Songs from a Secret Garden

"Somewhere within us all there is a secret garden. A garden in which we can seek refuge when times are tough, or retire to in joy or contemplation. For years I have visited my own secret garden in search of organic harmony and melody. The songs on this CD are some of what I've found.
A year ago I met an artist who through the soulful simplicity of her instrument gave my songs a voice. She is the famed Irish violinist Fionnuala Sharry. Together we have tended the secret garden - and the crop is here for your picking.
It is my sincere wish that by uncovering some of my secrets, you will pay a visit to your secret garden."

(Notes by Rolf Lovland)

Fionnuala Sherry on violin and Rolf Lovland on piano/keyboards

  • Nocturne - "Nocturne, written in 1992, is a simple melody inspired by traditional moods. It's possible the combination of mood and simplicity has made it so universally popular, appealing to audiences from Japan to Iceland. Yes, presenting it to an audience of four hundred million people in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995 was an awesome risk for Secret Garden. Winning it meant a fantastic launch. Nocturne was the start of a special musical relationship, and represents the beginning of the Secret Garden history. We will always be grateful and inspired by the beautiful voice of Gunnhild Tvinnereim, and the famous 24 words by Petter Skavlan."
    Features Gunnhild Tvinnereim on vocals, Asa Jinder on keyfiddle, and Hans Fredrik Jacobsen on whistle. Lyrics by Petter Skavlan.
  • Pastorale - "Norwegian and Irish culture and traditions are unified in this piece as a kind of Secret Garden synthesis. Pastorale refers in a way to a spiritual landscape. Music is a link of communication between people. It makes us understand and discover, when words are not enough. Music can also be a guide to find our own sources, and to put names to our own emotional landscapes."
    Features Davy Spillane on low whistle.
  • Song from a Secret Garden - "The idea of Secret Garden is one that everyone can relate to. We all have landscapes inside us, secret rooms where feelings and impressions grow as a little garden. We have individual ways of finding this garden. Some talk about it, write poems or letters, paint, or even take a walk to reflect over life. We all have our own way. But what is common to us, is a strong emotional feeling that is an essential part of our nature. My way of dealing with this is through music, and everything I write comes from my secret garden. This simple piece had no other name than "Pianopiece in C minor" for many years. But when the Secret Garden project evolved, I felt this piece could express the essence of my ideas - the simple melody straight from the heart, expressed through Fionnuala's soulful, vulnerable, and naked violin playing."
    Features David Agnew on oboe.
  • Sigma - "Sigma was originally a piano piece I wrote in a melancholic night during a production I worked on in Bergen. The title, taken from the actual name of the studio, has stayed with us ever since. Not knowing how to include Sigma in the Secret Garden project, Fionnuala suggested adding a sung countermelody, almost Gregorian in style. David Agnew wrote the Irish lyrics. With the lovely voice of the eleven year old Rhonan Sugrue and the Irish National Chamber Choir, the recording of Sigma occurred with a very strong spiritual mood."
    Features boy soprano Rhonan Sugrue on vocals, the Irish National Chamber Choir, and Davy Spillane on low whistle. Lyrics by David Agnew.
  • Papillon - "This is a somewhat impressionistic piece based on major 7ths and 9ths. The spirits of Erik Satie and Claude Debussy are present. The title Papillion (French for "butterfly") also leans in that direction. This piece was written during a studio recording session in Iceland in 1994, and is perhaps the music I personally like best in the collection from a composers point of view. The phrases in the descending melody line are telling a story, and should not only be played as a broken chord. The music should be simple and delicate just like a butterfly dancing from one flower to another."
    Features Deirdre Brady on flute.
  • Serenade to Spring - "This piece was written in 1991 and recorded by Elisabeth Andreasson on her CD, Stemninger. The vocal version called "Danse mot var," has since been frequently performed. We included it as an instrumental version in the album, with the violin performing the vocal part. A beautifully played violin can be just as expressive as the human voice."
    Features Hans Fredrik Jacobsen on whistle.
  • Atlantia - "This piece was written in 1976 and is the oldest one in this collection. Its inspiration stems from the modal tonality found in the music of Grieg and other composers influenced by their own cultures. Atlantia is coloured by Norwegian traditional music, and in the recording of it we see that tradition interact with the very similar Irish tradition. We emphasized that similarity with the use of the low whistle and the Uilleann pipes. Is it the Atlantic ocean that connects the two cultures? Is Atlantia that Norwegian Viking ship sailing through the early morning mist into Dublin harbor? In a way I can't explain, I feel a musical relationship to Irish music."
    Features Davy Spillane on Uilleann pipes, Asa Jinder on keyharp, and Hans Fredrik Jacobsen on Norwegian whistle.
