Courtesy of Boston College, John J. Burns Library
On February 5, 1911, famed Irish tenor John McCormack made his debut at Boston Symphony Hall, one of the great concert venues of the world. Between 1911 and 1936 he performed there sixty-seven times, more than any other singer.
McCormack’s arrival on the music scene was timely, since the Irish influence on America’s songbook was beginning to wane. McCormack temporarily reversed this trend by restoring a high standard for Irish melodies. He also added credibility to Irish-American songsters like Chauncey Olcott and Ernest Ball, who co-wrote McCormack’s first hit “Mother Machree,” in 1910. Of McCormack’s rendition of “Mother Machree,” author Mark Sullivan observed, “true Irish songs enabled a singer to be sentimental without causing shivers to the discriminating listener.”
The Irish Music Collection at Boston College's John J. Burns Library has an important collection of materials about John McCormack. And the Archival Collection at Boston Symphony Hall has programs from McCormack's concerts between 1911 and 1936, plus various newspaper clippings.
Excerpt from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past, by Michael Quinlin, published by Globe Pequot Press.