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An evening of songs and stories with John McDermott

By Celina Ip



Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott will be bringing his songs and stories to Pembroke later this month.


McDermott, formerly a member of The Irish Tenors, is one of Canada’s most beloved male vocalists who is best known for his stirring renditions of traditional tunes such as ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Loch Lomund’.

Over the past 20-plus years, the 62-year-old musician has forged a career in traditional Celtic music that has resulted in a string of more than 30 critically-acclaimed studio albums that began with the double platinum ‘Danny Boy’ in 1993 up until his most recent album ‘Raised on Songs and Stories’ which was released in 2016 and received rave reviews.

Throughout his career, McDermott has shared his musical talents with audiences across Canada and around the world, including at least a dozen performances at Pembroke’s Festival Hall.

Currently on a tour for ‘Raised on Songs and Stories’, McDermott is eager to be revisiting Pembroke on April 28 with his two-person band (as The John McDermott Trio) to share these heartfelt songs and stories with an audience of both new and familiar faces that he’s met over the years.

“I’ve been touring for so many years but it’s always fun and always a new experience because we perform different material every time and meet new and old fans along the way,” said McDermott. “And it's always nice to tour through that part of the province, the Ottawa Valley, at this time of year coming out of winter.”

From that new album, the audience can expect to hear traditional ballads and hymns that pay homage to McDermott’s Scottish heritage – such as ‘Flower of Scotland’, ‘The Rose of Allendale’, ‘The Bluebells of Scotland’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

McDermott expressed that all of these songs are deeply engraved in his roots – as they were instilled within him from the time he was a child growing up in Glasgow, Scotland and then later on when his family moved to Toronto and he joined the revered St. Michael’s School Choir.

“It is very much a Scottish recording with song that I grew up on,” said McDermott. “They’re traditional songs that many people will know and remember – songs about family and about Scotland.”

One of the songs that McDermott is particularly eager to sing is The Dubliners’ “The Rare Ould Times’ as it is a song which spans generations with a story that many can relate to.

“It’s a song about change as it tells the tale of this fella who has lost touch with his roots and with his childhood because his city has changed so much over the years – it's become a city of concrete and steel, as opposed to a town,” said McDermott. “I can relate to it as my family moved to Toronto in 1965 when the tallest building was the Royal York Hotel but now it’s one of the smallest buildings in downtown.”

Along with those from his most recent album, McDermott will also be performing many of the more popular songs from across his lengthy career – including his alluring cover of the ancient Irish ballad ‘Danny Boy’ - along with some thematic songs to honour mothers with Mother’s Day approaching.

“A lot of the songs that we're doing bring back memories for people because they go back to several generations – so they might bring back some fond memories of family or of childhood. So there's a real memory of attachment for people in the songs and it's a very moving experience – it's kind of a soft roller coaster ride,” said McDermott.

The John McDermott Trio will be performing at Festival Hall on April 28 with doors opening at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $49.50 and are available online at or by calling 613-735-2182.

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