Hugo in his studio. This former ice dancer started making his own skating mixes as a child.
Six screens, audio tracks everywhere and music that is constantly playing... Welcome to the world of Hugo Chouinard, the sound designer who creates the arrangements for all the biggest synchronized skating teams. Today, we’re discovering HIS world!
The new synchronized skating season has already begun in a soundproofed studio in his house. Every year, this is where a large number of musical programs are born. Each season, Hugo Chouinard, from Quebec Province (CAN) creates about 200 arrangements for synchronized skating and more than 2,000 for figure skating.
“It started in my parents' house when I was a teenager,” recalls this music enthusiast, who studied design. “One day, someone told me that if I put my passions together, I would never feel like I was working again,” he smiled. In 1999, he finished his baccalauréat and everything started there. “Little by little, I started working with skaters and people began to trust me”, says Hugo.
He knows very well the ice skating world because he practised ice dance for many years with his partner, finishing 4th at the 1993 World Junior Championships in Seoul, Korea, and even coached Les Suprêmes for four years.
Hugo and his partner in 1994 and the synchro team Les Suprêmes in 2001.
Marigold IceUnity, Haydenettes, Helsinki Rockettes, Skyliners, Finettes… all these come to create their musical program. Not to mention, of course, Quebec’s local teams, like The Suprêmes or Nova. “Each coach has his or her own way of working. We experiment, we try things together,” explains Hugo, who works in video-conference with coaches from all over the world.
When they come to see Hugo, some synchro coaches already have very precise ideas, others already have some specific music in mind. And then starts the creation. “The sky is the limit,” the musical designer whispers. This “magician”, as some people call him, can count on his associate Karl, who is a composer and multi-instrumentalist.
As a multi-instrumentalist, Karl works with Hugo adjusting music details until coaches are fully satisfied.
There is no bad idea in the editing of synchro music. “It can start from anything: a piece, a concept, a story… everything is possible,” says Hugo, who recalls the music of the Helsinki Rockettes called Alarm. “We had a lot of fun finding music and effects which sounded like the end of the world, of disaster,” he says.
“Ice skating is evolving and we are going in the right direction with synchro skating. We need to bring a younger audience into the arenas. We should bring flavour to the sport and make it accessible to a larger public. In synchro, we always know how to create stories full of contrasts, surprises and really true moments. It’s like creating a four minutes movie,” he says.
He knows all the themes before everyone else
How does he feel when, for the first time, he hears his music used by a team? “This is magic - a great moment. For months, I imagine this in my head. Sometimes, I understand why a coach insisted so much on those few seconds. He wanted to create an effect. The music is at the service of the skaters, it makes it possible to mark moments and increase the GOE's. Each piece is a jewel and is unique,” says Hugo.
Sometimes music (or parts of music) can change in the middle of the season. “Sometimes you have 30 different versions because it’s easier to change the music than the skaters,” he smiles.
While for several weeks the world stopped because of the pandemic, Hugo is still positive. “We are not too far behind schedule, because everyone is working hard by using video sessions,” explains the music designer, who is currently working on the music for several major international synchro teams. “The concepts have already been chosen, but I can’t tell you any more. The stakes are high. So we must keep the secrets.”
"Synchro skating always manages to surprise us"
As for whether there is a musical trend for next season, he says: “I think synchro skating never really has a trend because it always manages to surprise us with an infinite number of themes. Maybe, for next season, with what we have just been through, the synchro coaches would like to add hope into the programs. A form of spirituality and good vibrations, showing that positive, and not only negative things, came from the pandemic,” he tells us.
If all of a sudden, two teams had the same idea or the same music, Hugo would ask them, keeping the competitors' anonymity, if they want to talk to each other about their choices. “It was the case with the music of The Greatest Showman,” he says.
During each season, Hugo takes part in Canada’s national competitions. Responsible for setting the mood and delighting the crowd with the music. He loves the synchro audience. “One day, I dream of being able to show this sport to as many people as possible. In Canada, this would start by the integration of the junior and senior teams into the ice skating nationals. Presenting this sport to skaters in singles and ice dance would be great,” he concludes.