Somewhere within us all there is a secret garden. A garden in which we can seek refuge when times are rough, or retire to in joy or contemplation – Rolf Løvland
Secret Garden is the musical duo of Norwegian composer Rolf Løvland and Irish violinist Fionnuala Sherry. The duo rose to prominence during the mid-90s alongside New Age contemporaries Enigma and ERA, gaining a global audience thanks to their success at the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest.
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Rolf Løvland was well-known in his native country as a Norwegian Grammy Award winner and one of Norway’s most successful popular songwriters, with over 60 hits on the Norwegian music charts. Fionnuala Sherry’s classical training on the violin paved the way for an eclectic career, collaborating with artists as varied as The Chieftains, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Bono, and the Irish Film Orchestra. Following a chance meeting in 1994, the pair would join forces to form Secret Garden.
Secret Garden made history by winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995 with ‘Nocturne’. This was the first time Eurovision’s 40-year history that an instrumental piece had ever won. ‘Nocturne’ was so far removed from Eurovision’s typically bombastic, camp Europop that the media stated at the time, “Secret Garden has redefined the Eurovision Song Contest!”.
SONGS FROM A SECRET GARDEN
Rolf and Fionnuala capitalised on their Eurovision Song Contest success to launch their debut album, Songs from a Secret Garden. Riding the wave of Celtic-influenced music popularised in the mid-90s by the touring Irish dance production Riverdance, the album would go on to become the first million-plus-selling Norwegian album. The album spent over a hundred weeks on Billboard’s New Age charts.
While promoting and touring Songs from a Secret Garden, Fionnuala Sherry had an accident that nearly terminated her career. After falling down a stairway, she broke her shoulder in two places. With two surgical operations, physiotherapy sessions, and a specially constructed metal brace she was able to play again. When Fionnuala recorded her violin parts for the duo’s second album White Stones in November 1996 her arm still racked with pain. White Stones would go on to achieve similar global success to their debut, maintaining another long stint in the New Age charts.
DAWN OF A NEW CENTURY
In 1999, as the world prepared for Millennium celebrations, Rolf and Fionnuala were working on their third album, Dawn of a New Century. In support of the album, the duo produced a two-hour performance special for PBS in the USA, A Night With Secret Garden, recorded in the Norwegian city of Lillehammer.
Secret Garden’s biggest hit song, ‘You Raise Me Up’, is best-known from its rendition by American pop-classical crooner Josh Groban. Originally featured on the 2001 album Once in A Red Moon, the anthemic song was performed in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, at the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks in New York City, and by countless amateur choirs throughout the 2000s. Two versions of the song were recorded by Secret Garden – the version performed Brian Kennedy which made the album release; and another by Irish/Australian singer, Johnny Logan, released in 2018 on the collection You Raise Me Up.
In 2020 Secret Garden 25 years since their win at Eurovision with a new digital collection – Nocturne: The 25th Anniversary Collection.