Winnipeg mall cleaner in viral video sings 'for the joy of others'

In a video that has since gone viral on Facebook, Winnipeg mall cleaner Tristan Derksen is swinging a mop, but it might as well be a mic stand.

Video of Tristan Derksen, 20, singing at Kildonan Place, has more than 70K views on Facebook

Tristan Derksen, 20, is a mall cleaner at Kildonan Place in Winnipeg, and has been delighting shoppers with his singing talents. 2:08

In a video that has since gone viral on Facebook, Winnipeg mall cleaner Tristan Derksen is swinging a mop, but it might as well be a mic stand.

Derksen, 20, is a cleaner at Kildonan Place in Winnipeg. He sings every shift and shoppers often film him, but on Monday, one of those videos was posted to Facebook and took off.

By Thursday morning, it had more than 82,000 views.

Derksen says he's been singing at work since the fall, in part to make himself happy and in part to do the same for others.

"People will be walking down, like, let's say the corridor to the bathrooms, for example, and looking around for the speakers that aren't there and aren't playing any music," he said.

"And then they see me and their first reaction is just, 'Oh my gosh, that's you?'"

The self-taught vocalist says he sings every shift: opera, sometimes, or hits from the doo-wop era, or croony favourites by Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra and Elvis.

"I've just got a very old soul," he said. "I've got that really deep emotion and feel for music."

It was Elvis, actually, that started it all. Inspiration struck while he was watching The Conjuring 2, a horror flick set in the '70s, starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as a pair of American paranormal investigators who travel to London to battle a poltergeist.

"There was a certain part in it where … one of the lead roles [Wilson], he had sang Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling Love, and I thought to myself that I could probably do that. So I thought, why not give it a go?" he said.

"Over time, I slowly but surely learned how to sing from the diaphragm, and now here we are today. And now I'm singing almost at a professional level, in a sense."

Tristan Derksen, 20, sings every shift as a cleaner at Kildonan Place mall in Winnipeg. He got started singing in September after inspiration struck while watching The Conjuring 2. (Danelle Cloutier/CBC)

'Just very touching'

At first, Derksen says, singing at work was something he did for himself as practice — he aspires to emulate singers like Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti and, especially, Enrico Caruso. At that time the mall already had another singer, but she doesn't work there anymore, he says.

"Once I seen what I could really do with my voice and what it was capable of, I started to just do it for the joy of others and just bringing smiles to other people's faces, and simply doing that brings a smile to my face," Derksen said.

His fan base ranges widely in age. Teens come to hear him sing, but so do older shoppers, he says — another reason he performs the classics, adding the music can be deeply meaningful for some of his audience.

"I've honestly had quite a lot of compliments that have really, like, jerked tears. Even just thinking about it right now … I'll have people come up to me and tell me that I've touched their heart [or] that they've had someone pass away," he said.

"Like, when I sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow, for example, one of the ladies afterwards had came up to me and she was crying and she mentioned how her father had passed away and that was her favourite song and his favourite song as well, and she'd love to hear the song again. It was just very touching to her."

Derksen says his No. 1 fan is his girlfriend, Katarina Allard, who also works at the mall. (Danelle Cloutier/CBC)

His No. 1 fan is still his girlfriend, Katarina Allard. She works at Mr. Pretzels in the mall and can hear him from there, she says.

"I love him and all and he's great. Like he says, an old soul in him. A voice you can't really compare to other artists and anything else like that," Allard said.

"You only compare him to other opera singers, not like pop songs, like pop artists and rap artists, you know? He's, like, original. And that's what I love about him the most, is that he's original.

"I hear him once in a while. Like, oh, is he working? Oh, yeah, he's working."

Singing in public takes guts, and he did have to overcome nerves, he says. Not all the feedback is positive.

"Even though I can sing decent, I still have people who will come up to me and say that, you know, I'm not good or that I suck," he said. "It's not as often as people who compliment me but it does for sure happen."

The popularity of the Facebook video is beyond anything he imagined, he says.

"I was reading through the comments and just in tears of joy from all the comments and everything that people were saying."

Bringing joy is what it's all about, he says.

"It honestly means the world to me, and I am more than happy to listen to what anybody has to say or ... take any advice or anything like that," he said. "You know, just make someone's day, just any way I can."

With files from Danelle Cloutier