Fionnuala grew up and went to school in Naas in County Kildare, Ireland – surrounded by a musical family that ignited her passion for music at an early age. She started to play the violin at the age of eight, and at fifteen she moved to Dublin to study music. She graduated with honours from Trinity College in Dublin, and the College of Music, and was later employed by the RTE Concert Orchestra, where she was a member for ten years.
In addition to the classical symphonic and operatic repertoire, Fionnuala possessed a much wider musical interest. This is evident in the eclectic body of artists and projects she has been involved with, including The Chieftains, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Chris de Burgh, Bono and Wet Wet Wet. With the Irish Film Orchestra she’s also recorded several Hollywood film scores, such as “The River Runs Wild”, “A Room With a View” and “The Mask”.
That same wide interest in music led her to conceive, write and present her own music series for children on Irish national TV – all this leading up to her fated meeting with Rolf Lovland and the founding of Secret Garden in 1994.
Onstage, she enchants audiences throughout the world, through her musical intensity and soulful performances. In Secret Garden’s music, her unique violin virtuosity provides the heartstrings, voice and wings for Lovland’s compositions.
She performs on an English John Edward Betts violin from 1790, with a Hill bow, both on stage and in the studio.
I grew up in a family of 5 children as the middle kid. My mom played the piano and my dad was an avid singer; not by profession but simply as a music lover. All my siblings played instruments, so it was very much a musical family. I started playing the piano at 4 or 5. One of my earliest memories is having my own little manuscript book; one page was blank so I could draw a picture on it, and the other page was for music so I wrote my own tunes. Even from that age I was drawn to the sound of the violin. I kept asking for my own violin because I was hooked on the sound – I just knew I had to play it!
I got my first fiddle when I was 8. Because of my piano training, I could quickly play my own tunes, and I just loved to perform. I remember my dad putting me up on a chair and saying, “Play a tune for us, Fionnuala.” Parties were my favorite time listening to my parents entertain their friends. Sometimes I could not contain myself and I would get up out of bed and ask my dad if I could play a tune for them. I was always happy to play for everybody.
My parents were both teachers so we grew up enjoying long summer holidays as a whole family. Dad was a bit eccentric and I remember he bought an old bus and converted it into a holiday home. We all brought our fiddles and other instruments and played throughout our summer holidays across Ireland. We were a closely-knit family and music and sport was at the centre of all activities.
I was accepted into the Irish Youth Orchestra as their youngest member at the age of 12. This gave me a unique chance of playing in a large group. I will never forget the sound of all those instruments around me the first time. It was like an explosion of sound – and planted the first seeds for my absolute love of orchestras and and their repetoir.
Apart from performing in Ireland, we also performed in the US and Italy. While in Rome, I managed to successfully audition for a seat in the European Youth Orchestra where we performed Mahler’s First Symphony open air – a truly magical experience for a young musician!
When I turned 17, I concentrated on studying music full time. The tennis racquets and riding boots were sadly put away as I worked between the Irish College of Music, studying performance, and completing a compostiion academic degree at Trinity College in Dublin. I also played part time with The Irish Chamber Orchestra.
I financed my student years mainly through my work with the Irish Amateur Music Societies. Not only was it an essential part of my training, it also financed my digs. It gave me great experience in leading, accompanying and playing in the pit seven nights a week. Also due to neccessity, I began to busk frequently on Dublin’s Grafton Street. Actually there were two of us; my pal Mairead McCrann and myself. I don’t know how many times the police arrested us, as busking was actually illegal those days. We were an unsual sigth as busking was quite uncommon back then. Only a sporadic guitar player here and there but not two classically trained violininsts. The principal of the College of Music even threatened to have us expelled for it. But the money was too good: sometimes we could make 50 quid on a day’s work. Besides, we really learned how to work a crowd. Today, Mairead is the leader of Vienna Chamber Orchestra. It’s funny that we share this early experience.
