Top Ten Songs of Secret Garden

What do you get when you pair up an eleven-time award-winning composer from Norway with a Celtic legend of a violinist? A band that can electrify the world, sweep records from their slots and write history. This is SECRET GARDEN.

The legend of Secret Garden began in 1995 when composer and pianist Rolf Lovland met Gaelic violinist Fionnuala Sherry. Together, they formed the core (and some would say only) members of the Secret Garden music project, and burst onto the international scene that year when the duo took home the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest trophy. It was the first time in history that the contest had been won with a largely instrumental piece, and was such a departure from the rock-pop-techno genre of earlier winners that the duo garnered immediate critical and media acclaim. The release of the band’s first album later that year was heralded with equal enthusiasm and has led to the band collecting over 25 gold and platinum albums. The second album from the band, however, almost didn’t make it out; Fionnuala fell during the tour for the first album and broke her collarbone in two places, nearly ending her musical career. Surgery, intensive therapy and an iron will allowed her to battle back and has led to the band’s current unshakeable dedication to music.

And the band has managed to make headlines everywhere it goes. Lovland has composed music for celebrities and crowned heads, including writing the song performed at Barbra Streisand’s 1998 wedding, “I’ve Dreamed Of You.” “Dawn of a New Century,” the title track from the band’s 2000 release was performed by Irish choir Anuna as part of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, and the band’s songs have spent a combined 300 weeks at the top of Billboard’s New Age music lists! Recently, PBS aired the benefit concert of “A Night With Secret Garden,” which proves that th band can still move even stones to tears.

We rank the best of the best here, going for the top 10 songs from Secret Garden:

#10-Raise Your Voices (Earthsongs). A rewrite of the traditional sacred hymn, this track explores the abilities of Rolf and Fionnuala without testing their limits. A strong and steady piece.

#9-Sona (Dawn of a New Century). A tribute to the Gaelic roots of the band, this song is written in Fionnuala’s native language and proves that she can sings as beautifully as she can play her ageless violin. The flowing lines of a language that was ancient when English was first spoken fill this piece with timeless grace.

#8-Dreamcatcher (Dawn of a New Century). With a triplet beat reminiscent of a stately waltz and a melodic line with the cadence and pitching of a plainsong chant, this piece showcases some of the music that has felt the influence of Rolf over the last decade. The gentle interweaving of the harmonic lines from Rolf’s inspired piano underlines the plaintive notes of the violin.

#7-Sigma (Songs From A Secret Garden). Like “Sona,” “Sigma” is written in Gaelic; unlike its successor, this track is broader and more resonant. Although Fionnuala sings the main line, the exceptional scoring includes nearly a dozen additional instruments, making this one of the most ambitious of the SG tracks. Certainly a worthy addition to the top ten list.

#6-Sleepsong (Earthsongs). The Coventry Carol may have inspired this piece with its rhythm and message, but the remainder of the piece is uniquely Rolf’s. A bedtime blessing of enormous magnitude, this track does not disappoint fans of the original music that Secret Garden made in 1995. In some ways, in fact, this is the closest to the older music that Rolf has traveled in recent years. The music sticks with you long after it finishes playing; you may find yourself humming it later.

#5-Always There (Earthsongs). Like several other pieces scattered throughout the works produced by Rolf and Fionnuala, this song shows the depth of faith that the two share. At once a song for a friend and a song for Divinity, “Always There” showcases the beauty of the voice in a lattice of deceptively difficult instrumental parts.

#4-You Raise Me Up (Once In A Red Moon). Rolf wrote this piece, which has since been adopted by nearly a dozen different singers. The inspiring strains of the song are not easily forgotten, and the power of the music is such that it has won the various performers critical acclaim the world over.

#3-Prayer (Dawn of a New Century). Another song of faith and inspiration, this song rings with the volume and resonance of a perfectly designed cathedral and inspires the same awe. The soaring voice is balanced by the buoyant music and it is not hard to hear the wing beats of angels as they respond to the call for aid.

#2-Gates of Dawn (Once In A Red Moon). The driving beat of this piece bolsters a technically complex violin passage and a strange mix of interweaving harmonies. But the message of the lyrics is clear and unadorned, seeming at first blush to be out of place in the difficult background. And yet, with the conclusion, the listener hears only the triumphant crescendo to silence, and realizes that the stark simplicity of the vocal part is only enhanced by the moving music. Once poetically described as the “bride in her wedding dress” piece of the Secret Garden repertoire, this musical masterpiece gives way only to oneâÂ?¦

From the beginning, Secret Garden’s reputation has rested upon their #1 song-Nocturne (Songs From A Secret Garden). It was “Nocturne” that sent them to the winner’s podium in the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest, it was the first of their singles to go multi-platinum, and it holds the record for the longest time in the top 10 of Billboard’s New Age music charts at 104 weeks. Small wonder. The technical perfection of the instrumental scoring is matched only by the richness of the lyrical line and the complex harmonic line is almost otherworldly in its beauty. Listening to this piece, you realize that this is Secret Garden; the music holds all of the mystery of Mozart’s Requiem and all of the power and subtlety of a Wagnerian opera, but condensed and made easy to listen to and understand. A true masterpiece, and worthy of Secret Garden.

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