Journey of Friendship: Eric Radford composes free program music for friend and fellow world champion Patrick Chan

The music, aptly titled “A Journey”, was as sudden as it was uplifting for Patrick Chan, a spellbinding piece of wonder composed by one world champion for another.

Barely a month has passed since friends and national team stablemates Patrick Chan and Eric Radford returned from a casual night out in St. John’s, Newfoundland, during the Skate Canada Ice Summit. Radford, a polished musician and the two-time defending world pair champion with Meagan Duhamel, sat down at a piano in the hotel lobby and, without warning, began playing.

A photo posted by Eric Radford (@ericradford85) on

The moments that followed turned out to be awakening of sorts for Chan, the three-time world champion who had been searching, without luck, for the perfect free program music.

Until then.

“I immediately tuned in to what he was playing,” says Chan. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful the piece was, and I asked if he wrote it. He said yes, it was his.”

“I told him to keep playing. I was like ‘Oh my God.’ It was exactly what I was looking for. Complete strangers were coming over to listen to him play. It was amazing.”

“Right there I asked him if he could send me a couple of pieces to possibly consider for a program.”

Within days, Chan says, Radford sent five pieces of music for Chan to listen to. Unable to contain his excitement, he forwarded the pieces to coach Kathy Johnson, refusing to tell her who had composed the music. He just wanted Johnson to listen.

She did and, like Chan, fell in love with the music.

“Kathy loved it. We went from there and we’ve kind of built it to where we are now. It’s been amazing.

“It’s almost choreographed itself.”

Not that it needs to, since Chan is once again teamed up with world-renowned choreographer David Wilson, one of the best in the business.

“It’s challenging after such a short off-season to get back in the rink, try to focus and get creative,” says Chan. “I find this process can sometimes be challenging, so to work with David, who very nurturing as an individual, makes it fun and creative. He is just amazing to work with.”

Chan will perform the program at Skate Canada International, his first ISU Grand Prix assignment of the year. Duhamel and Radford will also defend their titles at the event in Mississauga, Ont. this October.

Previously, Radford had composed “Tribute” in honour of his longtime coach Paul Wirtz, who passed away in 2006.  Duhamel and Radford skated to the music for their short program during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics season.

When working on the final product for Chan, Radford went back in the studio and merged two pieces of music together – one strings-based and the other solely piano.

“When I originally watched Patrick skate to the music (on video), what made me smile most was how David captured the more intricate things,” says Radford. “David’s originality as a choreographer, and Patrick’s skating ability, make them the ultimate team.”

“Our friendship has really blossomed over the past couple of years, especially since the Sochi Olympics,” says Radford of his bond with Chan.

“When I found out Patrick was going to skate to my music, it was like winning a world championship of my own. I hope he is able to find a calmness, something special, within the music.”

It is a season like no other for Chan, who goes in search of a ninth Canadian – and fourth world – title. Returning to competition last season after a year hiatus, Chan is determined not to put any added pressure on himself as a new season dawns.  The goal, as always, will be to finish atop the podium, but Chan isn’t going to focus as much on the results as he his on his growth as a skater, a performer and a person.

“For me, it’s all about the process and growing as an individual, when it comes to movement,” he adds. “This program, and Eric’s piece, is making me grow as a skater, to express in different ways that nobody will ever understand. It’s very much for personal gain, a selfish gain, which is good.

“I don’t think I’ve given myself enough years to do that. I think I’ve spent a lot of years trying to please everyone that’s watching.”

For Chan, there is something different about this season.

It’s about the music and the journey, not necessarily where, or even if, he finishes on the podium.

“This is just another season to me,” Chan admits. “When the music plays and I’m on the ice by myself, that’s when the magic happens. I don’t want to make a big deal.

“It’s just another competition that I’m going to give my best and hopefully affect people’s lives in a positive way.”

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