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The Tennesseean   - November 2, 2000 

Celtic Memories

     By Alan Bostick

Former Irish Tenor promises a soft roller coaster ride' at TPAC

artist photo  
John McDermott is due here this weekend to perform with the Nashville Symphony.  
No, John McDermott is no longer a member of the Irish Tenors, who recently hatched public TV phenom with a name and concept snatched from Pavarotti and company.

It seems that McDermott, a specialist in classic Irish and Scottish music, is now on his own again -- and coming to Nashville this weekend for a pair of Nashville Symphony pops concerts.

Billed as a "Celtic Celebration," McDermott is one half of a program that also includes Eileen Ivers, the Irish fiddler of Riverdance fame, a progressive player with traditional roots.

Speaking from Toronto, where he now lives, McDermott, 45, said his show is not exactly a sit-back-and-stare type of thing.

"I call it a bit of a soft roller coaster ride emotionally," he said. "The material I do is often in the classical vein, the traditional vein, and will prompt memories. It's sort of like a sense of smell that would bring back a memory."

We're talking Danny Boy, Galway Bay, The Old Man and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. As the last selection might suggest, McDermott has a particular interest in American war veterans, and likes the idea of speaking to their experience through his music.

Clearly, this is no run-of-the-mill crooner with one eye on his audience, the other on his bank balance.

Despite the connotation of the name Irish Tenors, for instance, he makes clear that opera is not his forte, even if he describes his two former singing mates, Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan, as "classically trained opera singers."

"I wouldn't know opera if it kicked me in the teeth," he said.

But he does know success, as evidenced by eight albums and live orchestra gigs with the likes of the Boston Pops and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Pops director Ronn Huff, who has fashioned this concert that also includes Nashville Pipes and Drums, has said this concert reflects a bit of a new pops strategy, which is beginning to depart from the standard formula.

"John and Eileen connect with people of all ages and backgrounds," he said. "Their music is both contemporary and timeless, and few other artists are able to generate such strong emotional responses to their music."

If you find yourself trying to place McDermott's accent -- and he does like to tell stories during his shows -- don't even bother.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland of Irish parents, McDermott lives in Toronto and works out of Boston, with family in North and South Carolina. He has dual Canadian-British citizenship. Go figure.

getting there...

Nashville Symphony offers Celtic-oriented pops concerts at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday in TPAC's Jackson Hall, 505 Deaderick St. Tickets: $20-$60 via Ticketmaster at 255-ARTS (2787).