He has been performing traditional Irish music since 1978 when he began playing with McDermott's Handy. Knowing his reputation and ability to play anything, Kathy DeAngelo, the band's founder and his future wife, asked him to fill in on mandolin. Having played bluegrass mandolin, he figured he could learn a bunch of Irish tunes and handle the gig. The one gig turned into many and Dennis' interest in his Irish roots was sparked. The rest, they say, is history.
Dennis, of course, branched out to other instruments within McDermott's Handy. Mandolin led to the bouzouki. Bouzouki eventually gave way to a renewed interest in guitar in the DADGAD tuning. His tasteful guitar accompaniment highlights McDermott's Handy performances. He plays flute and tinwhistle with McDermott's Handy as well. Dennis is a versatile sideman and has played bass, guitar and keyboards in numerous other bands, including bluegrass with the Lewis Brothers, jazz and swing music with the Jack McGann Swing Band, bass with Steve Goodman, and country music with Saul Broudy. At the time they met, Dennis was teaching music at the Haddonfield Conservatory of Music, having been a music major at Glassboro State College (now named Rowan) in the early 70s. He taught music for 11 years.
Besidesperforming with McDermott's Handy and a number of Irish ceili bands in thePhiladelphia area, Dennis is still performing with Saul Broudy and he's theoccasional member of the old-timey band, Rorschach County Ramblers. He's alsostill teaching, now Irish music exclusively on tinwhistle, flute andguitar.
Kathy started out her folk music career by revitalizing the Mine Street Coffeehouse in New Brunswick in 1973. The Mine Street Coffeehouse became "the" place in central New Jersey for all kinds of traditional music and also served as a springboard for Kathy's other musical interests. The coffeehouse, by the way, still operates today and is located in the basement of the 1st Reformed Church at Neilson & Bayard Streets in New Brunswick on Saturday nights. Having booked the coffeehouse for two solid years, Kathy then directed the music for the first New Jersey Folk Festival in 1975.
McDermott's Handy was formed in 1977 when Kathy's friends at the New Jersey Folk Festival asked her to put together a tribute to the old fiddler for the festival. She gathered a number of musicians who had all learned Irish music from Mac. The tribute band consisted of Kathy (guitar), Barry Midderhoff (mandolin), Dick Levine (concertina), Joe Donovan (tinwhistle), and John Berger and Jack Davis (fiddles). She called it McDermott's Handy, which was the name of a set of tunes Gordon Bok had on an early album which he learned from Ed McDermott.
McDermott's Handy has existed ever since in various configurations. Kathy and Dennis began performing together in 1978. Kathy began learning fiddle in 1978 and Dennis valiantly endured--they married in 1979, and Dennis hasn't been able to get out of the band since! They released their album, "Come Take the Byroads" in 1985.
Kathy now teaches harp and fiddle in their Voorhees, NJ home. In addition to her gigs with McDermott's Handy, created You Gotta Have Harp Productions, produces and manages two major harp events every year: the Somerset Folk Harp Festival and the HarpersEscape Weekend.