June 7, 2001
John McDermott Sings at Lehman College
By Howard Goldin
Irish tenor John McDermott impressed the audience at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night with this fine voice, pleasant personality, amusing and interesting stories and his choice of material.
The Scottish born tenor, who immigrated to Canada at the age of nine with his parents and siblings in 1965, began the program with a number of folk songs from Britain, Ireland, Scotland and Canada. H explained that, ìsome of the songs tonight are memory songs. A song is a song, regardless of who you are, will have something attached or a meaning to you.î A hush accompanied the ballads ìI am a sailorî, ìFlow Gently Sweet Aftonî and ìGalway Bayî during which many in the audience were probably recalling the important times in their lives. Before beginning ìSong for the Miraî written by Canadian Alistair McGilvrey he said, ìthis song is about remembering where you came from. As you listen to this song, find your own [roots] Marion Bridge.î
McDermottís comments and the lyrics to many of his songs were quite emotional and very touching. ìOne Small Starî ,written by Eric Bogle, was a remembrance of a young child killed during a massacre. Singer and songwriter Bogle will perform on the bill with McDermott during his veteranís tour from September 15 through November 18. ìAnd I Miss Him, the Old Manî is an adultís tribute to his departed father. ìLove Remembers Whenî is a story about love between the composerís aunt and uncle that transcended the uncleís death from Alzheimerís disease. During the sentimental American wartime standard ìIíll Be Seeing Youî McDermott invited a couple from the audience to dance.
The final part of the concert was a tribute to veterans. McDermott, who performed the National Anthem at the nationally televised National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. last week, is known for his tireless effort on behalf of the homeless veterans. His foundation, the Hope McDermott Fund, supports McDermott Center, a multi-purpose facility for veterans in Boston and McDermott House, a veteranís transitional housing facility in Washington, D.C. He spoke about the concert in Washington and said, ìMemorial Day was a terribly emotional day all across the countryî. He advised the members of the audience to take the time to show individual appreciation to all the veterans who are still alive. McDermott said, ìthey [the veterans] should be celebrated on a daily basisÖ.Everyday is Veteranís Dayî
McDermottís Scottish heritage and his pride were exhibited by the rousing manner and heartfelt emotion he displayed in his closing number before intermission ìScotland the Braveî and in the song next to closing in the concert ìLoch Lomand.î He always decides his finale, ìDanny Boyî to his deceased mother and father. He added an additional dedication to the late Congressman John Joseph Moakley of Boston who was buried on the previous day. Choked with emotion, McDermott praised Moakley as ìone of the good guysî who did so much for veteranís affairs.
A talented trio, Ray Lagere on fiddle and banjo, Rick Whitlock on guitar and musical director Brigham Phillips on keyboards backed McDermott.
The threesome also performed a lengthy instrumental during which each musician displayed his skill. The audience responded with a prolonged ovation after the number ended. McDermott, although performing professionally for less than a decade, has a great stage presence.