'The world is but a canvas for our imagination.'
- American philosopher Henry David Thoreau
This couldn't be happening. Not now. Not with this incredible opportunity before her. She'd worked too hard to get here. She'd been dreaming about this moment for weeks. Had already imagined herself on stage in fact, singing her songs, letting it all out, going for broke. No way was she giving up on that dream. No way...
But there was just one small problem. How does a singer compete in a music competition without a voice?
"It was a really busy time," says 29-year-old Aude Ray. She shrugs. "With all my classes and workshops and stuff, I guess I spread myself a bit too thin." Indeed. A woman of many skills — actor, dancer, jeweller, herbalist, music teacher, singer, songwriter — the young Whistlerite had so many things on the go last spring that she kind of let her health slip. The result: a bad case of laryngitis. "I totally lost my voice," she admits. And sighs. "Totally. And it couldn't have come at a worse time."
You see, Aude had just been selected to participate in a regional singing contest, Pacifique En Chanson. Excuse me? Think a French American Idol, but without the pettiness or call-in voting. "It's the first round of a national competition," she explains. "Artists from across B.C. and Yukon were invited to submit four songs to a judging panel. And the judges picked the four best singers to perform at a special gala concert before a live audience." She stops. Smiles from ear-to-ear. "And I was picked as one of the four! Me, the entrant from Whistler. I was so stoked."
Aude is the artistic equivalent of the Eveready bunny. Her words come tripping out at a mile a minute. And linear she's not. Our conversation veers from English to French to joual slang and back again. When she can't find the right word in one language, she switches to the other. And then sometimes there's simply no word to really represent what she's trying to describe. That's when she uses her hands.
Still, one thing is amply clear. There is a powerful life force flowing through this young artist. And loads of talent. Oh yeah. And ambition to spare.
"Becoming a finalist on Pacifique En Chanson was huge for me," she says. "Singing and songwriting — that's my first love, you know. I sing all the time. It's my passion." She stops. Grabs a quick breath. "And as one of the four finalists, well, you know, I would get to spend a week working on three of my songs with a producer and a musical director and a professional band of musicians. So cool..."
So there she was on day one of the PEC program, all cranked up and ready to go... and yet with no voice to sing with. "To be part of this week-long competition — to get all this special coaching and direction — and start off voiceless... that was so hard. I just had to accept it." A long pause. Her smile creeps slowly back into place. "But I never lost hope, you know. I knew my voice would come back. Knew I'd be ready in time for the performance."
She was the only one who did though. "No one believed that I could do it," she continues. "I mean, I couldn't train. Couldn't sing. Couldn't even talk. No whispering, no nothing. My singing coach had forbidden me to speak. It was the only way to get better. So I watched from the sidelines and drank lots of ginger tea and did whatever I could to help my voice heal."
Frustrating, for sure. But she learned a lot. "Before my laryngitis," she explains, "I think I always took my voice a bit for granted. But losing it made me appreciate it so much more. Maybe for the first time I realized what a gift it was..."
Aude was born and raised in a small Quebec town just east of Montreal called Sorel. She was always into music. Always into the arts... whether it was singing or painting or performing in a play. "I think the first time I was on stage was when I turned 13," she says. And grins. "My mom was in the audience. I think she was impressed because soon after she enrolled me in singing lessons."
After graduating from high school in 2000, Aude moved to Montreal to attend CEGEP. "I studied theatre at the Conservatoire Lasalle," she says. "And I loved it! I'd always dreamed of being an actor. And now, amazing, there I was living my dream."