« Le Silence de la forêt », a committed initiative from Olivia Gay

Official partner of her project « Le Silence de la Forêt », the French National Forest Bureau has opened its network linking artistic production with concrete actions in the field of forest conservation. Olivia donates part of her fees to the Endowment Fund « Agir pour la forêt » (Acting for the Forest) to support rehabilitation of the Echarcon Forest in the Essonne region of France, seriously affected by Ink disease.

Using a mobile stage with a concert grand piano attached to it, Olivia can perform inside many forests in France as she raises public awareness for reforestation and environmental protection. Her initiative, presented during the Climate Academy in March 2022 in France  was warmly received.

“We don’t inherit the land from our parents,
we borrow it from our children. 
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

To defend this forest in which she lives and where she recharges her batteries, cellist Olivia Gay has launched a unique project entitled “le silence de la forêt”. The idea is to invite spectators to discover music differently, in the heart of the woods or on natural sites.

How was this project “the Silence of the Forest” born?

« Le silence de la forêt » is a project that comes from my passion for nature, from my need to live close to it and with it, whether in my personal or artistic life. I have already highlighted my relationship to nature in my last two albums but this time, I wanted to focus more specifically on the forest. I was very disturbed by images of the mega-fires that destroyed hundreds of acres of forest during the past summers and I began thinking about how I better engage myself as a citizen and as an artist.

The album Whisper Me A Tree was designed around the imagery of a forest and nature that inspired music by the composers I recorded for Outhere (September 2022). But more than just recording and performing, I wanted to give more meaning to this project by truly dedicating myself to the goal of playing an active role in helping preserve our forests. So, thanks to the ONF, pianist Célia Oneto Bensaid and my work as a cellist, we can take on this somewhat crazy project of bringing music to the heart of the forest and donate a good portion of the proceeds to various forest preservation projects. 

What connection do you have with the forest?

The forest, for me, is an integral part of my life

I now live near the forest of Fontainebleau and from my window,  it stretches as far as the eye can see. This story goes back to my childhood: I was born in the East of France, in a place where there are more trees than people ! My arrival to Paris at age 17 was quite painful for this reason, given I have always been geographically close to nature.

This forest, I walk it alone with my dog ​​or on horseback. As soon as I arrive in the middle of the trees, the road noise and the city disappear, only the natural atmosphere of the forest remains. It’s an environment that reduces stress, studies show this, and in any case I immediately feel physically different. I am calmer but my imagination awakens, what worried me dissipates and when I get home, I have a burst of courage and inspiration. In the forest, I find this awakening of the senses, this instinctive « something » that is also present in my cello playing. It’s all quite magical. »

The National Forestry Bureau is very attentive and sensitive to your approach…

« And that is reciprocal! I was familiar with the work of the ONF in Fontainebleau, but I am now discovering all of their actions as well as the network of foundations and associations that are committed to defending the forest and natural environment.

I was really, very happy and honored to be invited by the ONF to the Climate Academy in Paris on Saturday March 19 as part of International Forest Day. I performend there with the pianist Célia Onéto-Bensaid who participated in a round table caled « When art dialogues with the forest » as did Fabrice Hyber, Eva Jospin and Vincent Laval, three artists whose work also explores the imaginary. of the forest.

How do you imagine these concerts in the forest ?

“Playing outside is ultimately a very simple idea, but I find it particularly revealing to take that one step further and going to the heart of the forest to listen to works inspired by it. We find ourselves in the middle of the trees, the birds, the wind: all these elements that have inspired composers are there, right under our noses. My instrument, itself made of wood, fits logically into this landscape. It’s a totally different experience from the concert hall which, for me, makes sense!”

I really want to be able to help raise public awareness through music, through listening to  nature around us, but also via an educational approach with the intervention of specialists and guest speakers.

What musical programming for this project?

“This project is linked to my next album which explores this repertoire inspired by the forest and nature: there are pieces that touch me, ranging from Offenbach to Camille Pépin via Elgar, John Luther Adams, Max Richter and many sure Dvořák. It is a way also to show how what is imaginary goes beyond all eras and all cultural borders.. My friend Célia Oneto Bensaid will also explore piano repertoire, in particular Schumann’s Forest Scenes.

But this program has definitely evolved, and will continue to do so. Because, I would really like to invite other artists to support this cause: instrumentalists of course, but also singers, actors, anyone who wants to help and participate in this somewhat different project.”