A new Celtic tradition returns to Edmonds

The Gothard Sisters – Greta, Willow and Solana – primed for an energetic show
Dec 01, 2017
Courtesy of: Jerry and Lois Photography The Gothard Sisters
Christmas with the Gothard Sisters

Where: Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N, Edmonds
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7
Tickets: $22, students and seniors $18, children under 12 $10
Information: 425-275-9595, www.edmondscenterforarts.org

On stage, the Gothard Sisters are a swirl of energy, exuding wholesomeness with their winsome smiles, fetching stories, inspired musicianship and choreographed Irish dancing.

The sisters – Greta, Solana and Willow – are Edmonds regulars who honed their skills at the Edmonds Summer Market and the Edmonds Arts Festival. It paid off: On Dec. 7, they perform at the Edmonds Center for the Arts for the fourth year in a row.

Their annual Celtic Christmas celebration will be, as the promo materials have it, a “celebration with holiday music, song, dance, fun and sibling shenanigans for the whole family to enjoy.”

As you might guess, the sisters – who all still live in the Perrinville neighborhood – started young.

“Music has been a part of our life and our house for as long as I can remember,” said Greta who, like her sisters, has blonde hair and blue eyes. She’s the oldest, at 30, while Willow is 28 and Solana 22.

“My parents were very nurturing in the music that they chose, and we listened to a lot of folk and classical music when I was little, lots of Celtic harp and story tapes and things.”

Their mother, Lark Gothard, is a tapestry weaver with a master's degree in fine art, and father Bert Gothard is senior project manager at a company that creates environmental graphics and signs.

Lark and Bert frequently took their young daughters to concerts so they could see what live shows were all about. Greta recalls one show at age 5.

“It was at one of those concerts that we went to that I saw someone playing the violin, and I really wanted to learn how to do that. To be able to create a sound so beautiful out of a musical instrument.”

Music soon became the sisters’ lives.

“Once Greta said she wanted to play the violin, my mom signed her up for lessons from a teacher in Meadowdale,” Willow said.

“When I was old enough, I got to learn as well. It was really fun to be able to play songs, and Greta and I would play Christmas violin duets at family get-togethers. Then when Solana was old enough, she started playing as well, only she got started when she was only 3 years old because she couldn’t wait any longer to come to lessons with us.”

Eventually, the sisters – who were homeschooled – joined Seattle youth symphonies and local chamber groups.

Their performing lives began to take focus when their mother brought home a video of the theatrical show “Riverdance.” They made the switch to folk and Celtic music – and it didn’t hurt that they look like they’d be at home in Ireland.

A music agent saw a performance in Port Townsend more than decade ago, signed them up, and they’ve been professionals ever since.

“It’s been a gradual and fascinating journey,” Willow said, “from starting out learning the classics to learning and adapting the Irish and traditional folk favorites, to finally getting to the point where we are now composing and creating our own music as well.”

The sisters make traditional Irish dancing look easy, but they trained in that, too.

“We took Irish dance from several different schools in Seattle, eventually competing regionally, nationally and at the world championship level with the Comerford School of Irish Dance in West Seattle,” Solana said.

“It was lots of fun. Very challenging, inspiring, and lots of great friendships were formed there as well. It’s such a fun dance form, both to do and to watch.”

Greta said the Gothard Sisters’ music draws influence from nature, family, stories, travel and togetherness.

“Musically, it has been described as folk orchestral, Celtic-inspired folk pop, classical by some, verging on folk-rock by others,” she said. “We vary from song to song. The important part, for us, is that it paints some kind of picture, makes you feel happier, more cheerful, lighter.”

The sisters play a variety of instruments: violins, guitar, whistles, mandolins, drums, percussion. They all sing, as well.

“So we like to paint musical landscapes with them,” Greta said.

The Gothard Sisters have released a dozen albums. Their latest is another Christmas project, “Falling Snow.”

“It’s a Celtic Christmas album, which has been in the works for several years now,” Willow said. “It’s a collection of some of our favorite classic Christmas carols like ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ but changed and arranged to fit our Celtic style. The three of us wanted to try to capture the joy and peace and goodwill of the season, so hopefully that comes through.

“A lot of the songs we chose are several hundred years old, and they are still rockin’. It’s fun to get them out and put our personal stamp on them.”

The trio wanted to contribute something original to the wide pool of Christmas music, so Willow wrote two new Celtic tunes for the album – “Christmas Flower” and “The Happy Elf.”

“When it came out last year, we didn’t have a lot of time to promote it, but our fans and listeners are amazing, and we were completely surprised when one morning we got an email saying we’d actually made it into the top 20 on the Billboard World Music charts,” she said. “We were floored. And very grateful.”

The sisters say their upcoming performance (they book more than 100 a year, including festivals and cruise ships) has special guest dancers.

“We can’t wait to do the show,” Solana said. “We try to pack a little bit of everything into the evening – Irish dancing, singing Christmas carols, playing Celtic tunes and songs, special guests, some hilarious things that we only pull out once a year for the Christmas shows, and much more.

“This year will be our fourth year doing it, and it’s really fun to see it becoming a yearly tradition for people in Edmonds.”


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