. It has evoked all manner of imagery, traditions and parallels, he noted: Yule logs rekindled from previous fires. Evergreen trees that keep their foliage through the winter. Christian parallels, such as “mankind being redeemed by the Son.”
For some 20 years, Hohm — a retired emergency room doctor at Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua — has greeted the year’s longest night with a solstice concert at various churches. This year’s concert, “Music for the Mid-Winter Festival,” featuring Craig Hohm and the Mighty Thecodonts, will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, in Norton Chapel at Keuka College. For the third year, the proceeds will benefit Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes Inc., which provides services for people who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or child sexual abuse in Ontario, Yates and Seneca counties.
The concert will feature material from a wide variety of sources: Celtic music, Scandinavian waltzes (“we’ve managed to get a few people up in the audience dancing,” says Hohm), caroling and wassailing, and some traditional Christmas fare but with a twist, such as “Silent Night” with “a brass band and singing and coyotes,” Hohm said. The tone ranges from somber to jubilant.
The Mighty Thecodonts — named after a now-obsolete term for crocodile-like reptiles considered an ancestor of the dinosaurs — consists of Hohm, who sings and plays multiple instruments; DJ Kitzel of Rochester, a high school teacher in the Canandaigua district, who plays drums and sings; and James Balyszak and Hohm's son John Hohm, both of Penn Yan, who sing and play drums and didgeridoo. They’ll be joined by a choir of Rose Hogan of Corning and Edie Mann of Penn Yan, and a horn section of Bob Ostrander of Rushville on cornet and Dexter Benedict of Penn Yan on baritone.
Hohm worked at Thompson Health from 1989 until his 2012 retirement. Music, however, has always been a big part of his life.
“When I was in high school, all I did was play music,” he recalled. “Just with friends; I was never in band or anything like that. We always played bluegrass music and blues music, and got into folk music and Cape Breton Scottish music.” And over the years, he’s picked up skills on instruments from multiple genres and sources — the violin, the accordion-like concertina, the Celtic harp, the Greek bouzouki.
“I’ve got quite a houseful of musical instruments!” he said.
If you go
WHAT Solstice concert — “Music for the Mid-Winter Festival,” featuring Craig Hohm and the Mighty Thecodonts
WHEN Saturday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m.
WHERE Norton Chapel at Keuka College in Keuka Park, off Route 54A south of Penn Yan
TICKETS $10 (free for children 12 and younger); available in advance at Long’s Cards and Books in Penn Yan or at www.safeharbors.fl.org; proceeds benefit Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes Inc.
DETAILS (315) 436-9654