Giving a ‘voice’ to aliya

Days after arriving from Quebec, Kathleen Reiter wows Israel’s pop elite.

KATHLEEN REITER (photo credit: Tal Giveny)
(photo credit: Tal Giveny)
Calling it a successful aliya is somewhat of an understatement.
Only in Israel a few days, fresh from Quebec, 23-year-old Kathleen Reiter and her spectacular singing voice have already won the hearts of the national viewing audience after her performance last week on the debut of the new Channel 2 reality show The Voice.
RELATED:Arrivals: A dream come trueComment: Hassidic rocker Matisyahu comes clean“I watched the first season of The Voice in North America and I loved the concept of it,” said Reiter this week, in between preparations for the next episode on Saturday night.
“When I was in Israel over the summer, I heard about auditions for The Voice Israel and I just had to go. I think it was fate.”
The show, based on the successful American series that premiered last year, features four judges/coaches – Sarit Hadad, Rami Kleinstein, Aviv Geffen and Shlomi Shabat.
The opening episode – which broke records for producers Reshet with a 43.4 percent rating of 1.6 million viewers – centered on a blind audition process. The judges, with their seats turned away from the seven performers, had the length of each audition to decide whether to turn their seat around and pursue the singer for his or her team – only by virtue of listening.
For Reiter’s riveting rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” all four judges enthusiastically turned their swivel seats around and courted Reiter for their teams.
“How many years have you been here?” asked Kleinstein.
“I just got here a few days ago,” Reiter answered in fluent Hebrew, to the astonishment of the judges.
“Your voice is huge,” said Hadad, trying to recruit her with a common bond of “girl power.”
Geffen told her that he had a warm place in his heart for Montreal, where he frequently performed, and Kleinstein summed it up, saying “One thing is clear – we all want you.”
Given the task of having to choose which coach to work with, Reiter felt torn.
“I was overwhelmed and I couldn’t believe how wonderful they were and how many nice things they said.
I was on cloud nine. I would have been happy to work with any of them,” she said.
However, along with two other contestants, she chose to team up with Hadad for the mentoring phase that culminates in a live competition.
“It was really hard to choose, but in the end I had to go with my gut feeling and my heart, and that was with Sarit. We may not have the same style of voice, but I know I can learn a lot from her. And growing up abroad, she really was like this ambassador of Israeli music for me,” said Reiter.
The singer surprised the judges with her near flawless Hebrew, the result of her Israeli-born parents raising her in three languages – English, French and Hebrew – and frequently bringing her to their former home in Kiryat Haim on vacations.
“The Hebrew was not really an issue for me... I think the hardest part was to not be self-conscious about my accent when I speak,” she said, adding that she had no such apprehensions when the time came to sing.
“When I start singing, I’m like a different person. I think the concept of the show was also something that calmed me down, because I knew that it would only come down to my voice and nothing else.”
That confidence has been developing since Reiter was three, when she remembers listening to her Moroccan- born grandfather recite the kiddush on Friday nights.
“He was a singer and he loved music. I received my voice from him,” she said.
She also received support from her parents, who were shown on last week’s episode cheering exuberantly after she sang.
“I’m so lucky to have a family that really supports me 100%, they have been supportive of my dreams all along. I was so grateful to have them there with me on set and cheering me on the whole way through.”
Despite treading unfamiliar waters with participating in an Israeli talent show, Reiter is no stranger to winning singing competitions. Back in 2004, as a 15-year-old high-school student, she emerged victorious in Montreal’s first Jewish Idol competition sponsored by the city’s Hillel, besting nine other finalists with her spunky rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”
While she’s already gained the respect of the judges on The Voice, it’s unclear whether that will translate into a victory on the show. However, Reiter, who decided to make aliya during her visit here last summer, said that regardless of the outcome, she, music and Israel are in it for the long haul.
“I would love to keep doing something music related – singing and writing is my passion. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that this is an amazing opportunity for me and a great start to what will hopefully be a great life here in Israel.”