A video clip of John McDermott performing "Song For the Mira." From John McDermott's DVD A Time to Remember (2002) on YouTube.
McDermott's Professional Career
John McDermott's debut concert performance took place 5 Oct 1993, in Halifax. He toured Canada, opening for The Chieftains; the following year he toured Australia and New Zealand, where Danny Boy went to No. 1. In 1995, he toured the UK with The Seekers. By then internationally recognized, he began touring regularly as a solo act. Noteworthy performances include those in France at D-Day ceremonies (1995) and at the US Democratic National Convention (1996). He hosted concert specials for CBC Television in 1997; a solo television special, John McDermott: A Time to Remember, aired on the US PBS network in 2002. Earlier, McDermott joined Ireland's Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan to form The Irish Tenors; their 1998 Dublin concert led to US tours, television appearances, and a gold record.
McDermott's early recordings covered traditional Celtic songs (eg "The Rose of Tralee"), and newer material on loss and remembrance (eg, "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"). In concert, McDermott's signature song was "Danny Boy," sung a capella. Although some characterize him as a nostalgia singer, his sincerity is not in question. His recordings sold strongly through word of mouth; concerts were sold out. The McDermott phenomenon offered temporary escape to a misty Old World past, unembarrassedly tapping into audiences' desire for meaningfulness and stability. His voice always approachable, never abrasive, he provided an antidote to contemporary pop's shallow angst.
John McDermott's song selections on any given album typically span 250 years or more. By his fourth album, Love Is a Voyage (1995), McDermott was including more 20th-century songs, eg, "Here, There and Everywhere." Diversifying, McDermott recorded national anthems (on O Canada) and inspirational music (on Great Is Thy Faithfulness). He roamed further afield in 2003 with Stories of Love, delivering pop and jazz standards in an understated crooning style.
John McDermott recorded works by many Canadian songwriters: George W. Johnson's "When You And I Were Young, Maggie," Ruth Lowe's "Put Your Dreams Away," Laura Lemon's "My Ain Folk," Allister MacGillivray's "Song for the Mira," and others by Gordon Lightfoot, Murray McLauchlan, Ted Dykstra, Frank Mills and Ron Hynes.
Awards and Recognition
For his support for veterans' causes, John McDermott was made an honorary member of The War Amps, and received the US Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Bob Hope Award. He received five Juno nominations 1993-8. McDermott was called the "worthy heir to the famed Irish tenor John McCormack" (Chicago Sun Times).
Author Betty Nygaard King
Ostick, Stephen. "Heavy hitters finance tenor's voice," Winnipeg Free Press, 13 Apr 1993
King, Frank. "McDermott's Danny Boy taking Canada by storm," Calgary Herald, 17 Apr 1993
Craig, Terry. "Scottish singer keeps hectic pace," Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 16 Oct 1993
Renzetti, Elizabeth. "Balladeer proud of sentimentality," Globe and Mail, 22 Dec 1995
Arsenault, Tim. "Lend me an Irish tenor," Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 18 Sep 1996
"John McDermott," Contemporary Canadian Musicians (Toronto 1997)
Chisholm, Patricia. "Straight to his listeners' hearts," Maclean's, 12 July 1999
Smiderle, Wes. "Tenor lives life on a high note," Ottawa Citizen, 16 Dec 1999
John McDermott: The Tragedy of War. The War Amps. VHS
Links to Other Sites
The Virtual Gramophone
An extensive multimedia database that covers the history of recorded music in Canada. Search the site for musician biographies and notes about the early years of sound recording, online audio clips of recordings, podcasts on specific themes, videos, and more. From Library and Archives Canada.
John McDermott, Irish Tenor
John McDermott's personal website. Features current news and information about the acclaimed Canadian singer.
The War Amps: John McDermott
View audio and video clips featuring Canadian singer John McDermott, honorary member of the War Amps. Check out “The Tragedy of War” video.
Song For the Mira
A video clip of John McDermott performing "Song For the Mira". From John McDermott's DVD "A Time to Remember" (2002) on YouTube.
View a video clip of John McDermott singing "Voyage" live at a Dublin concert. From YouTube.