The RTE Concert Orchestra offered me a permanent position when I was 21. I had played with this orchestra and The National Symphony Orchestra as a freelancer for years before that, but to finally become a fulltime professional musician was great. I stayed with the orchestra for the next ten years, until I met Rolf. The first thing the principal conductor said to me was I needed a better instrument. This was a dilemma as I was not be able to aford the luxury of buying a new violin. My eldest brother Brian stepped in and helped me finance the violin I play to this day: an English John Edward Betts violin from 1790. It’s actually not a full-size violin – it’s slightly smaller. I think this has become part of the musical identity of Secret Garden; it has a mellow darkness and earthiness to it that defines our sound.
As a parallel career, I also worked as a TV presenter in Ireland. I wrote and presented my own music programs, initially aimed at kids but later made into mainstream infotainment programs. I guess my energy was pretty unstoppable during those years because I also started my own event company organizing music and entertainment for corporate events. I’m glad I did all of this because it gave me loads of experience in different areas. Still and all, my first love has always been music. The pull toward it is too strong.
During my years in the orchestra I was lucky to also be offered a lot of studio session work. Working with film music and many studio productions was a very valuable part of my background going into my own recordings, and I’m still grateful for the experience. A recording studio became a really familiar place for me and I built up a huge network of musicians, arrangers and other professionals.
Looking back, my dad had probably left an indelible imprint on me. He didn’t like so much the formal side of my training as a classical violininst; the endless scales and daily technique practice. He missed me playing ‘the tunes’. Ironically, he had developed Alzheimer’s by the time I met Rolf. More than anybody, he would have loved Rolf’s music; the tunes, and the storytelling melodies. I guess that’s why Secret Garden was a full-circle experience for me. By the time I met Rolf in 1994, I had absolutely no reservations in leaving my career behind.
Rolf Løvland – Composer/Arranger/Producer/Keyboardist
Rolf was born in Kristiansand, in southern Norway, in 1955. His first brush with composing came at the early age of nine when he formed his first band. From then on, and throughout his youth, music came to be his constant companion and focus in life. He later studied music at the Music Conservatory in Kristiansand – and continued his Masters Degree studies in music at the Norwegian Institute of Music in Oslo.
By the time he’d unveiled his “Secret Garden” to the world, Rolf had already earned himself a Norwegian Grammy Award and the reputation as Norway’s most successful popular songwriter – topping the national radio charts (Norsktoppen) more than 60 times. For two consecutive years, his songs had won the National radio chart “Song of the Year-award”.
Rolf was also a two-time winner of the international Eurovision Song Contest final – in 1985 with “La det swinge”, and in 1995 with “Nocturne”. He is also a four-time winner of Norway’s national Eurovision Song Contest finals. In 2007 he received the coveted Achievement Award at the Norwegian Grammies where his international achievements were recognized. Among his most successful songs are “You Raise Me Up” recorded by over 1000 artists (among them are Josh Groban and Westlife and Il Divo) and “I’ve Dreamed of You” recorded by Barbra Streisand.
The founding of Secret Garden has given Rolf the freedom to explore (and for us to experience) deeper emotional dimension and wider musical landscape than the earlier phase of his career had allowed. It has also proven the composer, Rolf Lovland, to be a musical force of considerable stature.
Stage Instruments: Acoustic Grand Piano or Yamaha Digital piano GT2 or NS3.
Unlike Fionnuala, I didn’t come from a significantly musical family. My mother played a bit of piano at home when I was growing up, but none of my family members were musicians. My mom could play a tune from a film or from the radio; she had that keen sense of musicality. In later years she would listen to our music and I could feel it was very close to her heart. It’s quite likely she might have had the creative urge to be a musician, but in those days it just wasn’t a career option. Still, as a child, you just step into that atmosphere and eat it up. Later in life, I’ve also been told that my father played a bit accordion, but I can`t remember that I ever heard him play.
