Alain Vinet – Musique Director
“What Was I Thinking?”

As long-time amateur journalists, we are used to requesting time with artists, creatives, or executives at Cirque du Soleil. We are curious about so many things at a company that does numerous interesting, creative and unique things as an everyday occurrence of its existence. While we are used to asking, it is highly unusual for us ourselves to be asked. But such was the case when we got a message from our friend at Cirque Corporate Montréal, Musical Director Alain Vinet (Al-ahn VEE-nay), to spend some time with him catching up on Cirque’s latest music voyages.

PART ONE: “SECRETS OF THE GODS”

Long-time readers have enjoyed conversations with Mr. Vinet twice before in these pages. There was our initial discussion in 2009 with our article, “Moving Cirque” (http://www.cirquefascination.com/?p=1597) where we discussed creation of the “25” 2-CD retrospective set (2009, CDS Musique 10030). And again in 2013 with our article, “Facilitating the Journey” (http://www.cirquefascination.com/?p=3960) where we discussed creation of the CD’s for Totem (2010, CDS Musique 10034) and Amaluna (2012, CDS Musique 10046).

But discussing the latest Cirque Music (of which there has been much lately) wasn’t the primary factor for him. He also wanted to respond to erstwhile Editor Richasi’s review of the broadcast version of Cirque’s 30th Anniversary Concert, “Celebrating 30 Years Through Music” (http://www.cirquefascination.com/?p=5487). There Ricky raised several questions about song and singer selection, which Mr. Vinet felt could best be answered in an interview. That conversation is in Part Two, but for now let’s talk with Mr. Vinet about the latest Cirque musical efforts!

LUZIA

We started with the latest Cirque show CD release, Luzia (May 13, 2016, CDS Musique 10053). When we talked back in April the show was just about to premiere, with an extra amount of time for previews for a Big Top show, two weeks instead of the usual one. It was due, Mr. Vinet explained, to scheduling conflicts. “Because of problems coordinating [the schedules of] everybody involved being able to be there for the Premier, they gave us an extra week of previews to fix things. Normally we open the big top shows for previews and a week later do the Premier. This time because of scheduling circumstances [there was a delay, but] it makes everybody happy to have an extra week to breathe before. I don’t know [if it’s a trend.]”

In what we think is just the second time for a CDS Musique release, the CD for the show was available on the first day of premiere in Montréal! Usually it isn’t available until several months after a show has set off on its journey, allowing time for the show to settle and go through what Cirque calls “fixation.” This time there was another mandate, which came, “…from the heavens! Actually [it was] one of the things that changed when Guy sold 90% of the shares of Cirque, decisions like [having] the CD ready by a certain date resides with someone else. Not having the CD ready for the opening of the show [meant we] were losing a lot of money, because the markets we go to first – Montréal, Toronto and San Francisco – are always big markets for us.” (They are three of Cirque’s largest worldwide markets, that generally occur in the first six months of a shows life.)

But producing a CD in parallel with a shows creation brings other issues to the fore, such as whether the “sound” of the show is represented in the CD, and the use of creation musicians. The difference between the music on this CD and its arrangement in the show, he explained, is like the difference “[between] Montréal versus Seattle.” (Laughs.)

In addition to having a product for sale in important early markets, the nature of the show (being inspired by Mexico) was another reason to move forward quickly and use a different production/recording team. “The idea was to also create credibility in the Latin pop market. Because it’s a show about Mexico we wanted to represent the modernity of Mexico. So I thought the CD would be the perfect way to do that, [given that we had] to have the CD ready for the premiere. I thought it was the perfect place to represent the modernity, and [allow us] to tap into that Latin America music market before the show actually [starts touring there.] For the first time the CD has the chance to be the ambassador.”

The moved-up timeline also meant the trend of using creation musicians to record the soundtrack CD had to be abandoned. “It was not possible to use the creation musicians, because they [had just] arrived for rehearsals in January, they didn’t know the songs yet. And they were busy because they had mis-en-scene, costuming, makeup, and all that to learn. So it was impossible for us to get [access to] them while they were in creation.”

“But the demand was to have a CD for the Premier of the show. And we came to the conclusion that we could get somebody from Mexico to actually do the recording with real Mexican musicians that had the soul we were looking for to make the record authentic.”

