Molly Gawler’s Favorite Place

Belfast Harbor and Bay

📷 Neal Parent

Belfast Harbor and Bay

Molly Gawler

Molly Gawler was 10 years old when she joined her first band. Well, technically she joined the group at birth; it just didn’t formally become a band until her mom and dad, the indomitable Maine minstrels John and Ellen Gawler, had two more daughters, taught them to play traditional folk music on string instruments, then started bringing the whole brood onstage in the mid-’90s. Now Molly’s 33 and a mom herself. Her sisters, Edith and Elsie, are 31 and 28, respectively, with non-music careers to juggle. John and Ellen are 68 and 61. But Molly doesn’t expect anyone in The Gawler Family Band to retire from music-making anytime soon — least of all her folks.

Molly Gawler
Various Roles Choreographer, dancer, singer, fiddler, mom
Affiliations The Gawler Family Band, Droplet Dance
Recent Record Lilting Merrily
Next Performance June 16 at South Paris’s Celebration Barn — solo dance with a Cyr wheel (a person-sized, gyroscopic ring within which she rotates), accompanied by dad, John Gawler

“I don’t think they’ll ever stop, as long as they have a voice to sing,” she says. “I think they’ll just keep going forever.”

Molly, who spent most of her 20s dancing (and touring the world) with the storied modern dance troupe Pilobolus, balances singing and fiddling with dance and choreography for her one-woman company, Droplet Dance. Her family often provides musical accompaniment, and her pieces all share a thematic tie to water and marine conservation. (For her satirical interpretation of Mikhail Fokine’s The Swan ballet, she wore a homemade tutu made of plastic water bottles.)

Fitting, then, that her favorite place — indeed, Molly says, her whole family’s — is on the water, and that the time she spends there involves movement and song. The Gawler sisters all live in Belfast, and the whole clan loves heading from the harbor onto Belfast Bay in a long rowboat called a pilot gig. In the summer, the Gawlers all come together for community rowing nights led by the Belfast organization Come Boating, taking to the water as a family and putting backs into it while singing traditional work songs, often led by Molly’s brother-in-law and bandmate Bennett Konesni.

“I find the singing actually helps because you just get into this rhythm and flow,” Molly says. “It’s just great to be out on the water, singing together and sharing that motion. We just love it.”

See More Favorite Places in Maine


Brian Kevin

Brian Kevin is Down East's managing editor.