The Bergamot perform annual holiday show

Published 12:18 pm Wednesday, December 27, 2023

THREE OAKS — The Bergamot have been living their busiest year, touring both their music and their documentary, State of The Unity, but they still made time to return home to the Midwest and perform their annual holiday event, A South Shore Christmas, at The Acorn Theater in Three Oaks.

It was an evening of holiday joy and rock music fun, with a packed room listening, singing, and dancing along to the two-set performance. The Acorn had the theater dressed in classic holiday decoration and even Santa was working in the house, whether assisting patrons to their seats, brandishing a broom to help with clean-up, and dancing himself.

The Bergamot is the husband and wife duo of Jillian Speece and Nathaniel Paul Hoff. Though currently based in Brooklyn, their origin story takes place in South Bend, where the pair were introduced in high school by a teacher requesting they team up to write a song for the school. Known for performances that are as positive and inspirational as they are vibrant, they have spent their career taking music across the country and out into the world, all while bringing with them a message of joy and unity.

That message of unity is the subject of State of the Unity, a film produced during the duo’s 2016 tour, in which they encountered much of the divisiveness we have all come to know in national events. The movie follows their work as they visit all fifty states, actively working to build bridges amongst those of different viewpoints and backgrounds. This work manifested physically in the Unity Car, the band’s touring station wagon, which became the canvas for signatures and messages of unity, signed by fans at shows and by strangers at stoplights. After achieving success and awards in numerous venues, the film recently achieved Oscar Eligibility, giving The Bergamot plenty to celebrate.

“Are you ready to party with us?”

With those words from the band, which included not only Speece and Hoff, but also Jordan Swartzendrewber, Kris Roberts, and Peter Tearse filling out the stage, the musicians dove into holiday classics and contemporary favorites, as well as plenty of Bergamot originals sprinkled throughout. With constant crowd banter, the show became instantly interactive. Performances became sing-alongs, with the audience stopping only long enough to take in the musical magnificence of each musician, whether it be Nathaniel’s harmonica finish on Paradise or Jillian’s acappella take on Ave Maria. The rest of the band received their moments to shine and the entire crew wowed the room with their mid-show costume change.

It was an evening of dancing, singing, love, and holiday cheer. While recognizing their actual family in attendance, it was easy for all in the room to feel as if they were a part of something larger. That is, after all, the message of The Bergamot, seeking and encouraging acceptance and unity through art and music.

Information on The Bergamot can be found at thebergamot.com. Stay up to date on the State of the Unity documentary by following @stateoftheunity on social media. Upcoming shows at The Acorn can be found at acornlive.org.

Justin Flagel is the founder of Red Chuck Productions, where he writes, tells stories, and creates new media. Follow his work at redchuckproductions.com. Feedback can be directed to contact@redchuckproductions.com.