The need for a pair of music pieces from the show to be available immediately for use in promotion materials presented the Cirque team with another challenge, but also an opportunity. “I proposed [the production duo of Ramón Amezcua (DJ moniker “Bostitch”) and Pepe Mogt (“Fussible”), known as Nortec Collective (Found at nor-tec.org or https://www.facebook.com/nortecbf/)] to (Luzia composer) Simon Carpentier (simon-carpentier.com) and said let’s work with these guys. And Simon actually knew them and loved what they did. Obviously they are two DJ producers but they always keep the traditional instruments of Mexico, like tuba, trumpet, accordion and guitar in their music, and it’s very, very cool what they do. So we were both in agreement that this would be the perfect [solution] for the two singles.”

“The first two we did were the first piece on the CD, “Asi Es La Vida,” and we also did, “Los Mosquitos.” We didn’t want any vocal songs because we were using them for marketing purposes. So we tried that and we actually loved working with them; they are sweethearts, they are really good at what they do, and really fast.”

“[Another] reason to use this particular team [was that] from the beginning of creation we had heard a lot of statements [that suggested that] – okay, yes, we are doing a show on the Mexican culture, but we also need to represent what it is today. In the show itself it’s a little bit tough to do because obviously we are more into an acoustic setting, more into musicians playing live etc. etc. And to put electronic or trendy music in the show was a little bit more difficult.”

Satisfaction with those first two tracks gave Cirque the confidence to use the team to produce the entire soundtrack using their own musicians. The CD provided the perfect opportunity to incorporate the modernity of Mexican electronic music by being produced by the Nortec Collective duo. But at the same time, there was concern that the sound of the CD would not quite match the sound of the music as played in the show itself. “That being said, I asked them to put “inspired by the music of the show” (on the cover) because it is quite different. I am hoping this is not going to be a double-edged sword where people expect the show to be as electronic as the CD (or the CD to be as acoustic as the show, for those buying it as a souvenir of the show).”

“When you buy the CD [as a souvenir], that notion of “inspired by” kind of excuses that. That was one of my first concerns when they asked me to have it ready for the premiere. I said, “Look, we’ve seen in the past that when the music you buy is not what you hear in the show sometimes there are complaints. But let’s try something new. That is why, if you [look at] the sleeve it’s very clearly indicated that it’s “inspired by” the music of Luzia. That was something that I insisted upon from the beginning, because obviously fixation [had not been done].”

“We [had the same] experience [on] Toruk. I was asked to deliver the master in October in order to have it for the Premier in Montréal in December. Guy [Laliberté] didn’t oppose it. Now that he’s sold he’s letting a lot of it go and not making a lot of business decisions, [though] he is on board as a lead creator. [Previously] Guy always insisted that we wait until we actually had a show before we produce [a CD] for it. So you could say this is one of the things that has changed since the sale.” With an average lifespan of 10-15 years, having a show CD accurately reflect the music as played in the show could be a major consideration over the long term that might not be as important to an ownership whose plans are to increase the value of the company and then sell within the next 5 or so years, and thus not be around to deal with the consequences of shorter-term decisions.

What Luzia CD tracks appeal to him? “That’s a tough one. Obviously the three vocal songs are right up there, they’re the main things actually.” (Those would be the ones creation singer Maja Cornejo sings on; 2-“Tiembla La Tierra”, 4-“Pambolero”, and 9-“Cierra Los Ojos”.)

JOYÀ

As opposed to Luzia, the original creation musicians team of: Sophie Guay – Vocals; Benoit Martin – Guitars, Bandleader; Abraham G. Buchanan – Drums; and Bryden Baird – Trumpet, were part of the recording of the Joyà CD (Dec 24, 2015, CDS Musique 51919). And that was due to a clever plan on Mr. Vinet’s part. “They had a break in, I think it was September, 2015, in which they were all coming to Montréal. The show was going dark for, like three months or something like that, and some people were going back to their families. So what I did was contact them and ask if we could have them all for two days in a row, the four musicians [in the studio] at the same time, to get the spirit, instead of recording the drums one day and something else the next. Because you can record the drums first, then the bass, then the guitars later, but you miss the chemistry of the people playing together.”

