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JULY 2, 2006

McDermott mixes in Celtic, patriotic tunes


John McDermott joked that "most Americans and Canadians think I am American."

The Toronto-raised Irish tenor showed a genuine patriotic spirit during his concert Friday night at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, and just in time for the Fourth of July, McDermott treated a filled house to winning selections from "Legacy of the Patriot," his new CD of patriotic songs.

McDermott delivered a stirring rendition of the seldom heard but beautiful "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and a heartfelt "America," which won him a standing ovation. He invited veterans in the audience to stand up and saluted them with "Legacy," a touching song he penned in honor of the victims and rescuers of 9/11.

The singer, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Bob Hope Award, walks the talk. His dedication to veterans' causes has been front and center in both his life and as a theme in his music.

Over two solid sets, McDermott served up a mix of Celtic music, traditional folk tunes, ballads, and a Frank Sinatra standard, "The Wee Hours of the Morning," thrown in for good measure. In a nod to the romantic '40s, McDermott coaxed a couple in the front row to dance while he serenaded them with the hauntingly beautiful "I'll Be Seeing You."

His rich tenor voice soared in heart-tugging renditions of "Danny Boy" and "The Old Man," a bittersweet song about a son's loving memories of his father.

In a tender aside, he referred to items on stage that were much more than props: his mother's scarf and father's cap which were attached to a "magic cane." He kept the cherished mementoes on stage throughout the concert.

The singer has a low-key but engaging stage presence spiced with flashes of wit. He told a silly joke punctuated with funny sound effects provided by his keyboardist. The theater erupted into song after he invited the audience to sing along to "My Bonnie."

He was flanked by four versatile musicians, each of whom got a turn to shine in the spotlight. Guitarist Jason Fowler joined him for a pleasing duet of the folksy tune, "Souvenirs."

The big hit of the evening was guest artist Roseanne MacKenzie, a young performer with an old soul. MacKenzie wowed the audience with her knockout fiddle playing capped by her rousing step dancing. McDermott declared that she'll be joining his tour and he expects to make her a superstar.