Music News & Reviews

Holy Oly Girls set to release first album of ‘blessingsongs’

The Holy Oly Girls play at last year’s Love Our Local fest in August in Olympia.
The Holy Oly Girls play at last year’s Love Our Local fest in August in Olympia. Courtesy

Not long after they first played a song together, Jessica Rose, Diane Sonntag and Kristen Rubis knew they had found something special.

Two years later, the women — collectively known as the Holy Oly Girls — are about to release their first album, “Kiss the Bliss.” It is a collection of what they call “blessingsongs,” creations that are closer to musical prayers than to conventional songs.

The group will celebrate by performing Thursday at Traditions.

“This is an act of devotion,” said Rose, who plays harmonium and Native American-style flute. “We are bringing these sacred chants through as an offering rather than a performance.”

Perhaps that’s natural given that both Rose and Rubis came to music first through offering sound healing, Rose as part of her private practice in network chiropractic and Rubis through the crystal bowl performances, healings and workshops she offers in conjunction with her work as a yoga teacher.

Sonntag also is a healer, working as a massage therapist and teaching embodiment and awareness, but her musical background is more conventional. Formerly of the folk band Gaelica, she played a variety of instruments before taking up harp four years ago.

It was just a whim the first time the trio played together. Rose and Sonntag began rapping along to Rubis’s beatboxing, and they came up with the name Holy Oly Girls even before they had any thought of forming a band.

“We didn’t expect to start a group together,” said Sonntag, who also plays bass and harmonica. “It definitely was happening before we even knew what it was.”

What was happening was a novel mix of playfulness, environmental consciousness and a sense of the sacred, played on a creative combination of instruments. Rubis plays crystal singing bowls, chimes, bells and claves.

“The instrumentation is pretty unusual,” Sonntag said. “Kristen is playing percussion on her bowls. I’d never heard that. And then we have the harp and the harmonium.

“It’s a real fusion of instruments that have a lineage of healing, and we’re using them in a whole different way.”

The vocals are as varied as the instrumentation, combining singing, chanting and rapping, often all in the same blessingsong. The first blessingsong, released not long after they began to play together, offered intentions for healing for all affected by the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

Another, “I’m Alive,” celebrates the commonalities of all beings and the earth they share.

The Holy Oly Girls also have been sharing their music at the Love Our Local Festival and at Sounds of the Sacred, a kirtan held on the second Sunday of each month at Unity Church. Several local kirtan groups and the Holy Oly Girls, who weave mantras into their original music, rotate in leading the event.

A kirtan is a Hindu devotional song during which the lines are first sung by a leader and then repeated by a larger group.

Sonntag does most of the group’s song writing, but that doesn’t mean she sits down and thinks out complete compositions.

“All of these songs are really downloaded,” Rose said. “They come through us.”

“It’s the muse,” Sonntag added.

In fact, as the trio has been preparing for the album release, new songs just keep coming.

“Kristen has to regulate us,” Sonntag said, laughing.

“I said, ‘Let’s finish one album first, and then we’ll get to the second,’ ” Rubis said.

But Sonntag is already looking forward to her next project, a playful rap celebrating the orca.

“It’s called ‘The Orca Cheer,’ ” she said. “There are cheers for sports teams and things like that, and we’re going to do a cheer for a species.”

Holy Oly Girls

What: This trio, known for its “blessingsongs,” celebrates the release of its first album “Kiss the Bliss.”

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Jan. 7.

Where: Traditions Café & World Folk Art, 300 Fifth Ave. SW, Olympia.

Tickets: $10-$20 donation suggested. Part of the proceeds will go to Native Plant Salvage.

Information: 360-705-2819, traditionsfairtrade.com or holyolygirls.com.

Also: The group will share its songs at Sounds of the Sacred, 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 10 at Unity Church, 1335 Fern St. SW, Olympia. Donations of $5-$25 are requested.

Listen: Videos of some of the trio’s blessingsongs are at holyolygirls.com/videos.html.

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