The Gothard Sisters at the Old Church Concert Hall
Written by Doug Cress on March 20, 2023
The Gothard Sisters’ Irish-Celtic folk catalogue includes songs that date back 500 years, but chestnuts like “Scarborough Fair” – and plenty of newer material too – felt fresh and lively as their St. Patrick’s Day Tour played to a sell-out crowd at the Old Church Concert Hall on, fittingly enough, St. Patrick’s Day.
Three sisters from Edmonds, Washington, who sing, dance, and play more than a dozen instruments on stage, Greta, Willow and Solana Gothard have moved quickly to the forefront of the modern Celtic music scene. Their latest album, “Dragonfly,” has more than 3 million streams on Spotify and hit number one on the iTunes World Music charts.
The Gothard Sisters were initially inspired by a “Riverdance” videocassette their mother played for them when they were children, but quickly moved beyond just dance when they realized the Irish-Celtic world offered music and instruments in all forms.
“There’s actually a huge spectrum of Irish-Celtic music out there,” said Greta Gothard, the elder of the sisters, in a chat during the band’s sound check prior to the Portland show. “It runs from very old traditional and instrumental music on one side all the way over to New Age stuff like Enya on the other, with everything in-between. There’s even a huge metal Celtic scene, which we love.”
That said, The Gothard Sisters stuck to the up-tempo, spirited songs that have helped define them in concert, mixed in with playful banter and nods to old TV themes like “Hawaii Five-O” and flashes of U2 riffs. They drifted effortlessly between instruments ranging from guitars, violins, ukeleles, mandolins and whistles to more obscure percussion like bodhrans, djembes and an electric bass pad, then leapt into step dance numbers – the sisters were actually competitive dancers before they ever became musicians, and qualified for the world championships three years in a row – that offered their own clackety-clack rhythm.
Solana Gothard carried most of the vocal duties – and comic relief, at times – but all three contributed to the lush harmonies that define their sound.
Given the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, The Gothard Sisters were joined onstage by a children’s group from the Oregon Irish Dance Academy, which spun and twirled through an instrumental number, then closed the first half of the show with a solemn “Danny Boy” that brought some audience members to tears.
The Gothard Sisters strolled through their 9 albums in the two-hour performance, offering up songs from the “Dragonfly” album like “Shadow and Sun” and the title track, and older numbers such as “The Bandit” and the aforementioned “Scarborough Fair.” Some have lyrics, some do not, but each filled the Old Church with a sense of another world, another time, and a joyous inspiration that is hard to deny.