Stubbys House of Christmas       
1.  The First Noel
2.  Little Drummer Girl
3.  Winds Through the Olive Trees
4.  I Saw Three Ships/Marie's Wedding
5.  Santa Lucia/Czechoslovakian Carol
6.  Carol Of The Bells/We Three Kings
7.  Good King Wenceslas
8.  Silver Bells
9.  Greensleeves
10. Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
11. Silent Night
12. We Wish You A Merry Christmas


I’m not sure how you’d classify this album.  And, actually, I like that.  I see some sites list it as Classical, others as Celtic, and still others as Folk.  In my radio days, we’d have called it Category 4—“the ON-definable” (our program director had a bit of an accent).  But why ask why, as the expression goes.  All you really need know is that “Christmas” by The Gothard Sisters is a beautiful album full of beautiful music that would fit beautifully among your annual holiday favorites.

The Gothard Sisters are three young ladies (aged 16 to 24) from the Pacific Northwest, proficient at music and competitive Irish step dancing.   All three sisters are classically trained violinists, but versed in other instruments as well—guitar, mandolin, bodhran and other percussion instruments.  Attend a Gothard Sisters show and you’ll likely be blown away by their versatility and energy.   The Gothard Sisters—primarily Greta—also do all of their own arrangements while the middle sister, Willow, sews all of their stage costumes by hand.

“The First Noel” makes for a shimmering opening to "Christmas", but still doesn't fully prepare you for the joyous program to follow.  “Little Drummer Girl” is the Harry Simeone classic reimagined as an upbeat Celtic step dancing number, but the rhythms make it a natural fit with much more modern Alt Rock numbers as well, should you be looking for such pairings on your mixtapes.  ("Little Drummer Girl" was also featured on Putumayo's Celtic Christmas collection earlier this year.)

One of the album’s most special tracks, in my opinion, is the lovely and seldom recorded “Winds Through The Olive Trees”, a 16th (?) century carol that I believe originated in southwestern France.  The number was once a frequent inclusion in many a school program (quite popular in New Jersey schools in the 60s and 70s), but is seldom heard today--at least in this country.  It's a beautiful song, all on it's own, and all the more so in the capable hands (and voices) of The Gothard Sisters.  It also occurred to me what a natural fit the song would be segued into "Fairtale Of New York" by The Pogues.  (Hey, that's what I hear in my head; I can't help how I'm wired.)

The medley of “I Saw Three Ships/Marie’s Wedding” demonstrates as well as most any track here the wonderful intertwining of Celtic and Classical influence and the violin playing on this medley is a nimble dance.  Indeed, the violins of The Gothard Sisters "harmonize" as well as or better than most singers.  And their performances throughout the album are delivered with the precision and delicacy of world class ballerinas.

The ladies make musical stops in Italy, Czechoslovakia (back when that was just one country), England, America, and Germany before all is said and done, all with varying Celtic seasoning and Classical sensibilities.  But my absolute favorite arrangement on the album is easily "Greensleeves" which starts out as a reverent carol, classically delivered, but builds into a Lord of The Dance celebration.  Goosebumps, I tell you.

I tend to think of Celtic music as ethereal (blame Enya and Celtic Woman for that) and Classical music as stiff and aloof.  But "Christmas" is very intimate and comfortable and welcoming, like walking into the home of a friend with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies filling the air.  Apple pie, perhaps?  Nah, definitely chocolate chip cookies.

You may be interested to learn that the debut album from The Gothard Sisters, "And To All A Good Night" was also a Christmas album.  The youngest Gothard, Solana, was just 11 at the time.  "And To All A Good Night", from the clips available, would seem to have been a much more strictly classical outing.  If it interests you, however, you can still get the CD through their web store.  Of more interest to me, personally, is their latest release, "Story Girl", which continues along the musical lines of "Christmas".  The Gothard Sisters do an amazing version of "Scarborough Fair" on that one and it's definitely something you should check out.