I think a pivotal moment in my young life was losing my father to a heart attack when I was 7. In those days in Norway, as it was in many other places, the emotional and psychological side of things wasn’t ever spoken about. I didn’t realize that my father had even died. I was alone at home, looking out onto the street, and I see a funeral cortege of cars arriving outside our house – everybody was wearing black suits. I wasn’t part of the funeral at all, for the simple reason that my mother thought she was protecting me. It was part of the culture, I guess. It never became natural for my mother to open up and invite me into her emotions. I was able to connect the two events in my own mind because I knew that my father had been sick and that it was serious. It was never explained to me how serious it actually was. Now that he was dead, it was just scary. I locked the door to my room from the inside. My aunt came knocking and called out for me but I wouldn’t answer. I wouldn’t let anyone in. I think there’s a symbolism there: I was closed inside a room, where I needed to be with just my emotions. I think of it as a really important moment for me. Because we didn’t talk about emotions, I always connect that with the strong urge to discover my own emotions through music. Looking back, I feel that there’s a great connection between that event and my decision to be a musician. Music is something that allowed me to express my feelings.
Two years later, when I was nine, I started my own band, called The Ellycats (I didn’t know how it was spelled – it should of course have been The Alleycats.) Even inside that band, I wasn’t choosing to be the leader, but I ended up being the one who charted the songs that we played: stuff by bands like the Beatles, Beach Boys or the Monkees. I started to figure out by myself what the chords and lyrics were, and then I taught what I had learned to the others. I even wrote my own songs. I guess it was my first discovery of my own creativity.
We weren’t about world domination or anything; more about sharing a genuine passion for music. No-one else in Kristiansand was bringing to realization something that pop bands did in England or the US. We did it simply by intuition, but it felt very fulfilling and meaningful. I got my hands on a cheap old drum set; one I could barely look over. One of my friends bought the cheapest electric guitar he could get on mail order. Basically, we took what we had and put it together. Some of our classmates knew about it, but apart from a few private parties we weren’t ones for playing publicly. If someone came along to rehearsals, it felt great. Looking back, it allowed me to work with music and feel that I was naturally getting a really good grip on it. It felt intuitive and easy, and it was something you build on with experience. The fact that I wrote my own songs as a 9-year old was probably an important discovery. At that age you’re very receptive, and looking back I think this was shaping me significantly.
All the way through school, music had been at every crossroad. When you choose subjects to study, the direction that felt most natural for me was music: nothing else came close. It wasn’t an obsession; more like an obligation to pursue it.
By the time it was time to think about Music College, I’d had no formal musical training I’d only ever worked on my own music, so I had no training repertoire. I could play the piano, certainly, but when it came to Mozart or Beethoven, I was blank. When I got accepted into the Conservatoire, I had to work ten hours a day to catch up with others to get to the level that everyone else was at. Thankfully my piano teacher willed me through the first year. It was harder than I had anticipated, but it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It’s become one of my strengths as a musician: I love the work and don’t mind when it’s a long and hard day, because the sense of working on something important justifies something in me. Because of that training I had an analytical approach, and wanted to find out why the music I liked listening to was good.
Aside from one teacher in my 9th grade who was the first person to see in a formal context that I had some talent or special interest in music, no one was really reviewing or advising me. But with this teacher, I dared to discuss and show him my music, and we became close friends. He was the one adult who was truly involved in my creative endeavors and I could never get enough of it.
After studying music at the Conservatory in Kristiansand I moved on to finish my Masters Degree at the University of Oslo. Even though I had a great fascination for music history and science, I stopped being creative. The high academic and musical performance level of my fellow students probably intimidated me. My own composing felt unimportant. I guess I was very singular about my music. I was mostly self-taught and had developed an inner individual confidence but I was afraid of exposing it publicly. Music was a necessity – following me as a close companion ever since childhood. So, I was very relieved when I was back free-lancing again after my years at the university. I loved the musical projects I got involved with; writing music, arranging and producing. It made me aware how important it was to me to express my creativity. Since then, I’ve never looked back.
Soon I was involved with top artists and productions for the record companies. I was lucky to get a good start as an arranger for the top selling album even on my first year as a professional. But I worked long days and long nights. I was very determined to grab the opportunity once I had the chance; both professionally and to be able to support my family. I suddenly felt that this was what I wanted to do.
