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Tenor John McDermott on happiness Add to ...

Tenor John McDermott's latest album is Journeys.

Some European governments are moving away from using strictly GDP to measure a nation's success and recognizing intangibles, such as "happiness." How does one measure happiness?

It is a very personal measurement. We all measure it in different ways.

On a daily basis, I deal with your average blue-collar, after-tax person. I meet them in the lobby before the show and at intermission. There is a genuine excitement and happiness and looking forward to me doing something that will make them feel good.

If you were the CEO of a company that was going to make their stock rise 8 per cent, might they not get the same expectation of happiness?

I don't think so. It's not about that. It is an emotional measurement.

So happiness can be measured by more than money alone?


Can money buy happiness?


Can it rent it for a while?

No. I don't think it can buy it or rent it. It's an inner feeling of contentment.

Are you happy?

Extremely happy.

Right at this moment?

Yes. I tell you, I have never been more centred in my life than I am today. What I do for a living is not a right, it's a privilege, and that privilege is offered me by an audience. Artists forget this. Most artists, I might say. I thank my audience every night for the privilege to do this for a living. Because it's so much fun.

That may have answered my next question, but I'll ask anyway. Where are you happiest?

I'm happy on stage. Really happy. I'm happy off-stage. When I hear an old song or a line or a verse of a centuries-old piece and think, 'Oh, God, we could make something of that!' That's a feel-good situation.

I'm up north of Parry Sound [Ont.] right on the bay: mid-February, three feet of ice. Happiness is when the tour is done and I go north and pull into the driveway and my wife and the three dogs are there. My wife is happy to see me and the dogs are going out of their minds, not having seen me for two months, spinning in circles.

Is a "feel-good situation" different from happiness?

I think it is. Happiness is a sense of contentment that is almost a flat line - an emotional state where you are content.

The opposite end of the spectrum from the dogs spinning in circles?


What would make the new year "happy" for you?

I wish I'd get a mysterious donor to donate $3.6-million to the palliative care unit at [Toronto's]Sunnybrook Hospital. That would thrill me no end. That would be the important one. I'm not a "hard goods" guy. I hope I get a lot of time on the bay.

What would make for a happy new year for the country?

What would make it a happy new year would be for the government we have elected to make progress, in a positive way, to improve the lives of all of our citizens. Maybe this year they will get something done.

That would be measurable progress on an economic front. What about progress on that unquantifiable "happy" front? Can they achieve that?

No. You know what would make a lot of people happy though? If the Leafs won the Stanley Cup! But that is just a dream … just a dream.

Charitable donations to McDermott House Canada Foundation for Sunnybrook's palliative care unit can be made at any Bank of Nova Scotia branch.

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