After opening for the Gaither Vocal Band and sharing the stage with the likes of Rita MacNeil and the Men of the Deeps, The Burke Family may have thought their summer could not get any better.
But Pius Burke, June MacDonald and their eight siblings found out otherwise when they learned their music was nominated for several awards from the Gospel Music Association of Canada (GMAC) and the Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia (MIANS.)
The family's latest CD, The Reason We Sing, is up for the GMAC's Covenant Award for Southern Gospel Album of the Year, while Pius is also nominated for his songwriting, as his song, "Song of Hope," has been given a nod in the Southern Gospel Song of the Year category. Meanwhile, The Reason We Sing has also been nominated for the Inspirational Artist/Group Recording of the Year by MIANS.
"Anything like that is like icing on the cake," said June, responding to the announcement. "We do it because we love it, first and foremost, and because it brings our family together. We like to sing this music for people, and people really enjoy it. But when you have recognition like that, it certainly feels good."
June and Pius both live in Amherst, while the rest of the Burkes are spread out between Ontario and their native Cape Breton.
Pius, who writes the majority of the group's original recordings, said he was honoured by the nominations, although he said he writes songs not for accolades but for his own simple pleasure. He said he is equally honoured when his family chooses to record his songs, and does not take any of that for granted.
"My family has the opportunity to select the best songs ever written by all of these large stars, and to think that the family thinks my songs are good enough to put on an album, that's an honour in itself," he said. "Then, for somebody else to think a song is good enough, there's a lot of satisfaction that comes with it."
The group marked a highlight of its career earlier this month when it participated in the Alive on the Island event in Sydney, which saw three days of concerts at various venues, featuring acts such as the Oak Ridge Boys, Rita MacNeil and the Gaither Vocal Band.
The Burkes opened for the Gaither band, which Pius described as having some of the best vocalists he's heard in his life.
"It was definitely the highest point we've ever reached as a family, just to open for these guys," he said. "We've seen them on TV, and then to watch them live, they're just so gifted. It was something every one of us felt was a very special moment in our lives."
The weekend also featured a finale concert at the Canada Games Complex, where the Burkes joined J.P. Cormier, Dutch Robinson, Rita MacNeil, the Men of the Deeps and the Hallelujah Praise Choir on stage. Pius said it felt like one large family performing together.
"From time to time I've wondered if this is the type of music we should be doing as a family, because it's not mainstream," said Pius. "It is times like these when I know we didn't have a choice. It was He who chose us."
The Covenant Awards will be handed out in Calgary, Alta. On Oct. 23, while the MIANS awards event will be held in Yarmouth on Nov. 5-8, with several family members planning to attend.
After all of this, how the family plans to follow up The Reason We Sing remains to be seen.
"We haven't started that conversation about what's next in terms of another recording, but I think we have another one in us for sure," said June.