Publication: Richmond Times-Dispatch
Byline: Tom Netherland
Date: 03-27-2003
Edition: City
Section: Area/State

Fortune does not shine upon us all. Regardless of age, gender or race, life's eight ball rolls as it wishes.

Send in the miracle workers.

Irish Tenor John McDermott and the St. Andrews Society of Richmond are among North America's many charitable souls. Next week, the two combine forces for McDermott's concert, "A Return to Scotland," at the Carpenter Center as part of a regionwide celebration of Scottish culture.

McDermott, an original member of The Irish Tenors currently on leave from the group, cut his usual price by about 20 percent, St. Andrews' President Bill Swackhamer said. For its part, the Scottish- themed organization will donate proceeds to five charities.

"That's the amazing aspect of it," McDermott said by phone from Nashville on Friday. "All the proceeds - not half or a percentage - all of the proceeds they get from this goes right back to the charities, which is great. It stays right within that community, which is fabulous."

Andrew's Buddies, the Children's Hospital of Richmond, the Children's Hospital of Edinburgh, the Museum of American Frontier Culture in Staunton and the St. Andrews Legion Pipes and Drums Band will benefit from the concert's proceeds.

"We need to sell about 1,300 seats to get the fees for the artist, to get the fees for the advertising and the fees for the venue," Swackhamer said.

Given that tickets retail for $49.50 each, 400 tickets above the break-even point would cull nearly $20,000. That's quite a step above the society's previous fund-raising efforts, which have included bake sales and sales of cook books.

"Somebody said we ought to put on a concert," Swackhamer said. "So we thought, why not get one of The Irish Tenors down here?"

Not just any singer, mind you. Rewind to 1991. Then-36-year-old McDermott worked as a circulation manager for the Toronto Sun newspaper.

An amateur singer since childhood, he recorded an album as a gift for his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. A copy found its way to executives at EMI Records in Canada and faster than you can say "Danny Boy," McDermott was on a major record label.

In the decade since, the Scottish-born singer has found fame, has sold millions of albums and has toured the world.

But McDermott's had a lifelong penchant for charitable work.

"Mum went down twice a week to the Good Shepard refuge in Toronto for 30 years just to serve lunch to the guys," McDermott said. "Dad went with her."

So service seems to have come naturally to McDermott.

"Let me tell you why I do it," McDermott said. "First, mostly because I can. When you've been given the opportunity through the support of people that you don't know, the general public at large who spend money at my shows, you're in a position that you can share it with those people."

Such a mind-set helps him maintain perspective and not, as the country saying goes, "get above his raising."

"A lot of people are going around out there with the Rock of Gibraltar on their shoulder," he said. "You know, `I came from nothin' and I got all this and I'm keepin' it.' Well, [shoot], I came from nothin' and I got all this and I don't need it."

The concert, Swackhamer said, " will allow us to donate about $3,000-$5,000 to each of these charities. It's our major fund- raising thing for the year."

And they had the good sense to bring one of the world's finest singers.

"If you are not moved after you hear this man sing," Swackhamer said, "you are a coldhearted son of a gun."