“The only way to do this project was if we [played the entire] show, and that’s exactly what we did. We took the Ableton Live tracks of the show (a software package that plays additional music tracks and samples in sync with live performance) and transferred the playback tracks, so as they were playing along we could skip the parts we did not need. All the big numbers we recorded as if we were doing the show, and we edited it later. It was a lot easier on the musicians because they didn’t need to learn a new [arrangement]. It was done quickly, but the recordings were amazing. Rob Heaney, our recording engineer, was there with me helping to guide them. So when we finished in the studio the job was pretty much done; we just had to edit a little and mix, but the tracks were already good.”

This plan had a number of advantages. Less time commitment from the musicians was one; two days in the studio is way under the norm for the average CD. The resultant tapes had the sound and feel of the show in live performance. And less studio time meant less expense.

What is his favorite track? “It’s a [medley of] three transitional songs, [with] a little of the Brazilian vibe in the middle, called “The Dive.” It starts very, very soft. It has a very soft intro where we really hear Sophie (Guay’s) voice perfectly. Then we go into that little bit of Brazilian feel, which is not like that in the show but I decided to make it a little bit more rhythmic. There’s a lot of music in Joyà that [is transitional], a minute and a half here, two minutes there, [and they] kind of glide into one another. When you don’t have the visual it’s hard to use those little snippets. This one I particularly like the melodies.”

TORUK-THE FIRST FLIGHT

Another 2016 CD release in a busy year for CDS Musique is the soundtrack from the James Cameron’s Avatar-inspired Toruk-The First Flight composed by Bob & Bill (Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard (Feb 5, 2016, CDS Musique 10052). This arena show features pre-recorded musical tracks, though occasionally accompanied by a live singer. Since the music was pre-recorded the tracks were already available, which allowed the CD to be produced in parallel with creation and ready by Premiere. Those tracks were used to create the CD. “Maybe mixed a bit different, with some secrets that Rob and I [added].”

“We had a mandate to not go too electronic because the context of the music is you’re on the planet Pandora. On Pandora there is no metal, so crashes and all of that had to be foregone. It’s really interesting the way Marc and Guy approached it. Some [sounds were made by playing on] wood in the forest to make percussion sounds. All kinds of things like that, using instruments that were out of this world, not using the typical guitar, bass, drums. Of course there are drums, of course there is guitar, of course there is bass, but not using them in a typical format. That was the mandate Guy gave them, he suggested that maybe on this planet it’s not chromatic. So they got inspired and went in a lot of different directions. They had to create a unique musical color for each of the clans, and in some of the clans there are voices. And there are a lot of voices in Toruk.”

The CD also features appearances from several Cirque creation musical veterans, including:

• Julie McKinnes from “O”, KÀ and Amaluna (Lead vocals/Cello on “Viperwolves/Timpani Clan”)
• Isabelle Corradi from Alegria and Varekai (Lead vocals on “Kekunan Clan”)
• Christian Laveau from Totem (Lead vocals on “Luminous Reunion”)
• Wayne Hankin from Varekai (Tramp (Jew’s Harp) on “Shaman Story”)

They appear because, “…they are in the show, [their] parts are in the playback. There is a singer, but the singer is there more to help lead the storyline. The [live] singer represents the head clan.”

Mr. Vinet’s favorite? ““Takwami Clan.” The one where Elsieanne (Caplette) sings.”

OTHER FORTHCOMING CDS

We also had a moment to talk about some forthcoming music projects. The Broadway Cirque show Paramour will be getting a CD produced by Mr. Vinet himself! Recorded in one day(!) with the band and vocalists recording simultaneously (as many Broadway musical CD’s are) in a recording space at Avatar Studios in New York (which was previously known as the famous Power Station), the CD will be released in digital format on August 22, 2016 and out in CD form on September 16. In addition, the Soda Stereo musical project (now called “Séptimo Día – No Descansaré” “Seventh Day-I Will Not Rest”) is also toward a March 9, 2017 premiere in Buenos Aires. (Tickets are on sale now; our South American readers can pick them up HERE < http://goo.gl/D0EgN5 >. The forthcoming CD should be interesting, since the music is moving in a direction, “…more like Beatles Love. The two remaining band members are having fun in the studio rehashing their old songs to make them fit whatever (show director) Michel Laprise has in mind.”