By the time I formed Secret Garden together with Fionnuala in 1994, I had done a long list of productions for Norwegian artists. I had build up an experience with arranging and scoring for bands and orchestras and most importantly, I written a string of pop-songs. Actually, I had more than sixty number 1 positions in the national Radio Chart (Norsktoppen); twice composer of ‘song of the year’; I was three times winner of the national finals in the Eurovision Song Contest, and even won the international ESC-final for the first time for Norway with ‘La Det Swinge’ in 1985 – as well as having received a Norwegian Grammy. I had also worked as a musical director for various TV-programs in NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting). I felt my musical career was well established after 13 years as a free-lance professional. I basically had everything I needed – apart from one thing: my own musical project.
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Posted November 10th, 1:07 pm
Note to self!! Remember not to leave new hat unattended !!😊 … See MoreSee Less
Never to do, hat on the bed, so I've heard,,,, hope all is well
Our Aussie is the same. Leeta, Destroyer of Things.
it happens! (Just released a new book you might enjoy … A HAPPY TRUTH: Last Dogs Aren't Always Last <3
Ah ah ah so lovely… poor hat… 🙂
This hat sets a new trend as it is so unique. Set it on top of a plastic head. Call it "Covered" and sell it as rare and special piece of art for – let's say $50000.
Nice hat. Such a shame you'll have to go back and shop for another one
Looking at it I think he was trying to cut out his own silohuete !
These things happen unfortunately. He looks very sorry. You could use whats left to make a toy for him.
Does look a bit like a meat pie!
Look so innocent. 😁
The look on his face, though…! 😄 Too cute to be angry at.
Love Jack Russells. They are so naughty 😊
Those eyes are saying "I'm sorry. Do you still love me?"
The message is, "take me out more, NOW!"
just discovered your beautiful music iam a classical guitarist and slowly learning your beautiful music for my guitar all my thanks for the music susie
he looks innocent to me❤️
Awww. ..what a cutie!
The look says," but, I thought it was for me" 😂
This hat is one of a kind now
Hehe, så uskyldig! 😄 Silas ødelegger heldigvis veldig lite. Han har andre "utfordringer" istedet 😜
Looks a whole lot better!
But that face!!❤
Oh my …
I love this dog❣️🥰
Posted October 16th, 10:29 pm
Honoured to be associated with this stunning creation, The Fi bra by @paularowangloves in aid of the @mariekeatingfoundation currently on display in @marksandspencerireland
#mariekeatingfoundation #Cancer#pinkribbon #pink … See MoreSee Less
My first thought was how does this represent our Fi… a heart center of rose softness, passionate and delicate… surrounded by bold strength that captivates. The past years you’ve been through so much… but you persevere with passion.
Posted October 13th, 4:21 pm
Latest update from Fionnuala❤️
Paula Rowan’s “Fi” bra:
www.facebook.com/100000741019983/posts/2715014871866520?sfns=mo … See MoreSee Less
I'm thrilled to see your face! It's a relief and a blessing since we haven't seen you in a while. Sometimes imagination runs away with us and we think things are worse than they are! You look fabulous! Our prayers are being answered!
I wish you all the best in your recovery and I know you'll be back with us before you know it!
Thank you for your update❣❣❣
Greetings from Kristiansand 🇳🇴
We love you ❤
Afortunados en volver a verla meses sin saber de usted, bienaventurados, que este pronto recuperada del todo, los que no hablamos el idioma no hay traducción para sus palabras, felicidades. gracias gracias gracias !!!🙏🎻🌹 .
Thank you Fionnuala! Kisses from Neuquén, patagonia Argentina. You feel better, because you are live in love…
Ich heisse Ahmet geboren deutschland ich bin türkisch jetzt wohne ich türkei antalya ich warte ihr conzert kommt ihr türkei
Vous êtes toujours très jolie. Merci d'avoir songé à nous faire votre partage. Bisous <3
Nice to see you best at all time
You seem more positively ..I hope you are good and back at early time to make us happy when we listen again to your musicians
Continued healing prayers being sent up from Oklahoma, USA.
I was just thinking of you as I listened to your newest CD. I love it so much. Thank you to both of you for sharing your exquisite talent. I've been praying for you Fionnula. I trust God will want your beautiful music to help us all here on Earth!
