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Golden Bough
Celtic trio, multi-instrumentalists, composers, vocalists all

Today’s date:  August 25, 2009



YouTube video to watch now:  (Recorded at Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA. Trio, center, is joined by former members of the band)

Booking agent:  Katherine Miller, Kamstar Artist Management Tel: (415) 776-5522

Members of the band:  Margie Butler (lyric soprano) on vocals, Celtic harp, penny whistle, recorder, bodhran and guitar; Paul Espinoza (folk tenor) on vocals, guitar, accordion and octave-mandolin; Kathy Sierra (folk soprano) on vocals, violin and viola.

No nonsense explanation of Golden Bough:  Rooted in the traditional Celtic music of Ireland and Scotland, this trio of modern-day minstrels, each additionally a composer, easily finds the magic on their string, percussive, wind and whistle instruments and they know how to blend their voices in a lovely three-part flow.

Quick fact snippets:  Margie and Paul started the band in January of 1980.  Kathy Sierra joined Golden Bough in 2001.  Margie and Paul are husband and wife.  And psst, THE BAND ALSO PRESENTS MUSIC PROGRAMS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS.  You should contact them.

Buy records:

What the critics are saying:  “Top-notch, first-rate, above the best and peerless” – Pacifica Tribune; "Their music is in the footsteps of their great Celtic ancestors” – John O'Regan, Radio Limerick; “There is a love of this music by the performers that is obvious.  A great example of how to do something the right way when many are just doing it, period.” – Wind and Wire Magazine.

Have an MP3 listen:

“Ballyconnell Fair”
“Down by the Greenwood”
“Isle of Hope”
“Mursheen Durkin”

So where might be a few, just a few, of the places to hear the mighty Golden Bough?

In California:  Old First Concert Series, San Francisco; Amador Theater, Pleasanton; Mildred Owen Concert Hall, Pacifica; DeWitt Theatre, Auburn; Fresno Highland Games, Clovis; Sonora Celtic Festival, Sonora; Spreckels Performing Arts Center, Rohnert Park; Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Festival, Dublin; The Palms Winter Opera House, Winters; The State Theatre, Oroville; Valhalla Summer Arts Music Festival, Valhalla Boathouse Theatre, South Lake Tahoe; Modesto Highland Games, Modesto; Music of the Spheres at the Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton; Willits Celtic Renaissance Fair, Willits; and Finbar Divine's Irish Pub, Petaluma.

In Oregon:  Portland Scottish Highland Games, Gresham; Douglas County Celtic Highland Games, Winston; Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham; Azalea Park Bandstand, Brookings; Portland Pirate Festival, St. Johns; Douglas County Celtic Highland Games, Winston; and Athena Highland Games, Athena.

In Washington:  Martin’s Dock, Longview; Waterfront Park, Bainbridge Island; and Edmonds Summer Concerts in the Park, Edmond.

Everyone should know:  Margie teaches Celtic harp primarily in Modesto, CA, Pacifica, CA and Northern Oregon, particularly Sheridan, Dallas and McMinnville – but you can also catch her on the road (; Paul teaches guitar, mandolin and songwriting in Modesto (; and Kathy teaches violin primarily out of Oakdale, CA but she also has students in Modesto and will teach on the road (

What do you mean you also play in elementary schools?
Where have you played and what is your program?

We have been bringing our music into schools since the beginning of the band.  We love working with children and this has been one of our favorite activities.  We perform assemblies that introduce the students to our instruments and to Celtic (and other) folk music.  Many of these children have never seen a live performance, let alone live musicians right in front of them.

So, who used to play in your band and what has become of them?

Margot Duxler (violin):  Margot is a clinical psychologist in San Francisco.  She got a lot of hands on study being in Golden Bough!  Margot has remained a dear friend and still shows up from time to time to sit in.

Lief Sørbye (vocals, mandolin, octave-mandolin, flute):  Lief is the front man and leader of the Celtic rock band Tempest.  We play at several festivals together and Golden Bough has been known to join Tempest and rock out.

