John Francis McCormack

(14/06/1884 - 16/09/1945)

John Francis McCormack, KSG, KSS, KHS (14 June 1884 – 16 September 1945), was an Irish tenor known for his performances in both opera and popular songs. He was admired for his exceptional diction and breath control, earning him recognition as a Papal Count. Born in Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland, McCormack was the second son of Andrew McCormack and Hannah Watson. His parents, originally from Galashiels, Scotland, worked at the Athlone Woollen Mills. John McCormack road in Walkinstown is named after him.

McCormack received his early education from the Marist Brothers in Athlone and later attended Summerhill College in Sligo. His talent for singing was recognized early, and he won the coveted gold medal at the Dublin Feis Ceoil in 1903. He began his professional career in 1906 with his operatic debut in Italy. McCormack’s association with prominent figures like James Joyce and his natural voice led him to become one of the youngest principal tenors at Covent Garden.

In addition to his opera performances, McCormack gained immense popularity as a concert artist. Known for his remarkable breath control, he could sing challenging pieces with ease, such as Mozart’s “Il mio tesoro” from Don Giovanni. McCormack made numerous recordings, becoming one of the most popular artists for the Victor Talking Machine Company. He was particularly celebrated for his renditions of Irish folk songs and nationalist tunes, contributing to the cultural identity of Ireland.

In 1917, McCormack became a naturalised American citizen, and he later contributed generously to the World War I effort. His career was financially successful, earning him millions from record sales and performances. Accompanied by pianist Edwin Schneider, McCormack toured extensively, captivating audiences across Europe and the United States.

Despite his success, McCormack faced health challenges, including emphysema, which eventually led to his retirement from singing in 1943. He passed away on September 16, 1945, at his home in Booterstown, Dublin, leaving behind a legacy of musical excellence.

McCormack received numerous honours throughout his life, including papal knighthoods and titles. His contribution to Irish music and culture was commemorated through statues, plaques,street-naming and even a collectors coin issued by the Central Bank of Ireland. Today, he is remembered as one of the greatest lyric tenors of the 20th century, admired for his technical skill, emotional expressiveness, and lasting impact on the world of music.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Singer for whom John McCormack Avenue in Walkinstown is named after.