“…‘Cause the music’s playing on
And we’re all singing this song
As we travel the road
We will carry on…”
— Greta Gothard, “Long Road” from "Dragonfly"
The first thing you hear is a zig-zag fiddle taking flight, rushing, soaring on invisible wings, then, lyrical, lilting fairy voices — gentle and tender as a floating maple leaf on a crisp fall morning — lighting up the dark night of any soul.
Those lovely, lyrical, lilting fairies are none other than the famous Edmonds Gothard Sisters — Greta, Willow, and Solana. They’re talented multi-instrumentalists, vocalists, songwriters, and championship dancers, too, and they’ve been charming audiences for well over 10 years… ever since they were little girls dreaming of touching the stars.
“Growing up in Edmonds was magical. We would ride our bikes around the neighborhood, play in the woods with friends, and spend long hours at the beach making little houses out of driftwood and pretending that shells were plates on shelves,” recalls Irish step-dancer/classical violinist Willow Gothard.
Their first real gig as a sister group was playing their favorite Celtic-folk music for tips at the Edmonds Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning, and making “friends with a lot of the vendors, so that was special.”
In time, they took their performances from the farmer’s market to county fairs and festivals, to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and soon, were fiddling, harmonizing, and dancing all over the world… including a 20-city tour in Japan two years ago before the pandemic. (Check out their last song, "365 Days of a Paper Airplane" by Yasushi Akimoto, sung entirely in Japanese, in Episode 14 of The Hummingbird Sessions on YouTube.)
Following the pandemic, a new 2020 recording entitled Dragonfly, about strength, resilience, and togetherness, a tour to promote the album, and The Hummingbird Sessions, free monthly mini-concerts online for those unable to attend their live shows.
“…When the work is done under August sun
We will dance all night under paintbrush skies
Tune your fiddle and come when the day is done
Play a merry tune for the shadow and sun…”
— Greta Gothard, “Shadow and Sun,” "Dragonfly"
After nine albums to date, including their most recent release, Dragonfly, the Gothard Sisters are ready to enchant audiences anew, returning to the Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA) for their annual Celtic Christmas show — a full circle they enjoy every holiday season.
Besides the violin, guitar, vocals, and Celtic dancing, the sisters also know their way around a variety of exotic, non-traditional instruments, including ukulele, mandolin, bodhrán, djembe, and penny whistle — all blended in seamlessly for an otherworldly Gothard Sisters experience.
Q&A with Willow Gothard:
What was it about Celtic music that inspired you all to pursue a career in performing and recording, as opposed to say, an ordinary desk job (lol)?
Our parents homeschooled us, and encouraged our love of Celtic and folk music by constantly playing beautiful music on cassette tapes around the house. After seeing a violinist at a concert, Greta asked for violin lessons when she was five years old and the rest of us followed suit by starting up lessons when we were old enough. We always listened to Classical King FM and the Celtic music program, Thistle & Shamrock on NPR with Fiona Ritchie, while making up choreographies and dancing around the living room.
We must have displayed an interest in entrepreneurial endeavors too, because they let us pursue lots of little business ideas. We sold home-grown vegetables from the garden to our neighbors when we were little. Later, Greta started a “Save the World” club, which was dedicated to picking up trash and holding a fun Earth Day festival for friends, and we went door to door gathering people on her little mailing list. Then we would write out weekly newsletters and hand deliver them! I think our parents always suspected we would end up doing something unusual with our careers.
How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard the Gothard Sisters?
Imagine you’re in [J.R.R. Tolkien’s] Hobbiton at a festival, and there’s a band of Hobbits playing Celtic-folk music. We like to think that we sound like that band! Our music has Celtic, folk, classical, and New-Age musical influences, weaving together layers of violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bodhrán, djembe, whistle, and vocal harmonies.
How did this town influence/inspire/support you in your music together?
