Katie McMahon, Riverdance’s original lead vocalist, returns to Cambridge for Dec. 17 concert

By Rachel Kytonen

A troupe of talented performers, including Irish dancers, will be a part of Katie McMahon’s Celtic Christmas Show that returns to Cambridge after four years.

McMahon, Riverdance’s original lead vocalist, will be joined by her troupe of talented performers, including singers, musicians and Irish dancers, for a concert on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Richard G. Hardy Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School.

Katie McMahon, Riverdance’s original lead vocalist, returns to Cambridge for Dec. 17 concert.

McMahon will be featuring a brand new program with carols and dances from Ireland, Sweden, Germany and America.

“This is the type of concert that I would have loved to go to as a child,” McMahon said. “It has all my favorite music in it. Beautiful nostalgia inducing carols of the old-fashioned kind from Ireland and the rest of the world. There are even opportunities to sing along.

“We have a full band on stage, a mini choir to sing all the lovely 4-part vocal music and to top it all 11 young Irish dancers to really get the night hopping. It is a very family friendly evening, so forget the babysitter and take advantage of our discounted rates for kids. Many people come with their families to my Celtic Christmas show and have made it a part of their Christmas tradition,” she added.

McMahon realized she wanted to be a singer from an early age.

“I can’t remember this, but apparently I used to sing and perform in my high chair when I was 2,” McMahon said. “Then I remember following my mom’s best friend (who was a singer) around the house singing at her. It’s ironic that I sing so much Christmas music now because I used to be fascinated with the baby Jesus and made up songs about him and sang them around the house. I also loved listening to choirs.”

McMahon has been classically trained in piano, recorder, voice and harp with various teachers in Ireland including the Royal Irish Academy of Music and studied drama at Trinity College Dublin.

But she feels her most valuable training was real life experiences like three-part singing as a child with her mom and brother; learning how to perform and project her personality from the stage with the group Anuna; and connecting personally with many interesting people over the years.

“I love when I can feel that flow between myself and the audience,” McMahon said. “I’m sharing something with them and they’re sending their appreciation back. There’s nothing better.”

McMahon is probably best known for her exquisite soaring soprano solo in the original Riverdance single, which topped the charts in Ireland for three months.

“It was a wonderful experience touring with Riverdance,” McMahon said. “Having been involved with it from day one I had no idea what a huge culturally significant phenomena I was part of.”

While touring with Riverdance, McMahon had the chance to meet and perform for President Bill Clinton and Bono from U2.

“Meeting these two famous people was very thrilling,” McMahon said. “Bono came backstage at one of the first productions of Riverdance in Dublin and it was like God had entered the building. The whole cast were crazy about him. Everyone was desperately trying to get into a picture with him. He saw me doing that and graciously drew me into the center of the group and said ‘you have an amazing voice.’ It was awesome.”

While in Washington, McMahon got to play at a private function that President Clinton was possibly going to attend.

“When President Clinton arrived the place went wild—just like it did backstage for Bono, except this time these were prominent politicians,” McMahon explained.

Recently, McMahon was awarded best folk and acoustic artist by the Minnesota Music Academy. She has also been touring the world with the group Secret Garden as their lead singer and harpist.

McMahon currently lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children, and has released five critically acclaimed solo CDs: “After the Morning,” “Shine,” “Celtic Christmas,” “St. Patrick’s Day” and “Christmas Angels.”

Tickets for the Dec. 17 Cambridge concert are $20, 18 and $16, and are available by calling 763-689-6189 or http://www.hardycenter.com/index.php.

“I love playing in Cambridge, and we last played there four years ago,” McMahon said. “This is the last show of our tour, so we will be in top form and ready to celebrate Christmas with the people of Cambridge.”

The concert will also serve as a fundraiser for the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce and Isanti Area Chamber of Commerce. Designate the Chamber of your choice when ordering tickets, and $8 from each purchased ticket will support the designated chamber.

For more information visit www.katiemcmahon.com.