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October 1, 2001

McDermott Offers Inspiration in Midst of Sentimental Songs

By Murray Lyons

An evening with John McDermott brought tears to the eyes of many Sunday evening at Centennial Auditorium.

For some it was thoughts of family members killed in the war when Scottish-Australian songwriter Eric Bogle sang The Green Fields of France with McDermott singing harmony.  For others who lost a father recently, it was the touching sentiment in the song, The Old Man.

How clever of this newspaperís former owner, Conrad Black, to have recognized a talented tenor when he heard one and rescued McDermott from a life in the circulation department of the Toronto Sun. A voice like McDermottís doesnít come round these parts too often and the auditorium was an appreciative group in their Sunday best, the aging demographics of Saskatchewan on display.

It may be that generation who feels the tug of the ancient songs of the British Isles, but McDermott is a man who respects older generations and pays homage to them in songs such as the Skye Boat song or Scotland the Brave.

McDermott also like to highlight Canadian songwriters, and he did Sunday with Cape Bretonís Alistair McGillivrayís sentimental ballad, Songs for the Mira.

It wasnít hard to imagine that many people in the audience felt the deep love McDermott sang about in another Canadian tune, Love Remembers When, a song about a woman who still sees her husbandís love through the fog of Alzheimerís.

McDermottís wry sense of humour and kindness was evident. To a man coughing in the front row, he grabbed one of his bottles of water and handed it out to him.

And his advice to the audience: "You can sing if you want to , because Iím not sitting next to you."

In the end, people couldnít help themselves but sing along to Danny Boy, the words brilliantly foreshadowed by Belfast-born Eamonn Dillon on the Uillean pipes.  Speaking of Belfast, Saskatoon people of a certain generation got to hear Belfast -born Eileen Laverty, the former E. D. Feehan teacher who is well on her way to singer-songwriting fame. Laverty was on stage alone to open the second set and sang Tread Softly and Broadway, a fine introduction to an audience, most of whom likely havenít frequented the bars on Broadway where Laverty has made her mark on the local music scene.

The audience loved Bogle and his humorous accounts of how songs came to be written, including one for his Scottish Mom, Leaving Nancy and a rousing tale, Endangered Species, about the disappearing White Anglo Saxon Male.

Bogle set up the scene for McDermott to sing One Small Star, a song Bogle wrote about the children of Dunblane, Scotland school massacre, relating it to events of Sept. 11, a true song of inspiration and hope amid grief.

Letís hope the John McDermott cottage industry has a few more CDs, TV specials and concert tours in years to come.

Thank-you, Conrad Black.