Once in a Red Moon

"It was the sound of the violin accompanied by the piano that first led us into our Secret Garden.  It is the communication and sharing of emotions that gives life to all music..."


TRACK LISTING AND NOTES
(Notes by Rolf Lovland)

Fionnuala Sherry on violin and Rolf Lovland on piano/keyboards

  • Awakening - "An acoustic invitation to step within the walls of the Secret Garden. First recorded live with piano and violin, this piece was later brush-stroked with some traditional Norwegian colour, in a reflective orchestral treatment by Steven Mercurio. Asa Jinder's keyharp and Hans Fredrik Jacobsen's natural-scale willow-whistle further add to the emerging musical landscape. The music was inspired by Kate Chopin's late-nineteenth-century novel, of the same name, which charts the emotional awakening of Edna - the main character - and the gradual realisation of her own identity."
  • You Raise Me Up - "Started life as a slow air with fragments of a familiar Irish tune weaving its way into the melody. We tried to banish the piece but it would not go away. Maybe it wanted a different life-form... and so we decided to pursue the idea of adding lyrics and asked Irish writer Brendan Graham to listen to it. His books 'The Whitest Flower' and 'The Element of Fire' - two best-selling novels about the life of Ellen Rua O'Malley during the Irish famine, had inspired us strongly. He immediately began to 'hear a story' in the melody and by that same evening had shaped the first draft of You Raise Me Up. The unaccompanied violin opening is Fionnuala's first and untouched guide recording for the original demo, while Uilleann pipes' grand master Liam O'Flynn carries the tune through the middle course. The soulful singing of Brian Kennedy and Tracey Campbell-Nation, together with the London Community Gospel Choir and Irish choral group Anúna, gives full expression to the deep spiritual longing within the lyric."
  • Silent Wings - "In its original draft this piece was a fusion of jazzy melodic lines and high-energy rhythms. But when we invited Kjetil Bjerkestrand to co-arrange it, he heard in it quite a different mood. He simplified it by stripping it down layer by layer. And by simplifying it, managed to evoke a newfound lyrical quality - a bird soaring through the air, borne aloft by the tailwinds - on silent wings. Simon Emes, who has perfomed with us for a long time, brings the simple melodic lines to life, his reed instruments in a musical dialogue with the violin. Simon is currently Principal Oboe player with the Malaysian Symphony Orchestra."
  • Greenwaves - "Each one of us has a 'meadow that cradles the heart'. Sometimes that meadow carries with it the voice of ancient echoes and half-remembered tunes... and dances old as years. American songwriter and singer, Ann Hampton Callaway, wrote the lyric to Greenwaves. We had previously collaborated with her, co-writing Barbra Streisand's wedding song - 'I've Dreamed of You.' The natural vocal beauty of Scottish singer Karen Matheson can instantly capture the heart, as it did when she performed the lament in the film 'Rob Roy', causing actor Sean Connery to declare 'Her voice is touched by God'."
  • Invitation - "We once came across a chapter in a book where, in 1674, the English jouralist Richard Head, describes his first experience of Irish traditional music. He writes 'In every field a fiddle, and the lasses footing it, till they are all of a foam.' Festive and happy, the melody here flings its way through the rhythmically driven arrangement, inviting the listener to be 'footing it'. The Norwegian-inspired tune continues to foam through a joyful metamorphosis and ends in an energetic jig finale. Bjorn Ole Rasch co-arranged Invitation, adding bright new colours and unleashing its innate energy."
  • Duo - "This classically inspired theme was originally written as a violin-piece. In the process of arranging it, the idea came to form the melody into a conversation piece between two instruments. We were honoured when English cellist Julian Lloyd Webber accepted our invitation to record with us. Cello and violin became two voices sharing one emotion, bringing to Duo a new dimension. Conductor Steven Mercurio's orchestration creates an empathetic musical backdrop to the conversation of the solo instruments."
  • Belonging - "In both Norway and Ireland, connection to the elemental is a strong part of our heritage. This is the inspiration for this pastoral melody, where the polarity between irish violin and Nordic keyharp, played by Asa Jinder, represents the differing landscapes that embrace us; making us one with them; giving us our sense of place and belonging. Co-arranger Kjetil Bjerkestrand used an old pedal Harmonium which, with all of its squeaks and noises, reminds us of the natural and organic sounds, from the places where we most belong."
  • Gates of Dawn - "All our music is written as instrumentals, but some of the melodies naturally lend themselves to words. This piece was originally arranged as a simple folktune, but gradually started to shape-change, asserting itself into a vocal song. Brendan Graham's imagery and Karen Matheson's vocal (recorded in Capercaille's studio in Glasgow), transport us to the Gates of Dawn, where we are imbued with a sense of wonder and spiritually uplifted out of the ordinary of life. The simple chorus, with its sing-along melody, contrasts with the distant, dawn chorus of the middle-part, performed by Anúna."
  • The Promise - "In this 'song without words', the two of us - together in solitude - try to capture that intimate feeling, which is the essence of our music. It was the sound of the violin accompanied by the piano that first led us into our Secret Garden. It is the communication and sharing of emotions that gives life to all music, and Steven Mercurio's emotive orchestration of The Promise, invests this communication with simplicity and warmth."
  • Fairytale - "A congregation of creatures; fairies dancing in ritual energy; the secret life of the night; all conjure up images of musical fantasy. The story-telling style of the medieval ballad is the model for this track, and the traditional song of the troubador is freely translated into an instrumental fairytale in our own style. The creative ideas of co-arranger Bjorn Ole Rasch, and the orchestration by Johnny Tate, importantly paint the otherworldly canvas for this 'danse magicale'."
  • Once in a Red Moon - "We always found this piece taking us into a nocturnal Spanish mood. The melody opens in the clarinet, performed by John Finucane, accompanied by the Spanish guitar. It then pulses through the orchestra, in ever-changing mood - from tranquillity to passion; the blood red moon rising; the heaving sea at rest. Steven Mercurio's arrangement provides a rich panoply of Mediterranean colour."
  • Elegie - "Inspired by a Dublin concert with Anúna, Elegie was the last piece written for this collection. The melody keens its lamentation around a constant drone. To the pure choral sound of Anúna, are added cries for mercy and a plea for peace: Miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem. Through our web site we sent out an invitation to take part in this album by sending us a C-chord, recorded on piano. We received 66 different C-chords - on dats, mini discs, CD's, and wave files, from every corner of the world. Here, in the dying chord of Elegie, are all the pianos mixed together in a global energy of sound. One voice, one world."