For one thing, the natural beauty of the Edmonds area has inspired a lot of our music. Seeing the Olympic mountains across Puget Sound sparkling with snow, the gorgeous green colors of the local forests, the ability to visit our beaches and view the ocean, or hearing the sound of heavy rainfall on a skylight or the rustling of wind through the trees… all seem to inspire ideas for new tunes and songs.
All three of us studied classical violin from the late local Edmonds teacher Larry Fisher, and Edmonds audiences have seen us grow up through many levels of performances, starting at the Farmer’s Market and moving all the way up to the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
Obviously, you’ve performed many times in Edmonds. What have been some memorable, favorite gigs?
Every year, we hold our big Celtic Christmas concert at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, which is always one of our favorite concerts of the year. We’ve also played multiple concerts at Edmonds City Park over the years that have been great fun.
Any gigs scheduled in Edmonds for the holidays?
Yes! Our big performance in Edmonds over the holidays will be at the Edmonds Center for the Arts on December 2, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.
What are you currently involved in; you were on tour this year?
After recording our new album Dragonfly all year in 2020, it was wonderful to get back out on the road and to play the new songs live for audiences again over the summer. We played at many outdoor events and festivals, and it was just thrilling to be back to connecting with people through music in-person again.
“…The more I grow, the less I know
Except that life is beautiful, but strange
The more I grow, the less I know
That nothing is predictable, but change
… and maybe the journey of life is in the wondering…”
— Greta Gothard, “Wise One,” "Dragonfly"
Dragonfly… tell me more about this album. What is it about, what would you like listeners to come away with?
The songs on our new album, Dragonfly, touch on themes of adventure and resilience, from searching for wisdom in “Wise One,” the joy of adventure in “Dragonfly,” to the power of music and community in “Shadow and Sun” and “Long Road.” There’s the story of a long-lost gold mine in “Meet Me at Dawn,” as well as energetic new instrumental tunes “Hurricane Ridge,” “Wildflower Jigs,” and “Chasing the Sun.” Dragonflies symbolize our ability to overcome times of hardship. They remind us to take time to reconnect with our own strength, courage, and resilience, and we’d love that to come across to listeners.
The Hummingbird Sessions are free online concerts, released once a month. Was this in response to Covid?
Back when everything shut down, we started doing weekly concerts called the Cozy Celtic Concert Series. It was a great way to keep providing a fun, musical experience for people all around the world while we were grounded. Then, when we were able to resume performances, we quickly realized that we wanted to continue the concerts for those who would not be able to attend any of our live performances.
Now, our free monthly concerts, called The Hummingbird Sessions, are supported by our wonderful fans on Patreon, who vote every month on which songs they would like to hear us play next. Anyone can join our wonderful community on Patreon.
What do you each love about performing, songwriting, and recording in a group as sisters?
There are so many wonderful learning opportunities that come along with performing, recording, and writing music together. We’re very rarely bored, because we can always be improving our skills, or tinkering around with a new instrument, song, or performance number.
Who do the Gothard Sisters enjoy listening to on their off time? Who are some musical heroes?
Although we’ve had many musical heroes over the years, the musicians that come to mind as the biggest inspirations are Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean for lyric writing, Irish flute and whistle player Brian Finnegan for tune writing, and Loreena McKennitt for arrangements and production.
What is the philosophy and other influences of the Gothard Sisters?
We truly believe that beautiful music makes people happier. It uplifts, soothes, and inspires. Music has the magical ability to bring people together, which is so important! We aim to create hopeful, nourishing, and imaginative music that offers relief from the troubles of daily life through our songs, videos, and live performances.
The Gothard Sisters are...
Solana: lead singer, violin, ukulele, percussion, including bodhrán and djembe, whistles, Irish dance
Willow: violin, mandolin, bodhrán, vocals, Irish dance
Greta: guitar, violin, vocals, Irish dance
Feature photo (l-r): Solana (bodhrán), Willow (violin), and Greta Gothard (guitar), The Gothard Sisters. Photo Credit: Ruth H. Photography
Concert photos: Matt Hulbert
Additional photos: Ruth H. Photography