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Inquirer, The (PA)

March 28, 2004

Tenor's pipes are calling for charity
He's devoted to singing for veterans' causes Gloria A. Hoffner INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF

John McDermott does more than sing "Danny Boy," the tale of a boy gone off to war. He also devotes his time and talents to the cause of veterans.

An original member of The Irish Tenors of PBS fame, McDermott is to perform a benefit concert Thursday for the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum at the Media Theatre. It will be his sixth visit to Media, where his friend Bob McMahon is mayor in the community known as Everybody's Hometown.

"Bob McMahon is an old friend and a fellow vets advocate, so it's great to come back and visit each year. But it's not just to visit friends," McDermott said.

"Media has become a special place to me and my band because it is America - it feels like the patriotism capital of the U.S.A."

McDermott, 49, who divides his time between homes in Toronto and Boston, met McMahon at a veterans event in the late 1990s. In 2000, McDermott attended the Veterans Day Parade in Media, and for many years he has performed a benefit concert for veterans at the Media Theatre for the Performing Arts.

McMahon served in Vietnam with the Army in 1968 and 1969. McDermott, whose father and maternal uncle were veterans, has been generous to the cause of veterans, especially homeless vets, McMahon said.

"John is a great performer. Certainly when people hear him, they realize his love of veterans," McMahon said.

Thursday's concert will benefit the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum, under construction at 12 E. State St. in Media. According to the museum's Web site, about 1.3 million Pennsylvanians served in World War II, 300,000 in Korea, 400,000 in Vietnam, and 35,000 in the Gulf Wars. There are more than 1.2 million military veterans in Pennsylvania, about 10 percent of the state's population, according to the site.

The museum is to open this fall in the former Media Armory.

In addition to the benefit concert, McDermott is to perform at the Media Theatre, 104 E. State St., at 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. next Sunday.

The Media Theatre is Delaware County's only professional theater, said Jesse Cline, artistic director. It is leased by The Society for the Performing Arts, which sponsors musical theater, children's theater, and a concert series featuring Broadway stars and recording artists such as McDermott.

The ninth of 12 children of Irish parents who emigrated from Scotland to Canada in the 1960s, McDermott was working as circulation manager at the Toronto Sun newspaper when he was discovered 10 years ago at a company party. Since his first album, Danny Boy, for EMI Music Canada, he has recorded nine albums.

With three records that went platinum in Canada; five nominations for the Juno, a Canadian version of the Grammy; and a full touring schedule, McDermott makes time to assist with veterans causes.

Working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the District of Columbia Housing Authority, and the nonprofit Chesapeake Health Education Program, McDermott opened The McDermott House, a home for up to 27 formerly homeless veterans, in Washington in 1999. The next year, he attended the opening of the Hope McDermott Day Program Center at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Boston. Hope is John's late mother, whose brother was killed in World War II.

In 2001, John McDermott received the Bob Hope Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, an award given to entertainers who present a positive portrayal of the U.S. military, and the Chapel of Four Chaplains' Humanitarian Award.

McDermott, along with lyric writer Eric Bogle, created the a CD of "Legacy," a song of praise for veterans. It is sold on McDermott's Web site and by veterans groups, with all profits benefiting veteran charities.

"The evolution of the song 'Legacy' was inspired by places just like Media, and certainly our visits there were part of the inspiration," McDermott said.

"Media is a small town on the edge of Philadelphia, which is a city known for its Irish pride. In fact, there is no shortage of Scots in the area, either. So in a lot of ways, it's a place that feels like home."

John McDermott was discovered at a company party 10 years ago while working as circulation manager for the Toronto Sun newspaper. He has made 10 albums.