John McDermott sings in the key of giving


John McDermott
Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $47.50 Call 780-459-1542 or at

International recording artist John McDermott is a man of many faces.

The Scottish-Canadian tenor sports a ready smile and twinkling eyes, two aspects suggesting charm, humour and a man perfectly at ease spinning tall tales over a pint of beer with friends.

He appears equally relaxed rubbing shoulders with celebrities ranging from Prince Harry,  Prime Minister Trudeau and ambassador Paul Celucci to Chris Rock, Emmylou Harris, Bobby Orr and David Ortiz.

In the course of a near three-decade career, McDermott has enjoyed an abundance of highlights. Some have been electrifying arena shows. Others, small and intimate personal gatherings.

As part of a British Columbia-Alberta tour promoting the 2015 release Raised on Songs & Stories, he stops by the Arden Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 26.

In preparation for his feature appearance, the Gazette asked the Ontario-based singer to share several pinnacle moments of his career.

There was a long pause. There were simply too many said McDermott. Some included: travelling as The Chieftains opening act on their 1993 world tour; performing at the White House and meeting seven presidents from Reagan to Obama; singing at the 1996 Democratic convention and touring the United States as part of the Irish Tenors.

One story he enjoys relating was of the 2003 Nana Mouskouri-Harry Belafonte world tour that was slated to kick off in Victoria. Two days before the tour launch, Belafonte bailed. Mouskouri panicked.

“She contacted the promoter for the Irish Tenors to see if he knew anyone and he recommended me. When he called, I thought he was joking. But I put together two guitar players and flew to Victoria,” McDermott said.

Mouskouri was impressed and the trio played right to the last show mounted at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a steeply walled outdoor theatre in Athens.

“The stage looks straight at the Acropolis and it was lit. I was so amazed by it. I stopped singing and stared at the Acropolis. I said to the audience ‘It’s so breathtaking.’ Someone from the audience shouted back, ‘We know. Sing.'”

It is not only a beautiful voice and sensitive interpretations of traditional works and covers, but also an ability to laugh at himself and weave “Everyman” stories in his patter that has endeared McDermott to audiences.

His Raised on Songs & Stories albums is unique in that every song is linked with a musical interlude. There are no quiet spots on the CD.

“Forty years ago Harry Nilsson did an album like that and I loved it. With this album you can sit down and listen to it from start to finish. You don’t get a jolt from song to song when it stops. It flows very smoothly.”

In 2016, McDermott released An Evening with John McDermott, a limited release that became so popular more copies were pressed, and in 2017 he recorded Some Other Time, a collection of favourite jazz standards. The Arden concert will feature a mix of the three albums.

McDermott uses his voice for more than entertaining crowds and smiling at photo-ops with world leaders. He is an advocate of military veterans and a man of action.

Many in his family have served in the military, and he is deeply proud of their achievements.

As the honorary chair of McDermott Canada House, he performs fundraising concerts that finance the construction of K-Wing Veterans Palliative Centre at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. It serves members of the military and first responders. The goal is to raise $3.6 million.

“There are three phases. The first is complete. The second is underway and there is money in the bank for the third.”

Eager to share stories with his fans, McDermott says, “Our concert is going to be a nice relaxing evening. Bring the kids.”


About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.