Thank you for your good and encouraging report. Still in our prayers. Eva and Jabez, of Colorado Springs.
Fionnuala, again and again .. we love you and keep praying for your recovery. One day we pray that we meet with you in person. We will come from Canada to say thank you and to Rolf and tell him how much God Jesus Christ has changed lives through your music. Please recover quickly … Happy thanks Giving
I'm soooo glad you are feeling better 😍 thank you for the update! we all love you and wish you the best ❤❤❤❤
I'll make it a short speech. Get fully healed now. All the best! 🙂
I remember your son and for me is amazing,I love you so much,sincerelly yours from Chile.
Fionnuala, you’re so beautiful, the beauty of the music you put into this world has had such an impact in my life, at a time when I needed it most! I know you don’t know me, but I’m sending you all the love and good vibes I can! You’re sweet, and talented, you have the voice of an angel, and you have no idea how much your music is a part of my life. It’s what I do, and where I turn, when I need a little peace and clarity. It has been a source of self reflection and healing for me, and I pray that all of that beauty, love, and grace comes back to you ten fold! Big hugs sweet girl! ❤️
Hang in there! You are a strong lady! Thank you for your beautiful music. My best to you!
Get well soon Fionnuala! I hope that we will help Raise you Up and that our well-wishes will give you the Strength to rise again.
It’s great to see you as I have been thinking of you as it is good that you are doing well in health wise,onwards and upwards to you Fionnuala as Wicklow is a lovely spot to go
God bless you! My granddaughters love your lullaby!
Oh Fi, what an inspiration you are💗With this positive message re the importance of breast screening. I’m sure you’ll save many lives! I was one of those woman that checked myself and thought, if I don’t feel a lump all is fine, no need to worry! How wrong I was in my blissful ignorance! Thank you for spreading awareness 💗💗💗💗
Thank you for the update and you look fabulous- must be the Irish genes! Stay strong, keep the faith, and let the music carry you!
Beautiful princess, I've just found out about this unexpected horrible disease you had, i am so sorry, who could ever guess. You are wonderful and talented, and you give us magical feelings with your music. Stay cool as you'll be OK very soon, a long and rich future is waiting for you)) Heartiest hugs and kisses from Belarus❤️💕💗
Love you too! Thanks hearing your update !
Keep going strong, Fi! We're all rooting for you.
Posted July 3rd, 12:12 am
SECRET GARDEN CANCELS ALL CONCERTS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR
Unfortunately, life can get in the way of the best-made plans and so, after planning an extensive tour of China this fall as well as planned concerts in Norway, Australia, and Korea to celebrate our latest album “Storyteller", Fionnuala was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer.
After two rounds of surgery, she has now started radiation treatment as well as infusion therapy. Her medical team has advised her to concentrate on her health situation, so subsequently, we have decided to postpone all concert plans until Fionnuala’s treatment is over.
We hope to be rescheduling all touring plans in mid-2020. We had been very much looking forward to performing the music from our new album “Storyteller” and it saddens us very much that we have to postpone for the moment.
In Fionnula’s own words:
“Even though it’s scary to get such a diagnosis, I am also very grateful that we had recorded and released our new CD. The response so far has been fantastic and I really am very thankful for all the positivity & support we have received”
"This will be a challenging time ahead – but knowing that we will be back performing as soon as possible will give me the drive and support to see the treatment through.”
We want to thank you all for your continued support and meanwhile, hope you enjoy “Storyteller” as our story continues to unfold.
Fionnuala and Rolf … See MoreSee Less
You will overcome dearest Fi, my best friend. Huge congrats on “Storyteller”, it is so very beautiful from all the music to the stunning artwork. Just listening to “Strength” & that’s what you have now, from yourself, others & me. Concentrate on your health. Your music is so healing & now you can heal too. I cant wait to see you very soon. Love you so very much 🎻🎻❤️❤️
Sending prayers your way , this is just another test fionnuala , you WILL beat Cancer's ass, you WILL conquer , thank you for all the beautiful music Secret Garden has put out, it has healed me so many times , God bless you all!
Health and best wishes and hope a very good prognosis and recovery.