Florie Brown (violin, viola, vocals):  Florie teaches Suzuki method violin and is raising two children.  She often performs with her husband, Bill Edwards, himself a talented guitar player and songwriter.  Florie often sits in with us for some rousing double fiddles.

Richard Ferry: (Irish Flute, bodhran, bones, guitar):  Richard lives on a large piece of property near Yosemite.  He plays with a group called Cooking with Turf and, yes, he sits in with us from time to time.

Sue Draheim (violin, vocals):  Sue lives in Oakland with her husband Paul, an accomplished cellist.  She not only teaches and performs on the violin; she is also a textile and surface pattern designer.  Sue has also continued to be in touch and performs with us from time to time.

For all three of you is there one favorite gig story to date?

Margie:  Miskolc Festival in Hungary.  We had spent hours in line in order to get a visa into Hungary, driven across Germany and Austria and arrived at the border, to wait more hours to cross into Hungary.  We then drove to Miskolc, which is located near the Russian border.  The festival was held in the ruins of a castle.  The stage was at one end and the audience was seated throughout the grounds and all over the tumbled down walls.  What was amazing was that the Hungarians were all dressed like it was the 60’s.  We were told that they were 20 years behind the times and were dressed like the 50’s a decade earlier.  It was great!!  The stage was illuminated beautifully and we shared it with musicians from all over the world.  While we were in Hungary the borders came down and on our way out there was no line, no waiting only happy, dancing border guards.  It was an amazing experience.

Paul:  Our very first performance in Europe was at The Bunch of Carrots pub in England.  It wasn’t just the performance that made it so memorable, but the whole adventure of being in England, a country I was dying to visit ever since I became a Beatles fan.  We arrived at the airport and were picked up by our then fiddle player’s boyfriend.  Tim drove us through London and off into the English countryside.  After a couple hours we stopped at a pub.  Stepping foot into my first English pub and sitting down to my first English pint was a very satisfying experience.  A few nights later we were singing at The Bunch of Carrots and the dream of being a traveling musician had come true.

Kathy: One of my favorite gigs was performing for an audience which included several of my former Waldorf School elementary and middle school teachers at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA.  It was wonderful to give a little back to the men and women who helped guide my childhood and academic development.  I also found it a hoot to refer to any of my former teachers by their first name, as well as share memories from my five years there at Waldorf.

Where are you looking forward to playing in 2010?

We are working on a European Tour to celebrate our 30th Anniversary.  We are extremely excited to go back to places we have been and reconnect with lots of friends there

Margie, how did you become a musician, and please begin at the beginning.

I grew up listening to my father, an Irish tenor, sing songs that touched my heart.  As a young child I played piano and violin, which only whetted my appetite for music.  In my teenage years I took up the guitar and began singing folk songs.  Another area that I concentrated on was dance.  I received a Performing Arts degree from The United States International University for Performing Arts.

But it was when I discovered the Celtic harp that my love for Celtic music came into full bloom.  I found it to be the perfect instrument to accompany vocals and other instruments and invaluable for composing.  Having played the recorder, I was eager to learn the Irish penny-whistle, which I have found to be an instrument that brings the colors of Celtic music to life.  Rhythm was always an important part of my training as a dancer and I transferred this love of rhythm to playing the bodhran, the Irish hand drum.

There was always singing in my home and as a child I sang in choirs.  I continued to do so through college, where I also performed in musicals and was in the chorus for many opera productions.  I worked to develop my singing and being able to articulate myself through song remains an integral part of my musical expression.

As co-Founder of Golden Bough I have toured with the trio to thousands of venues throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.  In addition to our many Golden Bough CDs, I have also recorded three internationally acclaimed harp CDs, as well as one of our most popular recordings, “Celtic Lullaby”.  I was a guest harpist on the Linda Ronstadt recording “Dedicated to the One I Love”.  Derek Bell of the Chieftains was a friend and a musical mentor, describing my harp playing as “a breath of fresh air.”

Paul, what were the music steps you took to get where you are today?

