|Tenor John McDermott performs in Vernon tonight and in Kelowna on Friday.|
With several Juno nominations to his name and many of his more than 25 albums reaching platinum, double-platinum and triple-platinum status, he has plenty of fans across the country that love his voice and ability to bring traditional songs to life.
But as celebrated as he is, McDermott was at one time reluctant to turn to music full-time.
While working in the circulation department of the Toronto Sun in the late '80s, company executives heard him singing at the annual Christmas parties. Impressed with McDermott's talent, some of them financed an independent recording of the traditional song Danny Boy, which got picked up and distributed by EMI.
"It was a risk on their part," he said. "But there were no real expectations."
Although that recording became a surprise success, McDermott still wasn't ready to quit the security of his day job.
"Within six months, I had the record company saying 'You have to quit your job, you have to go on tour.' I said 'I'm not going anywhere, I have a job and there are no guarantees. Are you going to pay my rent?'"
After a year touring as opening act for legendary Irish traditional group The Chieftains, McDermott's fate as a performer was sealed when he took to a Maritime Canada stage one night.
"I remember vividly Oct. 5, 1994," he said. "I walked on the stage at the Rebecca Cohn (theatre) in Halifax and I knew I was doing the right thing.
"That's when I called the newspaper and I said 'I don't think I'll be coming back. One thing led to another and it all worked out."
After two decades in show business, McDermott is celebrating a 20th anniversary tour that brings him to Vernon today for a show at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre and on Friday at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
Best known for his soul-stirring rendition of the traditional song Danny Boy, Toronto-based McDermott got his first break in the business in an unusual way.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, McDermott was the ninth of 12 children. He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1965 with singing in his blood, and graduated from the famed St. Michael's Choir School in Toronto. The alumni include performers such as fellow soloist Michael Burgess, operatic tenor Michael Schade, The Crew-Cuts, Matt Dusk and Barenaked Ladies' Kevin Hearn.
Over two decades, McDermott has also had his share of other good fortune.
"The first tour I ever did, I ended up in Victoria," he said. "And the first fiddler I ever hired was Ashley MacIsaac and we had such a great time at the end of tour in Vancouver â€¦ some great times and magical memories.
"And back in 2003, I got a call from Nana Mouskouri, who was in Victoria, starting her North American tour. Harry Belafonte took ill, so she called me and asked 'Would you fill in for Harry?' I said, 'Sure,' so I started the tour and by the time we hit Montreal, she said 'Why don't you do the rest of the tour with us.'
"So I toured the world."
McDermott's career took a different course when he was asked to join the Irish Tenors. During his tenure with that group, from 1998 to 2000, he toured the world. But the desire to return to singing on his own drew him back.
After leaving the tenors, he struck out on his own again and hasn't looked back.
Always one to give back to his fans, McDermott said he wants to make these shows special.
"For this tour, I want to tell the stories over the last 20 years," he said. "I want to talk about the songs and we're going to share a wonderful evening together with the audience.
"It's been a fabulous trip. Really some highs and lows, and we're going to talk about all of them."
Throughout his career, McDermott has managed to thrive, despite the vagaries of other musical styles that have come and gone. Looking back over the past two decades, McDermott credited the strength of the songs themselves for his longevity.
"It's the material," he said. "The songs still resonate through time. They're old songs, but they're old for a reason. They all carry a great memory for most people and they tell a great story.
"People have an affinity for them."
Who: Scottish/Canadian tenor John McDermott in concert
Where and when: 7:30 p.m. at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre today, Oct. 24 and the Kelowna Community Theatre on Friday, Oct. 25.
Tickets: $47.50 (tax and facility fees included; handling charges may apply). Vernon tickets available at, or by calling 250-549-7469. Kelowna tickets available at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at or by calling 250-985-5000.