MY REVIEW AND COMMENTS

Wow! Right from the opening bars I knew that I would love this album! Simply put, this is merely a continuation of what we have come to expect from Secret Garden, the exceptional performance of beautiful heartfelt melodies. This is powerful music that will bring you joy, caress your soul, and at times move you to tears; an amazing collection of emotional songs written by one of the greatest songwriters of our time, Rolf Lovland. This amazing duo performs straight from their hearts, and so it comes as no surprise when they reveal, "the music was shaped around the two of us simply playing together and expressing our most personal musical feelings." Now blend this with superb backing musicians, outstanding guest artists, and beautiful orchestral arrangements, and what you have is a remarkable musical collage of both vocal and instrumental selections, full of energy and passion. Another mystical voyage into your very own secret garden!

Secret Garden has again collaborated with Karen Matheson, the Scottish singer with a beautiful voice that is brimming with emotion. She performs on two stunning songs included in this package. And again they have joined forces with the outstanding Irish choral ensemble Anúna on a few tracks. This is one of the greatest choirs around, and they produce an absolutely amazing soundscape that obviously enhances this gorgeous music. As in past recordings, Norwegian and Irish cultural influences once again abound throughout the album, weaving their way through the music.

Standouts on the album - how can you pick any? They are all great! But pay particular attention to Duo, a moving violin and cello duet featuring Fionnuala Sherry and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, the uplifting spiritual You Raise Me Up, the two songs that Karen Matheson sings, Greenwaves and Gates of Dawn, the intimate song The Promise, the Spanish flavoured title track with its absolutely gorgeous melody, and of course the amazing album ending song Elegie, which features Anúna.

I must say that this is yet another amazing chapter in the career of these two beautiful people who compose and perform from their very essence. A definite must have for all fans of the ensemble, and, like any of their previous albums, a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the music of Secret Garden.

Thank you Secret Garden for another wonderful work of art!!


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