- Claude Chaput
- Conductor, Composer and Arranger
“At a time when industry trends are moving toward homogeneity, the music of Cirque du Soleil allows us to break free from traditional forms and styles."
I started learning to play the piano very early on, at the age of four. Supported by a family that encouraged the arts, I decided to devote my life to music when I was just a teenager. For about 20 years, I worked as an accompanist, arranger and conductor for renowned performers, both onstage and in the studio. At the same time, I developed a marked interest in audio and MIDI technologies, which turned out to be a major asset in the career I had chosen. I believe that all those strengths led me quite naturally to Cirque du Soleil in 1994, when Composer René Dupéré was looking for a conductor for the show Alegría.
A career turn with positive results
It was the first time I had ever signed on for so long a run: over 600 shows in two years. Obviously, such a long engagement makes it possible to become highly skilled at interpreting the music and provides greater insight into the world of the performing arts.
Encountering musicians from different cultures and musical backgrounds was also highly formative, both musically and in terms of interpersonal relations. At the same time we faced the constant challenge of adapting the music to the action onstage while maintaining the music’s consistency and thereby our own relevance for spectators.
At the time, I had the feeling I was practising my craft as I never had before, which made me want to try my hand at a new creation. I therefore offered my services to Composer Benoit Jutras, with whom I took on Quidam and another North American tour, this one involving 1,000 performances over a three-year period. I introduced a brand new technology ( MIDI ) on Quidam which allowed us to modify the music in real time using pre-recorded material.
Since 1999, I have had a hand in many productions as a music and technology consultant, and I am involved in a number of Cirque du Soleil shows in creation along with a few projects for Casting.
The urge to create and go where no one has dared go before
I believe that Cirque du Soleil has brought the performing arts to a whole new level, to another dimension, to a place ruled by dreams and the subconscious. In that respect, there is a perfect compatibility with the essence of the musical universe. And at a time when industry trends are moving toward homogeneity, the music of Cirque du Soleil allows us to break free from traditional forms and styles.
That’s why eclecticism and open-mindedness are important qualities for candidates who already meet basic criteria such as an impeccable sense of rhythm, a precise musical vocabulary and the ability to memorize scores. We should also mention the ability to react quickly to any last-minute changes while maintaining the quality of their performance. It’s important for every musician to be able to extrapolate in situations where one section has to be drawn out, for example, or where another has to be drastically cut short with just a few measures’ warning.
During the show creation period, the conductor, musicians and singers give the composition a sound, a personality, through their interpretation and their own innovations, which often inspire the entire production team. Clearly, everyone’s creative contribution can make a huge difference to the final outcome for a show of this scale. But we must not lose sight of the fact that there is a composer who is responsible for developing the overall vision, and that he leaves it primarily to the conductor to ensure the musical style is consistent throughout the show.
At Cirque du Soleil, more than anywhere else, team spirit, professionalism and respect for the work of others are essential qualities for taking full advantage of this one-of-a-kind experience.