Catherine O'Connell
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Catherine O'Connell

Winnetka, Illinois, United States

Winnetka, Illinois, United States
Band Folk Celtic

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Dec
18
Catherine O'Connell @ Skokie Theatre

Skokie, Illinois, USA

Skokie, Illinois, USA

Dec
03
Catherine O'Connell @ Old St Patrick's Church

None, None, USA

None, None, USA

Dec
02
Catherine O'Connell @ Old St. Patrick's Church

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Chicago, Illinois, USA

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Music

Press



Chicago Sun-Times
March 20, 2002
Irish diva puts song in the hearts of even hard-bitten Chicagoans
March 13, 2002
Most Irishmen start looking for a woman around midnight on St. Patrick's Day. Something about that witching hour makes even Janet Reno look like Mary Kate Danaher in "The Quiet Man.''
Don't start cruising on Sunday with the visual aid of a snootful. Here's the real thing, a dazzling Celtic nightingale who serenades Chicago's Irish every year.
Catherine O'Connell is Chicago's Irish Diva, and this is her busiest week. "I was at the mayor's party last night. I'm singing the national anthem at the Irish-American breakfast, singin' at the Irish Fellowship Club Friday night; on Sunday night I'll be in Siamsa Na nGael at Orchestra Hall, and, oh yeah, on Saturday I'll be in the parade on the old queens float.''
''The old queens float'' is not a reunion of entertainers from the Baton Lounge, it's all the former St. Patrick's Day Parade queens. O'Connell was queen of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1976. Ask her how old she was then and she'll wisecrack, "I was young then, about 5. Talk about getting some mileage out of something.'' Ever since she's been singing for the Irish, mostly at weddings and funerals. "I marry 'em and bury 'em.''
O'Connell sang at my mother's funeral, and three of my brothers asked me, "Who is that gorgeous Irish gal with the fabulous pipes? She sings good.'' Yes she does, she's a Maureen O'Hara clone, and if you're planning on dying anytime soon, book her now for your funeral.
Her own dad, James "Mush'' O'Connell, fire captain from St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, died the year after Catherine was crowned queen in Chicago. She was 20, oldest of six kids, and just leaving for Ireland for the Rose of Tralee competition. Mush, Catherine and her mom, Mary, had visited the Old Country right before he died. Two years later the kid broke into show business singing in bars.
"I started singin' in the Emerald Isle. Tommy McCauley was the owner. He asked me to sing because I was so loud.''
Her first band was the Irish Ramblers, and then she joined up with Seamus O'Kane and Jimmy Moore to form Parting Glass. She's a solo act now.
O'Connell paid her dues in Irish bars all over Chicago. Her "Danny Boy'' will knock your socks off. Mush O'Connell taught her that. "Tell the story and sing the song with a tear in your voice.''
Catherine took the advice to heart.
Singing in Irish bars can make a young lady feisty. Just ask the guy who slipped a condom onto her microphone between sets at Kitty O'Shea's one night. "My mother was there. I was seven months pregnant and I was horrified.'' Catherine's brother Mike and Marty Dolan were ready for a donnybrook, but she stepped into the fray and grabbed a fresh pint of Guinness.
"I dumped it on his drunken head and said, 'I wish your mother had used one of those things!'''
That was then; today, "I'm in church more than some priests.''
O'Connell got hooked on the hymns when two Irish sisters took her aside after their mom's sendoff. "She squeezed my hand, and says, 'I never thought I could live through my mother's funeral. And you made me sing!' ''
The Diva made a difference and found her calling.
You fellas who would like to meet O'Connell this week have three options:
Pick up her CD, "I Arise Today,'' this week at an Irish shop.
Start hanging out at classier functions.
Drop dead of a heart attack on St. Patrick's Day. Meet her at your funeral.
Hey, you could do worse. Remember, death is big with the Irish. Ask O'Connell: "Oh, it's huge; it's a growth industry, ya know. People are dying today who never died before!''
- Chicago Sun-Times March 20, 2002



Chicago Sun-Times
March 13, 2002

A music note . . .
March 20, 2002
Gorjus Irish chanteuse Catherine O'Connell, who sang "My Grandfather's Irish Eyes" for President Bush at Mayor Daley's St. Pat's party at Gibsons eatery last week, has just cut her first album, titled "I Arise Today." O'Connell, who was shocked to see Dubya leaning up against a doorjamb listening to her sing, has the voice of an angel.
- Chicago Sun-Times March 20, 2002


