John McDermott has been recording his tender, soaring renditions of Scottish and Irish ballads for a quarter century and on March 17 the Canadian tenor will join the Vancouver Island Symphony for the first time for for a pair of St. Patrick’s Day performances.
McDermott will take to Nanaimo’s Port Theatre stage with the Nanaimo-based ensemble at 3 and 7:30 p.m. He said he’ll be leaning more on the traditional Irish repertoire, “from Galway Bay to Danny Boy to Toora-Loora-Looral.” He calls it “an easy trip down memory lane.”
Memory lane has been on McDermott’s mind as of late. It’s been 25 years since the singer released his debut album, Danny Boy, launching his musical career. Looking back he said it’s a nice milestone to reach and even wishes he’d started sooner.
“It’s still fun doing what we do, it’s still encouraging,” he said. “It’s a very difficult business, I know that much nowadays, but we’ve been blessed that we’ve got a great following, a great fan base and we’re able to do an annual tour.”
On March 25 McDermott will be releasing a two-DVD retrospective, covering his beginnings as a recording artists in the early-90s and including an unaired concert from around 2000.
“It was a PBS show and the record company and PBS didn’t really communicate so it was never really released,” he said.
“So I’ve managed to finally get it that I can release it, and release it along with some very early footage when I first started out.”
But McDermott is not content to dwell on the past. A new CD of Irish music is on the way that will be feature stories and personal history behind the music, as told by Irish elders.
“I look for songs that are not overdone, songs that are traditional and have a history to them,” he said.
“And I like to have a story behind the piece. Most of the pieces that I do were written for a reason.”
McDermott will be sharing those stories when he performs in Nanaimo. He said a lot of people feel deep connections to those timeless Irish ditties.
“A lot of the songs are reflective back on people’s youth and their heritage and family and there’s maybe a memory attached to someone or something or someplace.”
WHAT’S ON … The Vancouver Island Symphony presents Irish and Scottish Favourites with John McDermott at the Port Theatre on Saturday, March 17 at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $38 to $59, $18 for students, $5 eyeGO passes. Tickets available at the box office.