These blond beauties and their breakneck speedy ballads will blow your mind.
What are they playing? Are these traditional Celtic tunes? Is it classical music? Bluegrass maybe, “roots” or perhaps folk? Oh, wait, it’s their take on rock ‘n’ roll.
The Gothard Sisters of Edmonds play it all, and much of it is of their own composition. These award-winning, internationally known musicians, Irish folk dancers and storytellers will play what has become an annual not-to-be-missed Christmas show Dec. 7 at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
The show follows their annual fall concert at the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish.
“The Gothards are the total package,” said Noah, who is an Emmy award-winning performer. “They are great entertainers, their musicianship is top-notch and their harmonies are beautiful. They are very professional. Their concerts here always sell out.”
Lots of family bands exist in our region, but a trio of sisters is rare. No, they aren’t triplets and they aren’t married. And for now their music is their passion and the best way to make a living. Greta, Willow and Solana Gothard know each other about as well as they know themselves, but whether or not they get along is a standard question from fans.
“As siblings we work together as a team, but we also like each other. That’s not something you can fake. It wouldn’t work if we were pretending,” said Greta, 30. “Maybe we’re especially close because we were homeschooled. As girls we danced together in the living room, we played games and we made music. Performing together is natural.”
Willow, 28, agrees. “We each unconsciously anticipate what the others will do during a show,” she said. “Playing music together is like talking to each other.”
The fact that the trio tours together for nearly half the year also is proof that they like being together, said Solana, 22. “We are connected.”
During the winter, the Gothards hang out at their parents’ house in the north Edmonds neighborhood of Seaview. Bert and Lark Gothard have always been supportive of their daughters’ artistic endeavors. Dad books the airline flights; Mom offers suggestions on their dancing.
The sisters started out busking for tips at farmers markets and graduated to county fairs and festivals. More than 1,000 performances later, the band has completed several national concert tours, the sisters perform as entertainers on Disney Cruise Line ships and are well-known musicians on the national Celtic festival circuit. In 2014, they were named the best new Irish band at the Irish Music Awards.
The women are on tour so much of the year that being at home in Edmonds in the rainy months is “very grounding,” Willow said. Mondays in the off-season are set aside for practice and composition. Time in a recording studio comes next. The bands’ albums include “Story Girl,” “Compass,” “Mountain Rose” and three Christmas albums, one of which — “Falling Snow” — was listed high on the Billboard charts just a week after it was released in December 2016.
That’s unusual for an independent band such as the Gothard Sisters.
“We write individually, but also together,” Greta said. “We come with ideas and put them together, like soup ingredients.” Solana comes up with the rhythm, Greta writes the lyrics and Willow provides the melody.
What they call the “introvert season” also is the time to book tours and concerts and plan ahead for the “extrovert season.” “It’s a good way to balance life,” Solana said.
The youngest sister writes the trio’s blog, the oldest is the editor of their website and more, and the middle sis doubles as the live show sound technician and the band’s style maven, getting their outfits together for the coming performance season.
This past summer, the sisters entertained on seven cruise ships plying European waters. One cruise was Transatlantic, from Florida to the Azores to Denmark. “Traveling on cruise ships has helped us develop a nice appreciation for songs about being at sea,” Greta said.
In between, the Gothards played Celtic music festivals in Montana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New England and the Northwest, of course. “Travel is great for us right now,” Solana said. “We like meeting people from all over the country.”
It’s all about planes, trains and automobiles.
“We bring everything but the PA system,” Greta said. “Our airplane seats usually are together, so the overhead bin becomes ours to store our instruments. We rent minivans and pack ‘em tight. We have a good stystem.”
What are all the musical instruments the Gothards pack?
All three play the fiddle. Classical violin was the first instrument for each, and they studied under the late Lawrence Fisher.
Solana joined her sisters in their public performances as soon as she was old enough to jam. Now she is the lead singer, plays the pennywhistle and specializes in percussion instruments, such as the Irish bodhran and the African djembe. “When I was little, my parents would play recordings of world music. Lots of Mondo Beat,” Solana said. “I love rocking out to a good rhythm.”
Willow branched out to include the mandolin, which has the same string setup as the violin. Her primary instrument, however, is the fiddle. “The fiddle dances and the violin sings,” she said. “I like both when I am writing melodies to express emotions. I enjoy listening to instrumental music that includes string instruments — folk, bluegrass and rock.”
Greta picked up the guitar at age 21 and studied with Scott Lindeman of Edmonds. “I wanted to add another layer to our sound. Now I play guitar most of the time,” she said. “And Willow and I add harmonies to Solona’s vocals.”
The band plans to continue to evolve and change, Solona said. “Each year is different from the last.”
The Gothards are inspired by the likes of fiddlers Natalie McMaster, Eileen Ivers and Kim Angelis, as well as childhood heroes such as the fictional Nancy Drew and American Girl characters.
“It’s great now that we inspire girls,” Solana said. “And we pay attention to the fact that we have a responsibility as role models,” Greta added. “It’s not important for us to be glamorous. We want to be good musicians who create beautiful music for all ages.”
The band is looking forward to the Christmas concert in Edmonds. The arts center has 700 seats, but it feels more like 300, and the band likes the intimacy, Greta said. Fans should come expecting Celtic-style Christmas tunes and a Christmas Eve disaster story.
“And our version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,’ ” Willow said. “It was written in the 1500s, but for us it’s a pretty rockin’ tune.”
If you go
The Gothards perform at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N. Tickets are $22 general admission, $18 for seniors and students, $10 for children. Buy four or more tickets and get a 25 percent discount per ticket. More information is at www.edmondscenterforthearts.org/events/2-christmas-with-the-gothard-sisters or call 425-275-9595. The Gothards also will perform with the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 in the performing arts center at Roosevelt High School, 1410 NE 66th St., Seattle. Information about the Seattle show is at seattlecollaborativeorchestra.org.
Get a free download of the trio’s song “Hummingbird” at www.gothardsisters.com/music.