September 26th, 2016

Irish eyes still smiling — John McDermott’s tour celebrates 20 years of performing

By Lethbridge Herald on March 21, 2014.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
Twenty-five albums and 20 years later, renowned Canadian tenor John McDermott is still hitting the road to entertain audiences around the world.
McDermott performs March 30 at the Yates Centre. Tickets are $47.50 at Ticket Centre locations in the Yates and Enmax Centre, 403-329-7328.
McDermott is no stranger to southern Alberta. He last performed here with the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra at the Empress Theatre in 2011 during the Canadian Forces Memorial Film Festival.
McDermott, a native of Glasgow, Scotland and the ninth of 12 children, emigrated to Canada with his family in the early 1960s.
He grew up with a deep appreciation for traditional folk music which he has been blessed to share with global audiences since Conrad Black helped finance his first record after hearing the former Toronto Sun circulation manager sing at a newspaper Christmas party.
His professional career blossomed after his 1992 independent release of “Danny Boy” was picked up by EMI records. His first concert was Oct. 5, 1993 as the opening act for The Chieftains in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in Halifax where he was greeted to a full house and roaring welcome.
McDermott has not only toured solo but also as part of the acclaimed Irish Tenors which he founded.
And he actively raises funds for his foundation, McDermott House Canada, which is dedicated to improving the remaining days of veterans suffering from terminal illness.
During his career, McDermott has enjoyed triple-platinum sales of his alums and earned multiple Juno award nominations. A personal friend of the late U.S. senator Edward Kennedy, McDermott sang at the politician’s funeral.
The anniversary tour will offer fans a retrospective of McDermott’s storied career and includes songs they have requested.
Before the tour, he asked fans what they wanted to hear and the responses were largely the same, he said Wednesday. Tunes such as “Danny Boy,” “One Small Star,” “Waltzing Matilda” and “Last Rose of Summer” were high on fan lists.
“I’m gonna mix it up,” said McDermott who starts the tour Sunday in Prince Albert, Sask. on his birthday.
The tour will give McDermott an opportunity to tell stories that he might not otherwise do during other shows.
“I’m letting the cat out of the bag a bit,” he said.
A couple of decades after the success of “Danny Boy,” McDermott says he doesn’t know where he’d be if not for his music.
“If I had stayed at the Sun, I wouldn’t be there. It’s a tenth of the size it was. There is no composing department, no photo department and circulation is where they made the cut,” said McDermott, who feels he may have gone into the water treatment industry if his music career hadn’t exploded.
“Everything was in the right place at the right time. I released the ‘Danny Boy’ album for EMI which didn’t expect it to do anything.”
That gave him the chance to start his career, not in smoky bars as an after-thought, but opening for the legendary Chieftains.
“It was a real experience,” one which taught him a valuable lesson — never have an opening act, he said.
“People are there to see what’s on the ticket so I’ve always had up-and-coming artists in the band or I’ve brought them up on stage with me,” he said.
“At the end of the day, you want them to go out and steal the show.”
His first fiddle player was a 17-year-old phenomenon named Ashley MacIsaac who went onto forge his own stellar career. When he left the band, McDermott found a talented replacement in Natalie MacMaster.
Concert-goers have a chance to win a five-day tour for two to Normandy which includes the Vimy Ridge monument through his McDermott House charity.
McDermott will draw 10 tickets from each show to be put in the entry box. Others can enter by going to
While McDermott hasn’t performed with the Irish Tenors for a decade, he’d welcome the chance to reunite with his former mates, he said.
After losing his mother and two siblings in 2002, McDermott stepped back from his career for awhile and that included his performances with the Tenors.
But now “I’d do a reunion with those guys in a heartbeat.”

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