Scottish tenor sings for love

  • Published in Lake Style

Tenor John McDermott to perform at Sacred Heart Church Friday for Laconia Putnam Fund

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — John Charles McDermott, a Scottish-Canadian tenor best known for his rendering of the songs "Danny Boy" and "Loch Lomond," will present a concert for the Laconia Putnam Fund on Friday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at the Sacred Heart Church.

The concert is free and people planning to attend are reminded that they should arrive early in order to have a seat for the performance.

McDermott, whose professional career began at the age of 38, says he never imagined that he would enjoy the kind of success he has had as a singer, and that his life is an example of being in the right place at the right time.

For his parents' 50th wedding anniversary, McDermott recorded an album of Irish and Scottish ballads that he had grown up singing with his family, and, when people heard it, they encouraged him to produce it commercially. It led to his career as a world-famous tenor.

McDermott was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1955, but grew up in Willowdale, Ontario, where his family of 12 had moved in 1965.

After singing at weddings for a few years, he joined with several other choristers to form a group, named The Mistletones, in 1980.

He performed "The Ballad of Harry Warden," the closing theme of the Canadian slasher film “My Bloody Valentine” (1981).

Starting in 1988, he has regularly been called upon to sing the national anthems at Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Maple Leafs games. From 1984 through 1992, he worked as a circulation representative for the Toronto Sun; Conrad Black heard him singing at company parties. Black, along with other executives, financed McDermott's independent recording of "Danny Boy" in 1992, which was picked up and released in North America by EMI Music Canada.

Following this unexpected success, McDermott decided to pursue a professional singing career.

"I got into the business when I was 38, when most people are getting out," says McDermott. "I never had any intention of  leaving my job as a newspaper circulation rep. I was busy, it was a seven-day-a-week job, and I enjoyed it. I had no intention of going off and becoming an artist.”

He said that he realized he had made the right decision to become a professional singer when he gave his first live performance at The Rebecca Cohen Theater, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in October 1993.

“It was a sold-out show and the audience felt like they were sitting right in my living room, that's how comfortable it felt,” said McDermott.

McDermott claims he inherited his voice from his late father, Peter. He dedicated his album, “Love is a Voyage,” to his father and it includes a track by his father recorded in 1958.

He is also a  strong supporter of  veterans. His father served in the Royal Air Force in the U.K., while his uncle died in the notorious Changi Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Malaya. Two cousins were killed in Vietnam while another took his own life 10 years after the war.

McDermott received the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation in 2010 and he is also an honorary member of the War Amps of Canada.

Through his not-for-profit organization, McDermott House Canada, the singer has worked trying to raise $3.6 million to enhance and expand the palliative care unit, K-Wing Veterans Center, at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital. Palliative care was front and center for McDermott when his sister, Alice, died from cancer. The family tried to find her palliative care, but there weren't any spots available, so the woman's daughters took care of her at home until she died.

He says that the experience robbed two of his nieces of their teen years and put his focus on palliative care and hospice.

11 29 John McDermott

Tenor John McDermott will perform in a Putnam Fund concert Friday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church. (Courtesy photo)