Three years ago, cellist Audrey Nadeau was performing at Carnegie Hall in New York. Now, she is living and performing on Vancouver Island and learning to love the west coast lifestyle.
Nadeau, who performs under the name Cello Bride, is a classical cellist currently located at Sproat Lake in the Alberni Valley. She travels between Port Alberni and Tofino, performing small concerts, weddings and other events, as well as offering private lessons for cello and piano.
Nadeau grew up in Quebec, in a “very small town” two hours away from Montreal. She was the third of five children, and her mother was a musician who wanted to make sure her children had a musical education.
“I would hear more [classical music] than the usual radio at home,” Nadeau said. “My mom liked music and she wanted to spread the joy.”
Nadeau picked up the cello at a young age and by 15 years old she was studying at the Conservatory of Montreal. She picked up her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music at The Juilliard School in New York and from there began performing in major music halls across North America.
The decision to drop everything and move to the west coast of Canada was one that came “pretty easily,” she said. During her last few years in New York, she longed to move out of the city and experience a rural lifestyle. A road trip with a friend provided her with an opportunity to visit the west coast, and she ended up in Tofino with a cello, no sheet music and only a few possessions.
She describes Tofino as “the end of the road.”
“I got there and thought—and now what? I had no idea where I was going to stay,” she explained. “I just started playing.”
Nadeau started out playing at the Botanical Gardens in Tofino, performing in the middle of the forest for guests. It was an eye-opener for Nadeau, who was able to meet new people and share a musical experience in an intimate way.
“The nature of the encounter would be much more powerful than anyting I had experienced in a concert hall,” she said. “I realized that a lot of people enjoy this music, they’re just not drawn to the concert hall. The fun of it is often lost.”
Nadeau strives to make her music more accessible, with small venues and school presentations, encouraging students to work hard and enjoy what they do. She performs concerts at coffee shops like Burde Beans and Steampunk Café, offering musical selections from Disney movies and Star Wars, as well as pop tunes. Nadeau already has a performance set up at the Rollin Art Centre’s Teas on the Terrace this summer and hopes to put on a show for students at Alberni District Secondary School. Her performances are often interactive, with movie clips and storytelling.
She wanted to expand her repertoire to connect with a younger audience, because she believes the experience is more powerful when you play something children can relate to.
“I try to meet them where they are,” she explained. “I decided to go just full-on Disney. I’m very playful,” she added, pointing out the Pac-Man earrings she frequently wears. “I like the kids’ stuff.”
People do sometimes request songs. In this case, Nadeau will either write the music herself or find it online and add it to the act. She has already recorded a CD of children’s music and hopes to begin work soon on her own original music.
“I got bored and started to improvise,” she said. “Through that improvisation, I found that I was composing.”
After the discovery that playing for her new community was more fun than playing in prestigious halls, Nadeau returned to the east coast only to pick up the rest of her belongings and make a permanent relocation to Sproat Lake, between Port Alberni and Tofino. Nadeau has been on the west coast for two years now, with regular performances at the Driftwood Café in Tofino.
“I’m planning on staying here,” she said. “I’m growing an audience, I’m growing a network.”
The name “Cello Bride,” she explained, is somewhat literal.
“I married my cello,” she said. “I put on the dress, I had the roses, I walked on the beach.”
It was also a way of “re-branding” herself as she moved to the west coast.
“As I was leaving New York, I was aware that I needed a new outlet,” she said. “I was trying to find that initial spark that made me love music. [Cello Bride is] a statement that your life is your work of art. You decide who you are, what you do with your life.”