Posts Tagged ‘Cape Breton Music’

Men of the Deeps

We drive back to the mining museum in Glace Bay – Dick goes down into the mine on a tour, and I go through the museum, waiting for the group to arrive for their rehearsal.  I have so much respect for these guys before they even start singing. For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t- before I arrived in this area) Men of the Deeps is a choral group made up entirely of miners and retired miners from the Cape Breton area.  When they perform ( they’ve toured China, Yugoslavia, Appalachian coal mining communities and Las Vegas, to name just a few “foreign” venues) they wear their miner’s uniforms, and come on stage lit only by the helmet lamps in their hard hats. They sing about life in the Cape Breton mines and in mining communities, and they sing from the heart, with the voice of experience. We just missed a concert they gave the night before we got to this area.  I console myself by thinking it was already sold out.

So now, in this magical turn of events, I get to sit off to the side in the small auditorium, named for them, while they practice for their upcoming tour through Canada. It’s like a private concert – but I’m only a few feet away.  They’re getting ready to do a Christmas show with Rita MacNeil so they’re working on some background parts, but they also run through some of their own numbers, and it’s breath-taking.  I didn’t take pictures because I felt it would be an intrusion, but I’ll never forget their faces and their voices. Some of them come over and talk with me during their break.  One of them, Nipper MacLeod, is one of the original members – I recognize him from videos in the mining museum.  They are all so friendly, funny, down-to-earth – talent without the pretense.   I hope I get the chance to hear them in a real concert someday.  Until then, I’m going to treasure forever the song they sang at the end of the rehearsal – “for sitting through the whole practice”.  And I was already pretty choked up – just being in their presence… wow.

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Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotai

Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

We choose Point of View RV Park for our stay here.  They have a hotel at the end of a little peninsula, right in town, but the “campground” (more like a nicely appointed parking lot) has views of the water, and since we’re off peak, we’re basically alone in it.  The people who run it are super nice and helpful – and offer a great dinner (tough choice between halibut and lobster) and breakfast deal.  We eat some local halibut and then start our love affair with Cape Breton music.

In Cape Breton, a musical gathering is called a ceilidh -pronounced kay-lee for those of you, who like me, find our Gaelic a bit lacking – as in, what in God’s name is that?  And it’s where you go to hear amazing Irish and Scottish music. And love your family roots and tap/stomp your feet when you can’t dance (which you definitely want to).  Our first ceilidh is held in the Louisbourg Playhouse, which is a re-creation of  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, built at the Fortress by Disney for the filming of Squanto: A Warrier’s Tale.  Disney donated it to the town, and they moved it – and built a roof over the uncovered part of it.  We had a wonderful talk with one of the older gentlemen who’d been part of that construction during intermission (where they also serve oat cookies and tea on the amazing second floor). As for the amazing music – Jennifer Roland  introduced us to beautiful, dancing fiddle-playing, Jason Hempt  was a strong back-up for her and Troy Young, who was making his debut as a guitarist song-writer, some lovely tunes.   Jason definitely held his own as singer/keyboard artist/humorist, when it was his turn.  Lucky 9th graders that get him during his day job.

The next day we went to Glace Bay to visit the mining museum there. But before we buy our admission tickets, we learn that if we come back on Sunday, Men of the Deeps, (North America’s only choral group that requires you to be a coal miner to join) will be rehearsing there.  We just missed their performance by a day in Louisbourg – and since they are taking off on tour in a few weeks (and we missed them in Vegas- wow, these guys did Vegas!) I am so excited about being able to see them in rehearsal, we postpone our tour of the museum until Sunday.

But before Sunday – comes Saturday and I wake up on my 61st birthday to find the little Navion all festively decorated.  (Brought back so many memories of our decorating boats in the past for Christopher’s 4th of July birthday.)

Happy  61st Birthday

Happy 61st Birthday

Then, we finally make it to Fortress Louisbourg.  It’s definitely worth the trip.  Beautiful, historic and even though it’s not as staffed with costumed interpreters  as during high season, we had many interesting conversations with the staff that were still there and doing a great job.  And we had a fabulous lunch.  Since it’s a certain year in the 1700’s, we get to choose where we eat according to class – so today there’s a restaurant with soup and cheese , which is crowded and we can’t get in – or a full-course meal a few doors down.  Dick gives me a birthday lunch in a cozy little house, fire blazing –  a tureen of soup, delicious chicken and vegetables, potatoes, and apple tart.

Fort Louisbourg
Fort Louisbourg
Then it’s back to the Louisbourg Playhouse to hear Third of a Dozen, which included Jason Hempt, an absolutely  rollicking good time.

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