Tenor honoured with commemorative plaque

Irish-born tenor John McCormack was today honoured with a commemorative plaque at the house where he lived in London while launching his international career.

Irish-born tenor John McCormack was today honoured with a commemorative plaque at the house where he lived in London while launching his international career.

The English Heritage blue plaque was unveiled at 24 Ferncroft Avenue, Hampstead, by the tenor’s grandson John McCormack, in front of family, friends, well-wishers and members of the John McCormack Society.

The world-renowned singer, who was born in Athlone, Co Westmeath, had lived in the house between 1908 and 1913.

Emily Cole, head of the blue plaques team for English Heritage said: “John McCormack is receiving the plaque really for his importance in the musical world, and for his diversity of range – he did so much, from Mozart to Irish folk songs.”

Ms Cole said the plaque was also in commemoration of the importance to his career of his time in London, as he gained his big break at Convent Garden Opera House, and then embarked on his international singing career while living at the house.

She said all nominations for blue plaques come from members of the public, and following a short report and a committee decision that a person should be honoured, detailed address research is undertaken to find a suitable site for the commemorative plaque.

Ms Cole said the current residents of the private residence in Ferncroft Avenue were absolutely delighted with their blue plaque.

“They didn’t know that he had lived here, and now they’ve become interested in his work, which is great,” she said.

McCormack, who was born in 1884, began his singing career by winning the gold medal in the tenor section of Ireland’s annual music competition, the ‘Feis Ceoil’, in 1903.

In 1905 he went to Milan for vocal studies and made his operatic debut in 1906 in Mascagni’s ‘L’Amico Fritz’.

After moving to London in 1907 John McCormack became the youngest tenor to sing at Covent Garden Opera House, appearing as Turiddu in ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ at the age of 23.

He went on to sing parts including the Duke in ‘Rigoletto’, Alfredo in ‘La Traviata’ and Count Almaviva in ‘The Barber of Seville’ and also took to the stage in Australia and New York.

His wide repertoire also included well-known folk songs such as ‘The Rose of Tralee’ and ‘I Hear You Calling Me’.

He became an American citizen in 1919, before making a triumphant return to England in 1924 and then going on to become one of the highest-paid performing and recording artists in the world in the 1930s.

McCormack retired in 1942 and died three years later at his home in Booterstown, Co Dublin.

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