Men of the Deeps

July 8, 2009

‘The Men of the Deeps’

The group based in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, are North America’s only male chorus. The choir is comprised of coal miners, ranging in age from their mid-thirties to their late seventies. To be a member of the choir you have to have proof of mining experience.

Men of the Deeps have been together since 1967, and they have performed in Yugoslavia, China, the U.S., and across Canada.
The musical director, John C. O’Donnell, was awarded The Order of Canada for his work with the group. Sixty year old group spokesman Yogi Muise, who worked underground in the mines in the ’60s before becoming a high school teacher said;
“The guys are real. We sing about people losing their lives. I got a guy who sings bass right along side of me, and he lost his only son in a coal mining accident. Quite often, I look at him and there’s a tear going down his eye.”
“It was kinda rough when the weather was nice outside,” he recalls. “You knew where you were going. You were going down under the ocean and it wasn’t always a pleasant chore. But it was a job.”

The group toured China in 1976. They have also toured Canada and the USA as well as Yugoslavia. They have recorded several albums which have been released on a major record label. They have appeared in films, on television and on radio.

They’re a favorite of Rita MacNeil, who paid them tribute in a touching tune called Working Man and have toured with her.


Director John Walker was born in Montréal, Quebec. His documentary of the men who once mined the coal in Cape Breton gives the viewer a true feeling of what the lives of the miners and their families were like. Walker found a good mix with footage of miners working underground and interviews with the men interspersed with the powerful voices and images of the choir.

The men with that special Caper Breton wit tell funny, terrifying and tragic stories. To round out the feeling of family and community Walker brings us into their homes to listen to the views of a few wives of the miners as they sit around the kitchen table and share their thoughts and feelings.

With the mines now shut down, the men keep the 300-year old tradition alive with a choir called Men of the Deeps.
One ex-miner works in a call centre. HE SAYS If the mine reopens, he’ll go back underground without even bothering to clean out his desk.

Mr. Walker shot Men of the Deeps on 35-mm film although today, most documentaries are made on video.

Thank you Mr. John Walker for using your talant to let us see into the lives of the men we love – the very talanted and wonderful “The Men of the Deeps”


Want to contribute? Leave a comment!