Being musically influenced at a very young age by such artists as Hank Williams & Woody Guthrie, I had a natural tendency towards the folk music of the United States. I was first introduced to many of these songs by my mother, who sang them as she worked around the house.  She had made the journey to California from Oklahoma as a teenage girl, where she met my dad.  Since my folks could not afford a piano, I opted for accordion as my first instrument, which I began playing at the age of nine.  As an early teen I took up the guitar (after all, The Beatles did not have an accordion player!) and began writing my own songs, a natural extension of my interest in prose and poetry.  I had been writing in one form or another since I could first put pencil to paper.  Songwriting was to become a mainstay of my artistic endeavors.

I was soon playing at local coffee-houses.  At 16-years-old I found these smoke-filled rooms to be havens of folk music and I was heavily influenced by the traveling folk artists that frequented such establishments.  Performing in these coffee-houses, at local folk festivals or in concert, such artists as Arlo Guthrie, Taj Mahal, Donovan, Big Momma Thornton, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and The Youngbloods had a dramatic impact on me in those early years.  It was during this time that I began to play the harmonica and mandolin.

Of course my biggest (and a longest lasting) influence, not only musically, but in other areas of the arts, was the four lads from Liverpool.  Seeing The Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show was enough to make me decide I would take up the guitar and give music a real go.  And once I discovered Dylan, I knew I would be a singer-songwriter and make music my life.

It was a quote from an interview with Donovan that made me curious about a group from Scotland called The Incredible String Band.  Even though The Incredible String Band's music was mostly original, it was heavily influenced by Celtic music and that awakened my interest in the genre.  From their influence, I went on to dig deeper into Celtic music and when I met Margie, I turned my attention more fully to the music of Ireland and Scotland.

Kathy how did your music journey begin and what brought you from violin to fiddle?

My music journey began while living in Hawaii in the 70's.  I have fond memories of watching my mother play her cello in the Honolulu Symphony.  During festival concerts at Honolulu's famous outdoor Punch Bowl venue, my two sisters and I spent the better part of the concerts trying to get her to notice us and give us a little wave with her cello bow.  It was the greatest payoff for us to get our wish fulfilled.  Furthermore we would often listen to the radio.  I recall the music we heard, whether it be pop or traditional Hawaiian infused me with a appreciation for rich vocal harmonies.  To this day I look for the harmony part to a song before fully grasping the melody line.  My transition from classical violin to fiddle-style playing after college was a fun adventure to re-invent myself as a musician, interpret tunes through my own inspiration, and connect with others who shared a similar calling.  I did not pursue my fiddle-playing studies with the express intent of joining a band, although opportunity and preparedness did create that.

Margie, do you have any solo CDs?

Yes, I have released 4 CDs focused on the harp.

Celtic Lullaby is a collection of lullabies from the Celtic lands. It is an extremely soothing and beautiful album and alternates between vocal pieces and instrumentals. It is one of our best selling and best loved recordings to date.

Magic of the Celtic Harp, vol. I – Instrumental pieces featuring various harps, along with guitar, penny-whistle and violin.

Magic of the Celtic Harp, vol. II – More of the instrumental music featuring the harp, this time with guest harpist Nancy Thym, a very well-know European harper.

Celtic Harp for Pets – A collection of the most soothing harp pieces from Golden Bough’s and my earlier recordings. This has been very popular with pet owners.

Same question for you Paul, any solo CDs?

Jug of Punch (Popular Irish Pub Songs) – This one does have Margie adding whistle and bodhran, but otherwise it was my concept and I sing and play all the other parts on the recording, as well as arranging, engineering and producing it. Quite a solo project in terms of doing it all myself.

Sun & Shadow is not a solo project, but I wrote and arranged all the music, produced it from top to bottom and again engineered the recording.

Additionally, I am working on a CD of all original songs.  These are songs that I have written over the years that did not fit in the Golden Bough genre.  There will be more to follow, as I have far too many songs for one CD.

Kathy, rumor has it that you are also an alumnus of the swing jazz quintet, Vive Le Jazz.   Details please!

