by Jennifer Baker
This competition season, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, two veteran Olympic competitive figure skaters, will be bringing something special to the ice with a free skate program in September. Calling it “a program for the people,” the free skate is a creation envisioned straight from their hearts.
To achieve that end, Gilles and Poirier have paired up with two European street musicians, Dom Sky and Jack Rose of the band Govardo, to provide music for their event.
The skating duo discovered Govardo after their coach clicked on a Facebook link of their acoustic cover of “Vincent,” a folk song about Vincent van Gogh originally written by Don McLean in the 1970’s.
“It was instantaneous”, said Piper.
Poirier recalled listening to the cover for the first time, saying, “We were on board right away. It was just a matter of getting in touch with Dom and Jack and seeing if they could adjust the piece to see if they could make it work with the rules of skating.”
So, they found the band’s contact information online, sent an email, had a few Skype sessions and created a dialogue of back-and-forth artistry. “Once we got the first version from them, we knew it was something really special and something we could work with.” said Poirier.
Expanding upon the rendition played in their Facebook video, Govardo went into the studio and began recording. This time, Sky and Rose blended their musicianship with the mechanics of figure skating, reconstructed their original interpretation of “Vincent” to fit the time limit required for competition and composing an instrumental section to provide different levels of intensity that would allow for a deeper exploration of the characters Gilles and Poirier were portraying on ice.
“It’s really special to have figure skaters take on and expand your storytelling,” said Sky. “It made our year.”
Govardo worked with seven versions of the song before coming up with what Gilles and Poirier plan on skating to in September. “It was a collaborative process,” said Sky. “At one point, Piper and Paul’s coach sang a percussive idea into the phone, and then that turned into the drum beat we used on the track.”
“Vincent [van Gogh] was a revolutionary and pushed boundaries,” said Rose. “It was a nice nod to him and an inspiration for us to go deeper into our own art and push through our own boundaries in this collaboration. He was so misunderstood when he was alive, but now he is considered genius.”
The power of your art is that it outlives you. And when you feel like you’re alone, screaming out into an endless void of darkness, you will always find someone else hiding out in that same dark right along with you, listening. That darkness is the canvas of a starry night.
Next month, this free-skate piece will tell that story.
While Gilles and Poirier will be dedicating their skating and artistry to their fans and the people, Govardo will continue touring Europe by following the sun—literally. Check out both of their social media outlets for more information about each duo and upcoming events:
NASA says humans are made of stardust—so that means you are, too. Now, go light up the sky.
Jennifer Baker is a writer, actor, and musician living in Los Angeles, California. She is always on the hunt for new and interesting stories to cover. Follow her journey by visiting jennifer-baker.com