Any show by The Gothard Sisters is joyous and memorable and I loved all nine shows I saw in 2012. Their first Christmas show a week earlier in Seattle was beautiful and wonderful in every way and would otherwise be my entry. However, though essentially the same show, the Celtic Christmas Concert in Carnation, WA on December 14th was extra special. This concert was on a day that will live in American history. Earlier that morning the lives of twenty precious children and six brave educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as the mother of the shooter and the shooter himself were tragically lost. The spirits of people arriving for this concert were saddened and we needed to be uplifted. We had come to the right place. The venue, the Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ, resembled a rugged stone Celtic chapel with its arching outside bell tower, stunning stained glass windows, and an ornately carved wooden altarpiece. A month earlier the Gothards filmed their music video Greensleeves / What Child is This? at this church and they were invited back to entertain for the church’s Good Neighbor Fund. The audience - largely a mix of townspeople and church members - were there to support their community and to enjoy Christmas music with Celtic energy. While the performance area was tiny and the lighting was dim compared to some of their venues, the girls lovingly choreographed every detail perfectly and made the small church glow like a warm blazing fireplace.
Fittingly, the program began with a time of silence and prayer for the Newtown victims followed by the lighting of a Candle of Peace. Then Willow, Solana, and Greta took the floor. And, quicker than a broken shoelace, their opening fiddle number, Jeannette, and Irish dancing to Greta’s exuberant Celebration Reel moved us from sadness to happiness. The joy kept rolling in with Silver Bells, Ballybrolly, David’s Jig, and the most spirited version of Hark the Herald Angels you will ever hear. Treble Jig showcased their amazing competition-level footwork. Next were their arrangements of Midsummer Jigs and the old Christmas songs, Pat-a-Pan and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Then Solana and Willow thundered away delightfully on Double Drums and danced us off to intermission with Christmas Reel. The chatter at break had a warm community feel to it - friends greeting friends; introductions being made; home baked goodies being sampled; and many remarking about the lovely Gothard sisters and all their talents . . . and about how nice it was to be there after the bad news of the day. At least two people talked reflectively about these three young ladies being the same age as the Newtown children when they began violin training.
The concert resumed with the girls adding white satin shirts for their performances of Carol of the Bells; Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Trepak, and The Friendly Beasts. Then it was back to their blue, gold, and red costumes for Here We Come a Caroling ending with Solana doing a yellow ribbon slip dance to Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Next were the lively Coventry, A Capella, Willow’s Fairy Dance Jig and Music for a Found Harmonium and a lovely version of O Holy Night.Then Solana sang a lovely rendition of Silent Night. When Solana concluded the last phrases of the song; “Sleep in Heavenly peace. Sleep in Heavenly peace.” she stood peacefully and motionless for several moments with a loving empathetic expression on her face. Suddenly, for those of us there, these words about the wish of rest for newborn Jesus seemed to transform into a prayer of Heavenly peace for the victims in Newtown. We could not have a more comforting and sweet message and tears came.
Willow introduced the finale song with “Merry Christmas and good night. Good night and Joy be to you all” and the girls sweetly harmonized the chorus from the Celtic song Parting Joy. On this particular night it was more like a benediction of peace and consolation for an evening of togetherness that we all needed. We did, indeed, feel joy. As I drove home in the thick fog that night I thought how much the world would be missing if Greta, Willow, and Solana had missed their chance to grow up and to bloom into talented performers and, more importantly, wonderful role models of good behavior and joy.