🙏🏻❤️❤️❤️ Best wishes to you lovely lady, God bless you!
Fionnula – I am sending you my most powerful heartfelt healing prayers for a complete recovery. I know this will be a difficult chapter for you in your life, but I am confident you will get through this "bump in the road" and emerge stronger than ever. I've been a long time fan of Secret Garden and have all of your CD, DVD's and your new release, which is wonderful. I hope you can visit us sometime in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota in the not too distant future. Warmest wishes and positive vibes are coming your way! 🙂
Mis buenos deseos y oraciones para que sanes pronto querida Fionnuala, paz a sus corazones #SecretGarden… 🇨🇱
Todo mi apoyo y cariño a quién ha puesto la banda sonora a todos mis viajes de Noruega. Mis mejores deseos y mi energía más positiva.
May your very own music be a healing source as it has been for others. I have a friend who is a beautiful singer who had to have throat surgery so I bought her “inside I’m Singing” she said it was got her through a very difficult time of her life.
May God bless you and your doctors and give you a cure! Your music sounds beautifully within so many hearts.
Fionnuala, you are loved so much! I am a 1 year Breast Cancer Survivor! Your music got me through some pretty tough times last year. I will be thinking of you and sending lots of love your way!! You can do this!!!
Sending a truckload of healing love:
My heart goes out to you, Fionnuala, and praying that you’ll have a full recovery. I must say that Storyteller is the best CD that you two have made. It reminds me of watching a movie, with its different moods. I’m grateful that you came out with the CD before your diagnosis. But, your health is the most important thing right now. God has blessed you both, giving us such beautiful music, and I know He’ll give you strength and get you through this. God Bless. Jeff Blew
May God bless you and be with you all through the coming stages dear, and I pray you get well and be fully healed soon dear Fionnuala.. Can’t tell you how much I love your music and have learned a lot from your tender expression in playing… May God bless you and your beloved band 🙏🙏😍😍🌺🌺🌺🌺
Sorry to hear that !
Concentrate on getting well!
Look forward to your concert in Australia. Absolutely love your music.
Fionnuala is a survivor and she will get through this! ❤️🌹
I'm a prostate cancer survivor!
Bless you all!❤️
Tons of prayers from Canada and may God give you strength to get through this. Your music and playing are inspiring and I need to order more sheet music of yours as I have played your songs on my violin in church, for weddings, funerals and for plain ‘ol fun. Hoping for a speedy recovery for you Fionnuala. God be with you and Rolf. In love and light, Pamella
Will be praying for you each time I listen to your beautiful music..much love to you❤🙏
Music so beautiful could only come from a beautiful soul. Prayers for your full recovery and strength as you walk this part of your journey.
Sending all my love to you from Hong Kong. God bless you❤️
Thank you for your beautiful music. I'll be praying n cheering for you. Love from Indonesia.
OMG!!! I am SO sorry to hear this! I had it years ago and I have been cancer free since! I will keep you in my prayers that your treatment is successful! (I feel like one of my sister just told me! Shocked and sad! I have always loved you) ! Prayers do works! Keep positive! Take care of yourself! ❤
Your dog is precious. Sending prayers of Love and Light for restoring your health with "grace and ease"
I truly wish you a speedy recover and a healthy life in the future. Your music is my blood. I am praying for your health. thank you both for your wonderful music which if my wife was still alive she would be loving your music as i do. od bless you
Gospeed in your recovery!🙏✝️your music touches many hearts throughout the world 🇨🇮🎵🎶🎻🎹
Your soothing music has gotten me through a few rough patches, and I am forever grateful. I now send you positive, healing, loving energy as you show cancer the door. ❤
Posted June 11th, 12:33 pm
Archie exploring new keyboard. Maybe a tune will happen some day !! … See MoreSee Less
Archie looks like a Jack Russell Terrier
"Musique pour les chiens"? Music for dogs? 😀
Your muse is walking the plank.
Maybe he’ll give you a tune that will become your next hit!
Aw so cute! When will we get a song named for him? 😉
There is your next album cover right there
Sound with the hound.