  • Heartstrings - "We have invisible heart-strings between us. Our hearts are woven into these fine and sensitive threads that tie us together. These strings can only be seen with our hearts. But sometimes we step on these strings because we are not careful enough and that causes strong pain. Heartstrings is about missing someone and the invisible strings of our hearts."
  • Adagio - "Adagio was written in Spain while working on a project in 1988. This is quite natural for me as I have always had a great urge to define my own creative identity while working for other artists. A creative balance. Adagio is inspired by Bach, the great master. So often I've been taken by the strong melancholy in Bach's slow movements. Adagio was originally released in a piano book called "Nine Pianopieces for Maria and Other Children" in 1989 with the title "Where the Words End." Music is to me stronger than words and when I can't find words to express my feelings, I use music."
    Features David Agnew on cor anglais.
  • The Rap - "The Rap is a strange story. I originally wrote it as a Norwegian traditional tune in 4/4 time. Fionnuala Sherry and I recorded a demo of it in my home studio. It was the last song that late evening, and it had no title. Fionnuala said, "Let's do the rap," and ever since the title has been The Rap. One night during the recording of the CD in Iceland, I "heard" the tune in 5/4 time in a dream. When I woke up the next morning, I was singing it the way I had dreamt it. The subconscious had been making a successful twist and all of a sudden, The Rap began to swing. We welcomed the Irish influence with the use of whistles, pipes and drums. The rhythm seems complicated, changing from 5/4 to 6/4, but I'm sure you will find the melody quite natural and easy to "sing" without having to count!"
    Features Davy Spillane on Uilleann pipes and low whistle, Asa Jinder on keyfiddle, Hans Fredrik Jacobsen on whistle, and Noel Eccles on percussion.
  • Chaconne - The word "chaconne" refers to a baroque dance form, a melody moving to a constant bass figure or ostinato. The Chaconne meets none of these requirements. But the poetic sound of the word and a strong baroque feeling is the background for the title. The French Suites by Bach have made a strong impression on me, and some elements in Chaconne remind me of them. Chaconne was written in 1994."
    Features Davy Spillane on Uilleann pipes and David Agnew on oboe.
  • Cantoluna - "Here the "Italian emotions" are awakened. Sentimentality under the Italian moonlight. Feelings are sometimes suppressed and we are afraid to show them. I am very fascinated by the old black and white silent movies because the actors could only show emotions, no dialogue. I could envision a movie like that when Cantoluna was written. The title itself is a very free construction of words made of canto, which means "song" in Italian, and luna, which means "moon". On the recording we used the mandolin and the clarinet to let the romantic, Italian feeling through. People often ask what kind of music Secret Garden is. Is it classical, Norwegian or Irish traditional music, world music or new age? I don't know. I only know that the music comes straight from the heart, and contains elements of all this. Some even say it sounds like film music because it's so visual. That opinion is the closest I come to a classification, because I often see a story when I write music. Maybe it could be called "music to a film never shown?"
    Features Jean Lechmar on clarinet.
  • Ode to Simplicity - "This song expresses everything I think is important to my music: simplicity. To allow melody to be naked and fragile, one that can't be wrapped or covered is a very difficult thing. It requires more courage and strength to achieve the simple than the complex, as you painfully have to submit to the powers of nature, and open up. Simplicity was written at the time of my daughter's departure to study abroad for one year. There are a lot of emotional undertones to this piece, which we certainly laid bare through the starkness of the melody. Performing Simplicity is very special to both Fionnuala and I, as it reflects the strong elements that have helped create Secret Garden."


This is the debut recording from this outstanding ensemble, and what an impressive start it is! An absolutely stunning album from an absolutely amazing ensemble! This is an incredible album from start to finish, featuring slow lyrical pieces and upbeat ones as well, and some absolutely gorgeous melodies! This is heartfelt music at its finest! Sit back and allow yourself to be carried away on a magical, mystical journey to your own secret garden. The musicianship of all the artists on this recording is top-notch. Fionnuala Sherry's emotive violin playing will blow you away, as will the outstanding keyboard work and compositional prowess of Rolf Lovland. And the backing musicians are equally impressive in their roles. I would say that Nocturne, Pastorale, Song From A Secret Garden, Sigma, and Cantoluna are the standouts, but all the rest of the songs are equally outstanding! It is obvious to me that these artists put thier whole heart and soul into performing these amazing songs, as they are full of emotion and passion! This is an album not to be missed if you love music that will touch your soul and tug at your heartstrings! Bravo!

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