Arts & Entertainment

The Gothard Sisters to perform a Celtic blend of sounds

Blending pop, rock and Celtic music isn't unique. But when you add The Gothard Sisters -- Greta, Willow and Solana -- that's when the fun really begins.

The Seattle-area siblings are among the headline acts at this year's First Night Tri-Cities, which happens Dec. 31 at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

"Our music definitely has a Celtic flair to it, while using many techniques and styles we learned from our classical violin training," Willow Gothard, the middle sister, said via email. "We released a new CD in November called Story Girl that we've been working on steadily for the last two years.

"It includes our very best music along with our first original songs that feature exuberant dance songs on the violin, and Solana's voice in several beautiful folk ballads."

The blond-haired, blue-eyed siblings, who are 24, 22 and 16, grew up performing throughout the Northwest. Their musical savvy includes violin, guitar and bodhrán , as well as a talent for kicking up their heels. The sisters are members of a Seattle-based Irish dance team that took second place at the 2007 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

"We started performing together about eight years ago, although we've been playing since we were little," Willow said. "It's been a huge learning experience because we first started playing at farmers markets. Then we provided classical background music for wedding ceremonies before learning Celtic fiddle and combining it with Irish dancing to create our current show.

"We play at county and state fairs all across the country, as well as festivals, school assemblies and small theaters."

Greta, the oldest, was first to pick up a violin at age 5.

"I wanted to be just like her, so I started violin when I turned 5," Willow said. "Solana then copied me when she was old enough, and we've all been playing violin ever since."

A few years ago, Willow discovered the bodhrán -- an Irish hand drum -- and became obsessed with it, she admits.

"It sounded great as a rhythmic accompaniment to Irish fiddle and dance taps," she said. "It's a traditional drum made out of goat skin and a wooden frame that you hear very often in Irish music. After playing the bodhrán for a few years, I gave Solana some lessons and now we both play bodhrán s in the show."

The Gothard Sisters' high-energy show will make its fifth appearance at First Night Tri-Cities.

"We have so much fun at our shows," Willow said. "I think it's important to keep a show upbeat and interesting with lots of variety."

But their performances aren't just about the music or the dance, she added.

"We like to throw in surprises by switching instruments in the middle of numbers and adding choreography and visual elements to the songs," she said. "I know a show has gone well when a little girl comes up to me after the show and says she wants to start Irish dancing or playing the violin because of our show."

Their shows are at 8 and 10 p.m. in the gymnasium on the CBC campus. Admission requires a First Night Tri-Cities button.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;