Down memory lane with John McDermott

Highly-acclaimed Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott performs at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre April 14.

Highly-acclaimed Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott performs at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre April 14.

Highly-acclaimed Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott performs at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre April 14.

John McDermott is an international recording star and a household name.

He’s soon to embark on a tour across B.C., making sure to stop in Chilliwack to delight audiences on April 14.

“It’ll be a relaxing trip down memory lane,” McDermott told The Progress, with plenty of stories along the way.

This Scottish-Canadian tenor moved from Glasgow to Toronto when he was 10 years old, with his musically-inclined parents Peter and Hope, and his eleven siblings.

While he took a few years of formal musical training at St. Michael’s School Choir in the ‘70s, most of his experience as a singer draws from family sing-alongs and casual ditties with friends and coworkers.

As a young adult, he decided to record an album of Irish and Scottish ballads for his parents’ 50th anniversary, including an a cappella version of ‘Danny Boy,’ one of his father’s favourites.

McDermott’s stunning rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ appeared to be a favourite for far more than his family. When it was commercially re-produced by EMI Music Canada in 1992, it launched his musical career.

That first album introduced the world to the incredible vocal stylings – and the charm – of John McDermott. It quickly garnered national media attention and sold more than 50,000 copies.

Embracing the opportunity to pursue a professional career as a vocalist, he steadily grew from an opening act to a headliner as he toured the globe, from Great Britain to New Zealand.

He’s toured with The Irish Tenors, renowned symphonies, as well as his own bands. He’s been heading up recent performances with the McDermott Trio, alongside Maury LaFoy and Jason Fowler.

While they consistently change things up, ‘Danny Boy’ always makes the setlist.  “It’s such a beautiful piece,” he said, and he’s still learning more about it’s history. Just two years ago, he discovered that it was first recorded in Montreal in 1912 by John McCormack.

McDermott now has more than 25 albums to his credit, many of which pay tribute to his Irish roots, his family, and to honour his commitment to the veterans.

The cause is close to home for McDermott. His father served in the Royal Air Force, his mother’s brother died in a prisoner-of-war camp, two of his cousins were killed in Vietnam, and another took his own life after serving there.

Back in 1994, John’s father attended a show in Toronto. “He said to me, ‘Son, you might be good at this, and if you are, find a way to give back to Canada, to the veterans,’” McDermott recalled.

To do just that, McDermott has pledged to raise $3.6 million to refurbish the veterans’ palliative care unit at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. Through his charitable foundation McDermott House Canada, he consistently performs at fundraisers, and every year he hosts private concerts for Canadian vets and their families.

McDermott has been awarded the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honour Society’s Bob Hope Award, and was commended by the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs for his ongoing work.

With an abundance of incredible material in his vocal catalogue and a stellar career filled with platinum albums and multiple Juno nominations, this Celtic balladeer continues to enjoy a solid international touring schedule.

“We never get tired of it,” he said. “And every show is different.”

Time and travel have introduced McDermott to a wealth of new experiences.  His latest release Raised on Songs and Stories (2015) is “a bit of a nod to my traditional material, and a tip of the hat to my Irish heritage,” he said.

A first for McDermott, this album is a continual flow of music with instrumental interludes rather than breaks between songs.

On this tour, he’ll flow that together with tracks from Traditionally Yours (2014) and The Contender (2014).

“And we’ll play some of the old favourites, you can’t forget those,” he assured.

John McDermott performs at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre (9201 Corbould St.) April 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $51, available at the Centre Box Office, at chilliwackculturalcentra.ca, or at 604-391-7469.