Discography


SMALL MIRACLES:
Christmas 2008 – Small Miracles Welcome to our gathering of Christmas songs – old & new, silly & sad, sacred & secular... sounds like Christmas to me! Each song on this CD resonates in its own way for me, evoking laughter or tears and sometimes both. Not only did producer/arranger Dennis Cahill shepherd this entire project, his playing gives Santa Baby and Winter Wonderland such a great jazzy swing; imbues Gabriel’s Message and Angels We Have Heard On High with a madrigal touch and provides a simple bell-like guitar on Silent Night that is so soothing it makes me see snow falling quietly. His playing is masterful. I can never thank him enough for his patience, vision and beautiful spirit. There is something unusual here too and I hope you will take the time to listen to John McCutcheon’s Christmas in the Trenches. It is the story of the WWI spontaneous Christmas ceasefire along the battlefields of France in 1914, told in the voice of an 18 year old who lived through the war. It is a powerful tale and, along with Liz Knowles and John Williams, Jimmy Moore is his usual brilliant self on this song, as well as on The Wexford Carol (with Kieran O’Hare on the pipes) and O Holy Night. Jimmy is simply the most gracious and intuitive player I have ever known. When I chose B.Chapman, M. Manchester and M. Rollings’ There’s Still My Joy, I had my two cousins Amy & Katie in mind, but as the year rolled by and we lost Trish and our dear Mom, that beautiful song personified finding a sense of grace, of moving forward in the utter darkness of despair. Laura Kutscher played and arranged both There’s Still My Joy and This Christmastide. With her gifted playing and gentle heart, Laura made both songs more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. My dear friend Steven Houser took Laura Kutscher’s arrangement of In the Bleak Midwinter and made it as shimmering as a diamond and you will also hear his cello grace This Christmastide and Silent Night. Michael Keefe arrived in the studio to play I’ll Be Home for Christmas and didn’t know he was also going to be asked to play Silver Bells. He had it nailed within minutes and what a joy for me to have two of my favorite songs so beautifully played by one of my favorite pianists. John Williams’ playing makes me smile; he always adds just the right touch and it is evident in Christmas In the Trenches and O Holy Night; but never more so than Angels We Have Heard On High. John was charged with accompanying the O’Connell Sisters on their maiden recording session, no easy task, and he was remarkably patient and good-natured. To Jessica Ziegler on viola; Ken Haebich on bass; Stacey McMichael on stand-up bass and Barret Harvey on drums: Your contributions were beyond measure. Victor Sanders, the most talented and patient recording engineer ever, you make me sound the best I can all the time (and you know when enough is enough!); John Soss, research; Rick Kogan for all his support; Mhairi Phillips for her beautiful cover design. My beautiful sisters; Susan, Eileen and Maureen; (we could not talk our brothers James & Michael into recording) thank you for helping me show how I got started, whether Irish songs or Christmas carols, we gathered around the table, singing our party pieces and making up harmony (and words if need be).Small Miracles is dedicated to our mom Mary O’Connell; while our dad, James O’Connell taught us how to sing, mom showed us how to live.

Santa Baby
Gabriel's Message
Silent Night
Christmas In the Trenches
Silver Bells
In the Bleak Midwinter
This Christmastide
The Wexford Carol
There's Still My Joy
O Holy Night
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Winter Wonderland
Angels We Have Heard on High

SONGS FROM MY FATHER

As children growing up, these were a few of the songs we learned around the table, late at night. Celebrations would find Uncle Ed taking movies with a giant camera, Dad and Uncle Rich rough-housing with the boys, jokes and laughter, children running, babies crying and general mayhem until someone would say “Give us a song…” and we’d gather around the table and listen to the likes Father Pathe, CSSR, Jim Cavanaugh, Dad, Aunt Janie, Patsy Sheahan or one of the children who had a song; the non-singers like Uncle John or Gene Connolly would have a story or a recitation to share. We would go to picnics, parties, fish fries, pizza parlors and saloons; anywhere we were, there was singing.
It was no surprise to meet the Kerry and Connemara cousins and find the same scene! The McKennas, Knightlys, Sheehans and Corcorans in Kerry, then out to Connemara to meet Sullivans, Walshs, McDonaghs and Connollys!
It was magic…
Music was our bridge, stretching across ocean and generation, from Chicago to Calsalia and Loughconeera, Beverly to Boolteens and Ballyard, between firemen and farmers, friends and families, cousins and coworkers; the songs and stories bridged every gap.
As one by one my parents’ generation slips away, and the sad los

Photos

Bio


Singer Catherine O'Connell grew up in Chicago and in love with Chicago. Her affection for performing was nurtured by her parents, James and Mary, who shared with her their passions for music and theater. Her father, a talented amateur singer, gave her this early advice: "Tell the story and sing the song with a tear in your voice. Her mother, an accomplished actress, offered this: "Enunciate or no one will understand you."
Catherine, developed her distinctive style and dramatic stage presence by performing in dozens of pubs, saloons and cabarets in Chicago, New York and the Caribbean.
Leaving the club scene to raise three boys, she switched direction in her career to focus on more intimate spaces in the city and suburbs, where the emotional impact of her singing has gathered her a large and devoted following. Bill Fraher, director of music at Old St. Patrick’s Church, calls her "the best communicator" he has ever worked with and one friend said "I never thought I could live through my mother’s funeral and you made me sing."
The Chicago Tribune's and WGN's Rick Kogan says, "Catherine is an original, as gifted a singer and as sensitive a performer as I have ever heard and seen. She might easily have become a star in the New York scene but, God love her, she's tied to our town."
March 2002 Catherine released her CD entitled 'I Arise Today' December 2003 released 'Songs From My Father' and December 2008 Small Miracles, her Christmas CD available at Irish shops around the city, CDBaby and catherineoconnell.com.
From saloons to Symphony Center, chapels to cathedrals, funeral homes to festival halls, Catherine has touched the hearts and lifted the spirits of thousands of Chicagoans.