Audrey Nadeau, a classically-trained cello performer also known as “Cello Bride,” has embarked on a new project to bring a voice to the trees.
The Alberni Valley-based musician has started an artistic documentary called “Voicing the Forest” to draw attention to the old-growth rainforest of Vancouver Island—a project that she says has taken “a thousand hours of work” and thousands of dollars. The first video in her project involves a cello performance next to Big Lonely Doug, Canada’s second largest Douglas Fir tree. To depict the suffering of the nearby clearcut land, she even filmed a section where she plays naked behind her cello.
“It’s something I noticed that was present throughout the Island,” she said. “There is a lot of clear cutting happening and people are worried about it. I decided to do a statement with my art.”
The idea came to her “very naturally” as she started to become aware of the consequences of losing old-growth forest. Working alongside the BC Coalition for Forestry Reform, she has learned that old-growth forest provides a natural buffer for forest fires and also offers a unique habitat for many plants and animals. “They protect against drought, and they’re the best carbon buffer we have on earth,” she said. “It’s very serious.”
She believes that more people will listen to her message if it is presented in “a nice way.” So in the spring of this year, she travelled to Port Renfrew to meet Big Lonely Doug, climbed up onto a stump beside the enormous tree and started to perform “Celtic Passage,” written by David Eby. As the music began, she said, the clouds dispersed.
“It was like the hand of God just showed up,” she said.
The video on her YouTube page has received more than 5,000 views and garnered dozens of comments. Her endeavour is to raise awareness and, eventually, have protection for old-growth forests on the Island.
“People are coming by plane or across the globe to see those beautiful forests,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to enjoy them for years to come.”
Nadeau herself was once one of these tourists, travelling all the way from New York to the west coast, where she eventually settled permanently.
“I realized that the scenery was quite broken,” she said. “This is really my way of making this issue heard. Obviously the locals know, but the rest of Canada should know. This is something that really needs to be voiced.
“The bare minimum was to play for the tree, even if nobody else heard it,” she added. “I believe that a small act, even if unseen or unheard, can have tremendous repercussions.”
Nadeau is attempting to diversify her career. She hosts performances across the Alberni Valley and the West Coast, offers music lessons and has even started recording her own music. Now, she is establishing herself as a YouTube artist, with some help from her boyfriend, who works in computer animation.
The next video in her project is even more complex, as she brought a piano to her forest performance.
Watch Cello Bride this summer at the Rollin Art Centre in the Alberni Valley. Cello Bride will be performing at Teas on the Terrace on Sunday, Aug. 18.