From 2005 to 2008, I co-led a pop/gypsy-jazz quintet out of Berkeley, CA with guitarist George Cole.  Although we changed the name of the group several times and recorded a CD entitled "The Hot Club," we eventually settled on Vive Le Jazz.  Early on in my time with the band, I performed my first stage concert at the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley, CA.  We shared the bill with several of the world’s greatest gypsy-jazz artists, including Samson and Dorado Schmitt, and Tim Kliphuls.  This was my first live introduction and insight to the culture of the master gypsy-jazz musician as much as it was my first chance to see a clear display of musical virtuosity in the realm of playing in keys unfamiliar to my fingers.  I was inspired and intimidated at the same time, I loved to play by ear, the way these musicians did, but unlike the Celtic tradition, they played in way more keys than D, G, A and E.  At least in my classical background, I had the option of reading the key changes.  Fortunately I was taken in around that time as a student, by the "Guitar King", maestro Jimmy Luttrell, and it was my greatest joy to be a given a terrific education in tone and taste in musical expression.  His best advice to me was to play the changes, and have something to say.  Furthermore, working on this musical project with Vive Le Jazz was a musical genre can-opener for me.  The gift I carry with me to this day is a growing appreciation of big-band, swing, gypsy-jazz, and blues.

Why did you name your band, Golden Bough?

Paul:  Although we took the name from the Sir James Frasier work, “The Golden Bough,” it was not due to being students of his writings so much as being influenced by the themes he wrote about.  The Golden Bough is a magical symbol and has shown up in various cultures, so we felt that was fitting to our music.  The bottom line, though, is we just fell in love with the name.

So, the same question for each of you, what is it about Celtic music that just thrills you musically?

Margie: Ever since the first Irish lullaby my father sang to me, I have had a love for the beauty of the melodies of this music.  Being of Irish descent, it is the music of Ireland, coupled with the expression of the harp that resonates most deeply in my soul.  However, finding Celtic music in other lands, including Galicia in Spain and Brittany in France, has furthered my growing passion for this music.  I find a deep satisfaction in carrying on the tradition that was handed down to me by my father.

Paul:  I find the music of the Celtic lands to be very expressive of basic human emotions.  The songs, like most good folk songs, express the loves, losses, tribulations, joys, passions and hope of a people.  The instrumental pieces, whether jigs, reels, hornpipes or airs have a magical quality to them and let’s face it, they are just darn fun to play!

Kathy:  I am attracted to Celtic-style music, not just because of the melodic lines, but also the instrumentation involved.  The violin, harp, whistle, guitar, mandolin, Irish drum, accordion, and triple vocal-harmonies are good friends on our stage and thrill me when played in different combinations.  Furthermore the content and rhythm of the tunes and songs cover the entire emotional spectrum for me.  In the Celtic style, I love to start with a traditional or original melody, transform it with Paul and Margie into a fresh, current, satisfying meal for ourselves and our listeners, and as long as that piece still resonates with us, we share it over and over again.

Any special projects on the horizon?

We just released Celtic Love Songs and many fans are telling us it’s our best work to date.  Recordings we are planning include music from Galicia, more Christmas and winter-themed music and a recording of original works based on the music of the Celtic lands.

Advice for the fledgling musician who is also inspired to live and work and play the music of the Celts?

The bottom line is to love the music.  If it speaks to you and you cannot resist the pull, then by all means join the dance.  It is a love of the culture and what the music communicates that keeps one working in this genre.  It is lovely music to play only for the fun of it.  So “for the fun of it” and “for the love of it” will certainly take you to some wonderful places.

First place Golden Bough ever played and stages Golden Bough would love to play?

The first place Golden Bough played as Golden Bough would have to be the outdoor stage at The Cannery on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  In fact, it was after one of these shows that Margie, Margot Duxler, Lief Sørbye and I decided to form an official band.  Margie and I loved the name Golden Bough and after tossing around some other names, we came back to that one.

There are a few stages in the Bay Area we’d love to add to our list which would include:  Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco and Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley.  And of course we would have to include, Carnegie Hall.  Isn’t that considered the penultimate?

Golden Bough interviewed by Jean Bartlett for GrabIt