Celebrity Interview of Raphael Lavoie, Accordionist with Alegria.
Cirque du Soleils show Alegria has been playing to audiences around the world for 15 years. Alegria, which means jubilation in Spanish, embodies a mood or a state of mind. The story of Alegria is told through many characters, including the Nymphs, the Nostalgic Old Birds, Fleur, Tamir, the White Singer, the Black Singer and the Clowns.
The Clowns are the social commentators of Alegria, and are witnesses through the passing centuries. It is the role of the Clown to tell the stories of everyday life of love, heartbreak, and heroes. The Celebrity Interviews web sites features this week, the shows keyboardist and accordionist Raphael Lavoie. Recently Raphael has been using the Roland FR-3 V-accordion for his shows in addition to the Fantom-G8 Workstation keyboard.
Raphael Lavoie is interviewed by Adrian, the pro-keyboard specialist for Roland Canada.
Q: Hello, my name is Adrian, Im the Pro-Keyboard Specialist for Roland Canada and Im here with Raphael Lavoie, the keyboard and accordion player for Cirque du Soleil, with the show Alegria. Hello Raphael, how are you doing today?
A: Im good, how are you Adrian?
Q: Im very well thank you, and thank you very much for being able to answer some questions for us today. What city do you call home right now?
A: Im from Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada. Its about 3 hours north of Quebec City, so I always say north of Montreal to avoid complications and questions.
Q: And thats where you grew up?
A: I grew up there, lived there until 16, and then I moved to the city..
Q: Where did you receive your musical education?
A: We have a conservatory of music (Conservatory of Quebec, Chicoutimi). They have a good program - I studied Classical Piano there in Montreal. At the age of 16, I studied Jazz with Lorraine Desmarais.
Q: Did you have a favorite teacher or instructor while you were learning?
A: Lorraine was a really good jazz teacher, and I really liked studying with her. There was a group of other great teachers there including Jean-Pierre Zanella, my soloist teacher.
Q: Do you remember your first public performance and can you tell us a little bit about that?
A: I think I was around 15 when I had my first gig. I had to play for a doctors conference in my hometown, Jonquiere.
A: All kinds of music; everything I heard on the radio or anywhere Id play it. Everything Id hear, Id try to play it.
Q: So, from that first performance, when did you become a professional musician?
A: Just after that, during the summer I toured with a troop in Quebec called Quebecissime. They needed a back-up keyboard player so they asked me. I did my first two weeks as a professional keyboard player and played accordion pieces too.
Q: So you played accordion during that as well?
A: Yes, I played accordion during that time. It was French-Canadian music it was a good choice. There is a Christmas version now playing at Place des Arts in Montreal.
Q: I recall you mentioning that you went to South America, and is it true that you were learning accordion there as well?
A: Yes, I went to Brazil and Argentina as a tourist. In Argentina, I bought an accordion. Theres a great accordion player, Cesar Lerner, there, and I met some people there that played tango music. I really liked their music and I became really interested in that.
Q: So with all the professional touring that you did, how did you become a part of Cirque du Soleils Alegria?
A: Actually, through networking, an opportunity came up to audition for the show. So, I sent in my video and after two weeks they hired me.
Q: And so thats where you starting learning to play tango music?
A: Yes, just after the first year.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the story of Alegria?
A: Alegria means happiness, jubilation it is a story of the passing of time, from ancient monarchies to modern day democracies and from youth to maturity. It is a story that people of all ages will enjoy.
Q: What other musicians do you work with in Alegria?
A: Right now there are 6 musicians; there is a French drummer Remi Sanna; a bass player, Jean-Phillip Fortin, from Quebec; Fritz Kraai, a saxophone player and he plays alt keyboard in the show as well.
Q: I understand you are playing a Roland FR-3 how did you hear about the Roland V-Accordions?
A: Actually, it was a while ago, before Cirque, they had some in Quebec City at one of the music stores and I tried the FR-2 at that time. I tried it a couple of times and I thought it was interesting, and I was more interested after starting the show.
Q: How was the transition from the acoustic accordion to the V-Accordion?
A: I was really excited when I received it; I was off at the time so I spent a week just playing the accordion, figuring out how everything worked. So, I would say after a couple of days you get used to the bellow, the action, so it went pretty well.
A: Not yet, but we are going to record this week. We have a group of acrobats going to the Monte Carlo circus festival and we are going to record the stage song for that festival.
Q: Can you tell us more about your recording and playing career, like where it has taken you apart from Cirque du Soleil and what else are you doing right now?
A: For now, the show tour is really intensive, we have shows every a week. For theatrical recording, last summer we did a recording for two shows in New York, but its more for Cirque. Im planning a lot of stuff this coming March.
Q: Yes, you mentioned that you will have a website coming up this spring?
A: Yes, March or April, working on it. I will have more to tell about everything soon.
Q: So anyone who wants to hear more about your music can go to www.raphaellavoie.com in April and maybe sample some of your music?
A: Yes, I will have tango music there, and a lot more.
Q: Great, well we look forward to hearing that?
A: Yes, it is a good project, Ill record with the FR-3 and another accordion player with an acoustic accordion so its going to be interesting.
Q: Great! Raphael, thank you so much for doing this interview with us today and we look forward to seeing and hearing more of your music in the future?
A: My pleasure.
Editor: You can read more about the manufacturing of the Roland accordions A Roland is Born in Italy