NEW CONSIDERATIONS

One commonality between the CD’s discussed above that Cirque music fans like us tend to notice is that the songs on the CDs are getting shorter and the album total times are getting shorter. Toruk’s total time is 46 minutes, Luzia comes in at 44 minutes, and Joyà clocks in at only 36 minutes. We wondered if this was a trend. Again, the answer is not so simple. And no small part of it is that soundtracks and videos are no longer considered just brand extensions – souvenirs, mementos – they are treated as profit centers as well. So such concerns as how much time is spent in a recording studio, and thereby how much material is recorded for a particular shows CD, becomes part of the financial calculation.

“It’s trying to optimize what we do for the return we get. In the music business, it’s commonly known that when you pay an artist for one session you are allowed [to record only] 15 minutes of music for the CD maximum. We [also] try to keep each song under 5 minutes just to make it a more coherent experience instead of having 7 minutes arrangements that get boring after a while.”

“And in the case of Joyà the show itself is 77 minutes if you count the intro. There is a lot of transition music but there are only eight [songs]. So I tried to combine some transitions to have [more] music on the CD. So that’s why we ended up with a 35-36 minute CD that you can listen to from one end to the other and it flows kind of like the show.”

The wide variety of delivery methods, especially digital, would suggest more possibilities for special or expanded releases of show soundtracks. But, as Mr. Vinet points out, “The downside to special releases is that it’s like the 30th Anniversary Concert. It’s not necessarily designed as a wide appeal kind of product, it’s more a specialty kind of product, like the three-disc special edition of Varekai was. It was designed to fill in the gaps that the regular CD missed.”

“Without looking at the business aspect, I could see how one might think that we could take everything we ever put out and put it on digital really easily and cheaply. If there were ways to increase the availability and variety of Cirque music, the different kinds of music, or the different forms music can take, through some sort of fan club or special edition kind of thing, yes, I would encourage that very much.”

But again, financial considerations Cirque fans might not be aware of are a large reason why we don’t see those releases. “All it boils down to is that each time you make a master and use it commercially you have to pay everybody again. That’s where it gets incredibly cost ineffective.”

Last time, we talked about Mr. Vinet’s involvement with CD’s in terms of working with composers on the arrangements. Have those responsibilities evolved? “I’m continuing to do that except that going forward I am getting more and more involved in the actual production process, which is what I did for a living for years as a DJ. So I got really interested in being part of the team that actually produces the CD. And especially with Bob and Bill; when they came on board I’m kind of the person that opened that door for them.”

“When you are actually in a creation it’s hard to be objective afterward and produce the CD. So as we did [with the Bob & Bill-composed shows] Totem (2010, CDS Musique 10034), Amaluna (2012, CDS Musique 10046), and Kurios (co-composed with Raphëal Beau, 2014, CDS Musique 10051) where they were involved for the last part, it became obvious that I [could] come in and co-produce with them. For Totem and Amaluna [Bob & Bill] laid the groundwork. Rob Heaney and I then went in and did the mix and all the edits to get the songs into a proper listening mode, like a pop song if you will. So that became my role, but instead of giving the orders I actually did it. Which is more fun for me! (Laughs.)”

# # #

PART TWO: “WHAT I WAS THINKING!”

In Part One we discussed several CD releases in a busy year for Cirque du Soleil Musique. But the main reason Mr. Vinet contacted us(!) was to respond to erstwhile Editor Richasi’s review of the broadcast version of the 30th Anniversary Concert, “Celebrating 30 Years Through Music” (http://www.cirquefascination.com/?p=5487). Ricky raised several questions about song and singer selection, which Mr. Vinet felt could best be answered in a conversation. “No, actually, I read the review and I was really happy to read every word of it. I cracked a little smile when I read the, “what were they thinking?” So I thought maybe it’s time we had a little talk. I thought it was a good time to answer your questions, which were legitimate. And that’s exactly what I’m here for! I’m here for the question, “What were they thinking?” (Laughs.)

(By the way, Mr. Vinet was interviewed by our friends at CirqueCast in their Episode 5, where some time is spent recounting creation of the concert. It can be found here: https://youtu.be/ZY2HiNVLOkA.

Ricky’s review was mostly positive – don’t get us wrong, go read it for yourself. One part of Cirque’s credo is to evoke emotions, which, for dedicated fans of Cirque the concert does frequently. One hears a piece of music and it evokes the memory of a show, or a trip, or a personal interaction, or something. And just as that memory begins to fade the next song starts, and another memory appears. It’s not for everybody, certainly not for the person who’s been to just one Cirque show. But if you’re a fan of Cirque du Soleil and a fan of the music of Cirque du Soleil, and if you’ve been to multiple shows and you get into the music, it is sublime.

