"I saw my first Cirque du Soleil show when I was about 10 years old," recalls percussionist and band leader Ben Todd ahead of a recent performance. "I'd already been playing drums for quite a while before then, but something about seeing a live band with the acrobatics on stage and being in this unique environment of a Big Top, everything kind of just fell into place. I just thought immediately after seeing the show 'I want to be a part of something like this.' So from then onwards, it was kind of always my goal to one day get a job with Cirque du Soleil."
Finnish violinist and vocalist Camilla Bäckman had a very different entrance into Cirque. She grew up in a musical household. A classically-trained violinist with dual master's degrees from Helsinki's Sibelius Academy, Bäckman reveals a love for many different genres of music — classical composers like Sibelius and Rachmaninoff for sure, but also pop, rock, jazz, and more. She shares that she auditioned for Cirque on a whim, and after some deliberation, accepted their offer. As she puts it, "I ran away with the circus, and life definitely changed after that.
Both Camilla Bäckman and Ben Todd have been with the production since day one — they got to be part of the creation of the show as composer Anthony Gonzalez (who is known for his film scores and for his electropop project M83) created the show's eclectic score. Todd counts a wide array of influences in VOLTA's music; [Gonzalez] is bringing in very contemporary sounds — digital synthesizers, but also a lot of influence of analog synthesizers and his love for that kind of retro, '80s pop feel and sound. But also, he is extremely talented using the orchestral palette as well."
Through solos and improvisation, Bäckman reflects that the artists build an emotional connection with and a sense of artistic ownership over the score. In one particularly charged moment of the show, she appears in the audience after a blackout and gives an extended violin solo a mere feet from audience members as she walks through the aisles. "It's a special moment," she shares. "I know some people who have started violin after this show. That is just amazing and very inspiring to hear."
At the end of the day, Todd and Bäckman agree that inspiration is the name of the game. Maybe it's an audience member's first time seeing a violin in action, or their first time seeing the wizardry of acrobatics. In any case, these artists share that they feel humbled by the responsibility and opportunity to share music in this wholly distinctive and electric environment.