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Gaelic Performance

By France Griggs Sloat

Her last name may be German, but Kathryn “Katie” Else is all Irish. Both her grandmothers are Irish, she played in an Irish band at Xavier and people have always told her her voice has an Irish lilt. So it’s no surprise that at age 27, Else is the lead female soloist for Riverdance, the popular Irish show of song and dance.

The 2000 graduate took her music degree from Xavier to Northwestern University for a master’s degree in vocal performance but found her heart wasn’t into opera. So she stopped and followed her heart—to Ireland. There she spent a year waiting tables in Galway, studying the songs of the ancient Gaelic language and singing. “I would sing at pubs and festivals and concerts on my own,” she says. “It’s all a cappella singing, so you just get up and sing.”

It was great training for securing a job with Riverdance. “When I did my callback, the senior executive was fascinated with why I studied opera and then old Gaelic singing. It’s not necessary, but I do some Irish singing in the show and it helps with pronunciation.”

The North American tour began in September after rehearsals in Dublin and covered 12 cities by Christmas. Else sings two solos, a duet and two songs with the choir. After a spring tour, she’ll consider her next move. “Just the fact I’m getting paid to sing, I’m really lucky.”

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