“I DID IT FOR YOU GUYS”

Mr. Vinet has spoken about how proud he is of the concert, that was, as he describes, “my baby.” But it’s genesis occurred several years earlier. “I don’t know if you know [this], but this project was born in October, 2009. Back then we did what we used to call, “Creative Forums.” (These were day-long meetings wherea number of creative staff would give presentations, brainstorm, and discuss current issues.) When it came time to do the music forum, Gilles (Ste-Croix) suggested we do it in a church. So I hired an organ player, I brought singers (Roxane Potvin from “O” and Mathieu Lavoie from Quidam/Varekai, as well as Catherine LeDoux, Mr. Vinet’s assistant at the time), a couple of musicians, and we did just a few numbers like “O”. And “Nostalgie” (from “O”) (in an arrangement with just the large church organ and Ms. Potvin’s un-amplified voice) that Roxanne actually does in the Concert.”

“That was the song, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Guy Laliberté was sitting right in front of me and he turns around and looks at me and he’s got a tear going down his cheek. And he turns around and goes to Daniel Lamarre and says, “I want to do a Cirque concert in a church.” So that’s where the idea began, and that’s why I kept that song [in the show].”

It was that year he created an example set list for just such a concert. However, the yearly appearance of arena Cirque shows in Montréal’s Bell Center arena meant the concert idea had to be put on the back burner. Each year he would refine the set list, presenting it to Laliberté and Ste-Croix, only to be set aside when the next arena show came through.

“When the 30th anniversary came it was the first time in [several] years that there was no arena show coming to the Bell Center in Montréal, which is the big arena where we have our arena tours. So it was [the perfect time] to have an event like this. But we didn’t want to make this into a Bell Center show, we wanted an intimate concert.”

“So I would say in September, 2013 we started talking about it, and I spent [some] time preparing playlists of what the concert could be. I put together little montages and sent them back and forth to Guy and Gilles.”

“One thing that was very clear in my head from the beginning was that this needed to be a creation [all its own] as well. This is why I didn’t necessarily go for all the obvious choices, the “best of.” I wanted to create something that had movement, that could be glued together, kind of like a DJ set. This is my DJ experience coming into play. But planned so that we could play [a song] continuously for a little while and then break [to another song]. Maybe there are one or two songs that are made to be played alone but a lot of them are made to have a nice segue to each other. That was a big point in deciding which songs we would use; I obviously wanted to bring back the nice salad of it.”

He created a series of song movements or medleys of various songs, “somewhat like an opera.” He had a lot of songs to feature (one song from each Cirque creation) and only 75 minutes to get them all in. “Obviously for me being [involved with] Cirque music all the time every day, it helped me to have only 2 1/2 minutes per song on average.”

The time limit and need for the songs to segue well together meant many tracks that might be considered Cirque’s “best” didn’t make the cut. “But at the same time, such as when we passed through (the show) “Alegria,” I couldn’t play (the song) “Alegria” at that point because it’s too early in the show. So that’s why we decided to go with “Vai Verdrai” which is a nice waltz.”

Once the songs and running order were selected, the team put together a rough rehearsal tape of the show with instrument samples to give an idea of what the arrangements would sound like, a demo which would help confirm when the arrangement charts were to their liking. These tapes were also given to the singers and solo musicians so they could practice in their own spaces on their own time, as a tight production schedule meant little time to rehearse as a group.

FINDING YOUR VOICES

Critical to the success of the venture was finding vocalists up to the task. “I had eight lead singers [I could hire]. I could not deviate from that, that was what was agreed upon as the business plan, as the concept. Mathieu (Lavoie) was the first male singer I contacted but at that time he wasn’t sure if he could do it. So I approached Paul (Bisson), because we had changed Zarkana quite a bit so that he wasn’t singing in it anymore. I called Paul to see if he would be interested but when Mathieu came back with a positive response I decided to keep them both. That way I could have Paul sing, “Volo Volando” (from Corteo, where he was the creation vocalist). At that point, it became clear that in some places I had to make sacrifices, but they weren’t necessarily sacrifices. Obviously, I had to have some of them not singing their original songs. Like Estelle (Esse) singing the La Nouba song (“Reve Rouge”). Mathieu had done the Michael Jackson song (“Earth Song”) for another event so he knew the song already and, frankly, between [them] I think Mathieu was the best choice.” Francesca Gagnon, original singer for Alegria, was contacted about participating but was unavailable. “That is why Francine (Poitras) sings “Alegria,” she was the closest voice to Francesca’s that I had.”

