Rick Kogan* has a voice like a Gothic cathedral's pipe organ. My God, the man has pipes! His Sidewalks feature on WGN amasses a loyal following of listeners not only for the pitch and timbre of Kogan's majestic voice, but also the high quality of the narrative. As a journalist and word sketcher, Rick Kogan is the equal of Dan McGrath, a sportswriter/editor of national renown and the leader of Leo High School's institutional advancement efforts.
Today, Kogan treats us all with wonderful portrait of Chicago's ethnic royalty - the St. Patrick's Day Queens. Interestingly, in Kogan's print basso susurrations for the Sunday Tribune links us with another voice Catherine O'Connell**.
Cathy O'Connell is the 1976 St. Patrick's Day Queen Emerita and one the most gifted singers in this town. Cathy sang at Leo High School for the November Veterans Observances in tribute to all who serve America.
It is a great kind of a sorority," said O'Connell. "I feel like a den mother. We have so much fun together."
Gorecki said, "I probably didn't realize it until the luncheon, but this honor and these women who came before me are part of me forever."
The 21-year-old Gorecki — "Polish on my dad's side and Irish on my mom's side," she said — is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in international studies, having taken a break after high school to explore a musical career on the West Coast. But she is determined that music stay a part of her life.
If she needs a role model, there is not far to look. O'Connell has made a fine career as a singer, first in taverns and cabarets before quitting to start a family. For the last decade or so she has been drawn to more intimate and less raucous spaces, such as churches, cathedrals and theaters.
O'Connell will be performing with longtime pals Kathleen Keane and Jimmy Moore on April 16 at the Skokie Theatre.
She used to characterize her career by saying, "I marry 'em, and I bury 'em" but since expanding her realm to include performing at baptisms, she said playfully, "I'm hatchin', matchin' and dispatchin'." She has also made five wonderful CDs, survived a horrific car crash, raised three fine young boys and still proudly wears, but once a year, the yellow sash she received long ago when she was a queen.
The Queen of St. Paddy's Day is the subject of Mount Carmel's Pride and Chicago Renaissance Man Mike Houlihan's*** charming film Her Majesty, 'da Queen, which Rich Kogan mentions with unparalleled prose bass-baritone.
Chicago has many people to treasure.
Time to get ready for Mass!
Rick Kogan:Born and raised and still living in Chicago, Rick Kogan (left) has worked for the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, where he is currently a senior writer and columnist. Named Chicago's Best Reporter in 1999 and inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2003, he is the creator and host of WGN radio's "Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan" and the author of a dozen books, including "Everybody Pays: Two Men, One Murder and the Price of Truth" (with Maurice Possley), "America's Mom: The Life, Lesson and Legacy of Ann Landers," "A Chicago Tavern," the history of the Billy Goat, and "Sidewalks I" and "Sidewalks II," collections of his columns embellished by the work of photographer Charles Osgood
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, who was the St. Patrick Day Parade Queen in 1976, later 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' and December 2003 released 'Songs From My Father' available at Irish shops around the city 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. She is currently working on a Christmas CD.
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.