Cape Breton coal miners chorus seeking new voices
After half a century of song, the ‘Men of the Deeps’ musical group says it’s committed to discovering new members, but finding it challenging.
The iconic singing coal miners are based in New Waterford, N.S. The singers are currently searching for four new members, but say the choristers require at least two years of experience with coal mining.
For most of his life, Yogi Muise has been a coal miner and he’s also been a member of the choir since the group began more than 50 years ago.
“I can remember standing alongside of Tommy Tye, he lost his son in a mining accident” he says. “When we would sing a song called ‘The 26th Mine Disaster’ I always looked at him and there was always a tear coming down.”
The choir became world famous for its unique repertoire. The men tell stories through song and sing about their lives while working underground.
Ernest Kliza is the group’s newest member who joined in 2014.
“The stories that they tell, the songs that they sing are from the heart,” says Kliza. “If you’re part of that experience or there’s coal mining in your blood, it kind of goes right through you. It’s quite overwhelming at times.”
At one time coal mining was part of Cape Breton's thriving economy, but they’ve all since closed with the exception of the Donkin Mine. Conductor, Stephen Muise says it’s a difficult task to find new members, but it’s important to continue.
“This tradition needs to live on,” says Muise. “This story, this Cape Breton coal mining story needs to live on. There’s a demand across the country for the 'Men of the Deeps' and their story.”
Muise says the group remains an all-male chorus, but if there were enough women interested in joining, the group would consider creating another choir.
“If we thought there was enough interest from women coal miners in the workforce, I’d be up for starting a ‘Women of the Deeps,’” he says.
The group remains the only coal mining choir in North America.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.