The final vocalist cast consisted of:

• Francine Poitras – creation singer Saltimbanco (1992)
• Audrey Brisson – original “Zoe” in Quidam (1996)
• Mathieu Lavoie – creation singer of Quidam (1996), creation singer of Varekai (2002)
• Roxane Potvin – creation singer of “O” (1998)
• Paul Bisson – creation singer of Corteo (2005), Zark in Zarkana (2012)
• Anna Liani – writer/singer of “Bello Amore” on the Zumanity CD
• Estelle Esse – sung for Alegria, Dralion, Corteo and Kurios, also talent scout
• Dominic Dagenais – singer at several Cirque Special Events

“Obviously not all the singers were in top shape, but at least on the DVD we fixed that a little in the editing. It was hard actually, but in the end, that’s what I expected. But it was impossible for me [to do otherwise]. It would have been [wonderful] to have all the singers that actually sang each song there, that would’ve been a wet dream.”

“With the conditions we had I had to make difficult choices. But at the same time the cast that I put together was, personally, one of the easiest casts that I could work with, because I had worked with them numerous times so the trust was immediately there. In the beginning it was hard, because when I brought in Paul I had to find stuff for Mathieu to sing, so that’s why I also had him sing the Ovo song (“Briso do Mar”). I had approached Marie-Claude (Marchand), the original singer of Ovo, she had just come back, but by the time she got back to me I had already capped my eight singers. I was already at the point where it was hard for me to make any changes; since everything had been approved I didn’t want to touch anything. (Laughs.) It’s sometimes tough to get approvals, it just takes time.”

FINDING YOUR MESSAGE

The church selected for the concert was the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church (eglisestjeanbaptiste.com) in the Le Plateau Mont-Royal borough of Montréal. First built in 1875 and able to accommodate 2,800 people, it is the third largest church in the city, with beautiful acoustics.

“When we showed up at the church everything was pretty much decided.” But that was because he had done his homework. “What I did was I went to the church on scouting [missions] and spoke with people, and listened to music with my little iPod in this church setting. And frankly it was really clear. I had had five years to think about it (since the musical “Creative Summit” in 2009); it was really clear really fast what I wanted to do.”

There was some concern over being able to get the rights to non-Cirque music, but they shouldn’t have worried. “We got the chance to play the Michael (Jackson) song (“Earth Song”) and the Beatles Love song (“Because”) and the Viva Elvis song (“Love Me Tender”), which was cool. [We used] just a passage of the opening of Love, which is “Because” sung a cappella; that way [there were] no arrangement problems, no fiddling with Apple music, no ‘you can’t use this you can’t use that.’ In the church I thought an a cappella number was needed. In the beginning I didn’t know if it would be approved or not but the Beatles answered gracefully.”

FINDING YOUR SOUND

Another challenge involved incorporating the large church organ into the show. “It’s really hard if you have a band on [the front] stage and the church organ is in back, it’s impossible to synchronize. There is about 100ms of difference, that’s almost half a beat depending on the tempo. That’s why in the beginning of the show we’re going back and forth from the front stage to the back with the organ.”

But the big church organ is only used up to “Nostalgie” (from “O”). ““Nostalgie” is the last song where we used the big organ in the back. The church has a little choir organ in front, (it is in fact one of the few churches in Canada with two organs) and the plan was to use the little choir organ for the rest of the show because it became more of an accompaniment than an actual lead like the big organ was. But the little church organ died on us! But our organist had a digital organ, a high-end expensive organ, sample-based but really, really good. And he had a full-fledged four-register keyboard with pedal for it which he said he could bring. So we placed him behind the choir. The trick was that in the beginning we used the big organ so that people think that whenever they hear an organ they think it’s the big organ. And nobody noticed the difference.”

“So it was a lot of little constraints, but I think we ended up doing a really, really cool show, people really enjoyed it.”

