Clipping from the Freeman's Journal announcing a 1904 concert featuring James Joyce James Joyce: Music in the Novels and Poems

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Kevin McDermott's earliest musical memories are of John McCormack, whose art and repertoire have remained an important influence in his own career.
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Curriculum Vitae

Portrait of Kevin McDermott, Tenor

Mr. Kevin McDermott

Blessed with a tenor voice of remarkable range and agility, Mr. McDermott received professional vocal training from his father, Raymond McDermott, a noted voice teacher in New York City.

His earliest and fondest musical memories are of Irish tenor John McCormack, whose artistry and repertoire have remained an important influence in his own career. A champion of the neglected art of the popular song recital, Mr. McDermott is internationally known for his concert of Music from the Works of James Joyce, which he has performed throughout the United States and Europe, accompanied by acclaimed pianist Ralph Richey.

It should be noted that Joyce, in his earlier years in Dublin, once sang on the same bill with McCormack. So combining these two admired influences in his life — the writer and the singer — into a single musical program has been a fitting milestone in Mr. McDermott's career.

His love of history has also strongly influenced his activities as a performer. He is the director of Voice, Fiddle and Flute Historical Musical Services, which consults on and performs social and domestic music of the English-speaking world from the 17th to the early 19th centuries at museums and historic sites. He was also the founder of and a vocal soloist with the Boston Excelsior Mandolin Society and the New Boston Ideals, whose activities center around reviving the repertoire of turn-of-the-century plucked-string ensembles.

Virgil Thomson

Another notable milestone in his musical career was his début at London's famed Wigmore Hall, on December 2, 1996, in a "Centenary Celebration" performance of works by the American composer Virgil Thomson. Accompanied by pianists Rodney Lister and David Kopp, Mr. McDermott sang on that occasion a variety of Thomson pieces, including:

  • an aria from the opera Lord Byron;
  • "A Prayer to St. Catherine," from the Mostly About Love song cycle;
  • two settings of texts by Gertrude Stein; and
  • several Shakespeare songs (which Thomson had composed for productions of the Stratford, Connecticut, festival in 1956 and 1957).
D.C. Halls New Concert and Quadrille Band Grand Concert CD

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D.C. Halls New Concert and Quadrille Band Civil War CD

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He is a past winner of the American Musicological Society's Noah Greenberg Award for Excellence in the Performance of Historical Music for his work as vocal soloist with D.C. Hall's New Concert & Quadrille Band, a group devoted to popular American music of the mid-19th century. Recordings of their music are available on the Dorian label:

  • Grand Concert! — Vocal and Instrumental Music Heard in 19th-Century America (DIS-80108)
  • Union & Liberty! — Music Heard on the Northern Homefront during the American Civil War (DOR-90197)

A Classical.net reviewer had this to say about the Civil War music recording:

The concept for this volume [of music]...may sound like a history lesson for college students, but it quickly soars beyond that. Sung by Irish tenor Kevin M'Dermott, these songs are tuneful, poignant, and even rousing emotions that undoubtedly were part of their original design.

Savor the quaint lyrics of Uncle Sam's Farm: "For Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm." Or these lines from The Battle Cry of Freedom: "Nobly strike for God and liberty, let all nations see/How we love our starry banner, emblem of the free." Between the songs are lively instrumentals, like The Columbian Quadrilles, Beauregard's Retreat from Shiloh, and Valliance Polka Militaire. Not only do these tunes hearken back to a distant era, they are also great fun to listen to.

Kevin M'Dermott's lilting voice is perfect for this material, gliding through these songs like a singer caught in an 1860's time-warp. His rendition of the Picture on the Wall sears the heart. It is so well articulated, it draws you in with its touching lyrics. Is there a dry eye in the audience?

Engineered with splendid sound, Union & Liberty is an unforgettable recording.

A Christmas Album CD

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Mr. McDermott can also be heard on A Christmas Album: Music of Rodney Lister, Virgil Thomson, Conrad Susa, Carlisle Floyd, and Charles Ives, an Arsis recording also available through Amazon.com (click on the CD image to go there). The album includes performances by the Choir of the Church of the Advent, Edith Ho & Mark Dwyer, Directors; the Harvard Glee Club, Jameson Marvin, Music Director/Kevin Leong, Conductor; Denise Konicek, soprano; Susan Brownfield, mezzo-soprano; Jennifer Elowitch, violin; Laura Ahlbach, oboe; Kevin Owen, horn; Mark Dwyer, organ; and Rodney Lister, piano.

Of Mr. McDermott's voice, a reviewer for the Audio Critic has written:

He has a distinctly Irish tenor sound; and in sheer vocal quality I would rank him just a smidgen above John McCormack. What? Am I out of my mind? Not at all. I know a great voice when I hear one.

That "Irish" quality of his voice, and also the range of his vocal and theatrical talents, are well represented in the sound clips of selected songs highlighted on this Web site.


June 17, 1904 (?)

Portrait of Michael Balfe

Kevin McDermott and friend Dinah Voorhies, attired as Mr. & Mrs. Leopold Bloom, pay a visit to Stephen's Martello Tower (now a Joyce museum) in Sandycove, in the midst of the James Joyce centennial celebrations, held in Dublin in June of 1982. The piano in the background belonged to the author, and "Poldy" was accorded the signal honor of being permitted to play a song on it during his visit.


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