2011 marks the 10th anniversary of "You Raise Me Up". From its first release in 2001 on Secret Garden’s ”Once In A Red Moon”-album, the number of recordings and list of events forms a unique story. Many journalists and media-people have asked us about the story of the song – its origin and the facts. Here is our own story – for the first time.
Composer Rolf Løvland’s story
During the autumn and winter of 2000 I was composing new music for our forthcomming album Once In A Red Moon- I was preparing 5 or 6 new songs for the studio demo-session in Cross studio in Kristiansand, taking place in January. One of the melodies was work-titled ”Silent Story” – almost suggesting that there was a story waiting to be told. Even if a majority of Secret Garden’s music is instrumental, I felt this melody was meant to be sung. I’ve often been asked what inspired me to write this tune. Many times music doesn’t have any particular inspiration – at least that we are aware of. But I always think of this melody as an accumulated inspiration of Irish traditional music in general – a great source of music and tradition to me and to Secret Garden.
On the last day of the hard-working week I had saved the last and the simplest piece of them all to be demoed. Present in the studio was our sound-engineer Alf Emil Eik, Fionnuala Sherry and myself – all exhausted by long days and nights through the whole week. Fionnuala even had to sit cross-leged on the floor playing the violin, Alf Emil was half-asleep in the ajoining room and I was in the control-room with my piano and keyboards. We recorded a very simple instrumental demo with violin and keyboards only. In the tiredest moment magic happened. We all knew then we had a special song. The "Silent Story" instrumental demo was the music to what with lyrics became "You Raise Me Up".
and May of 2001 we planned and prepared the recording of the album. We demoed
a total of 21 new pieces for the project. 12 made it to the album – "You Raise Me Up" (then Silent Wings) nearly didn’t. During production meetings
we evaluated all the songs within the team of people involved. Lists were written
and opinions expressed. Finally it was ranked 18 among the 21 pieces.
Fionnuala and I strongly believed this song should be a part of the album and we didn’t compromise. We started the recording in Dublin in the beginning of May 2001 in Windmill Lane Studio with sound-engineer Andrew Boland. By the time of the orchestral session on the 11th of May, I had orchestrated and prepared the song based on a guide piano and Fionnuala’s guide violin playing the melody. The session was conducted by Steven Mercurio with the Irish National Symphony Orchestra. Interestingly, when we later mixed the album we went back to the original recording Fionnuala did, sitting on the floor in Kristiansand, on the very first demo. It had a special sense of discovering something for the first time - and that magic couldn’t be replaced. That’s in fact the solo opening heard on the record.
Fionnuala gave me a book for Christmas that year. It was a novel about the Great Irish Famine – The Whitest Flower – by Brendan Graham. I was so moved by the book – the incredible Irish story and the timeless writing. If anyone could write the ”silent story” it was this incredible author. I knew Brendan since 1994 and we had been talking about working together – this song became our first collaboration. Fionnuala phoned Brendan on an early Sunday afternoon and we met him for tea to play the unfinished recording of it. Brendan was listening over and over again and very mindfully he left us with a ”I’ll call you”. Later that evening, he did and asked us to come by his house. He’d handwritten the first draft to ”You Raise Me Up”. There was no later draft – it was the perfect lyric. I still can recall that sense of amazement and goosebumps I felt when I first read through it. It totally captured the song’s spirit and raised it to something ”more than it could be”.