The onstage choreography of the vocalists was done by Event Designer Véronique Dussault. “Véronique is a seasoned stage director that’s been working with Special Events. [She and] I have worked together for years.” Mr. Vinet was also aided by his assistant, Thierry Angers, who helped with the structure of the arrangements, Frederic Chasson who did arrangements and orchestrations, and Creative Director Daniel Fortin.

FINDING THE DVD

Initially there was no intent to preserve the concert on video or CD. This changed when Radio Canada (Quebec’s French Language television network, ici.radio-canada.ca) signed on to record the show. “It was very last-minute and we didn’t have a lot of time to put it together. We filmed on December 23, 2014 and we needed to deliver an mix by the 30th. And we had one studio day booked by the filming company to [do final mixing]. On the day of the recording I was in the booth calling the shots for the guys to have the best possible pre-mix. I then said, “I’m leaving with the recording, you will get it back in four days.” Rob Heaney and I spent four days and nights working 20 hours a day in order to get it to where it needed to be as a product (utilizing the 96 tracks recorded on-site). We really insisted on having my hands on the production of the DVD. Which was great, it was a lot of fun to mix and dig into piece by piece, to see who missed a note (laughs). I came back for both the DVD release and the German release. [There were] some addendums to the mix, but we didn’t touch the surround that much.”

After being broadcast in January, the concert was released in Canada on Apr 21, 2015, in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack, Radio Canada 22418. And copies are still available! One place we found them, for $27 Canadian plus shipping, is here < goo.gl/LU0ORN >.

One part of the concert that won’t see the light of commercial release involved the big church organ. “I’m sad they didn’t put the opening organ [medley] that we had [as a prelude] while people were coming into the church [on the DVD]. Claude Chaput, who was my bandleader, wrote 30 minutes of intro music played by four hands on the great organ. As people were walking in you would hear even more classic Cirque themes on the organ. I get goosebumps just thinking about it, it was incredible. That alone was a show.”

As with the music for the Cirque 3D Film, “World’s Away,” there won’t be a CD soundtrack. “It wasn’t considered and I’ll tell you why; it would cost way too much money. Eight lead voices, 70 member choir, musicians; it’s like 100 people to pay for each song. From a business standpoint it wouldn’t [work financially].”

“But even better, you have the DVD! You can actually watch it! (Laughs)” (and if you are a little bit tech savvy, you can make your own soundtrack, but, umm, we don’t know anything about that.)

The success and emotional power of the concert gave no clue that Mr. Vinet was originally presented with a modest budget and a very short production schedule. So short, in fact, there was only time for one full rehearsal of the entire show with the full cast! “We had a very, very tight budget. It was promoted as Cirque du Soleil’s gift to the city of Montréal. There was really no plan to make money, it was to do something to celebrate Cirque’s 30th anniversary. Hopefully one day we’ll get this into a touring show, but I wouldn’t say that too loud.”

“If I can say one more thing about the show; it was probably one of the most favorite projects of mine I’ve done in my 10 years here. Not that I was the only one putting it together, but that I was instrumental in assembling this group of people. [It was] an incredible moment to be able to experience.”

“SO NOW YOU’VE LEARNED, ‘THE SECRETS OF THE GODS'”

When we talked back in April 2016 it was just getting into the spring season, which in the past has been a busy time for him. But that had changed. “Not for about a year and a half. Because in 2015 there was a split of the company’s divisions to become Cirque du Soleil Group. The Special Events division became 45 Degrees(.com), and CDS Theatrical opened in New York to produce Paramour. Instead of going with 45 Degrees when that happened I stayed with the core company under Jean-François Bouchard, the head of creation. I don’t handle the music for the 45 Degrees projects like I used to. So my spring is less busy than it used to be.”

Since then, there has been a change of direction for this friend of the fan. In mid-August Alain Vinet left his position as Musical Director for Cirque du Soleil to pursue other interests, though he will be coming back to consult on a project-by-project basis. We wish Mr. Vinet the best of Luck!

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Sincere thanks go to: Mr. Vinet for so graciously (and repeatedly) spending time with us, Marie-Noëlle Caron – Cirque Publicist, Erstwhile Editor Ricky Russo, for helping conduct the interview, And Keith’s wife LouAnna for putting up with his sometimes obsessive hobby.