Perhaps Ireland’s most famous Eurovision took place in 1994. As well as an Irish win through Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Kids, a far more lasting legacy came through the first-ever performance of Riverdance at The Point.
At the same event, Secret Garden – Naas native Fionnuala Sherry and Norwegian writer and contestant Rolf Lovland – first met.
Following the Irish victory, the contest returned to Dublin in 1995. That particular Eurovision has long been thought a deliberate loss by the ‘home team’, due to the potential cost of hosting yet another finale.
Secret Garden’s Nocturne, nonetheless, brought a little Irish glory through winning violinist Sherry.
Some 23 years after forming, and following Sherry’s recovery from two horrendous broken arms back in 2015, the pair are still steaming on.
They’ve just released the first ever version of hit, You Raise Me Up, to feature the vocals of Johnny Logan, who had made the original recordings back in the 90s, only to be controversially bumped in favour of Brian Kennedy on the final version.
“It’s like a full circle being back,” Sherry says ahead of the pair’s recent The Late Late Show perfor-mance.
“I’ve actually played in a lot of Eurovisions with the orchestra, as we were having that nice run of wins at the time.
“I don’t think there’s been another song like ours since. We juxtaposed instrumentals with words.
“The vocal part was the introduction to Nocturne, and the outro.
“It was planned for the album, really.
“It was halfway produced, and then it was suggested Norway go with something very different for Eurovision. It was almost an accident.”
In the 90s, Eurovision was more suited to the Secret Garden style. “There was an orchestra back then. Now, it’s more on the lighting and staging than the music. Maybe we won because it was the right time for it. There was this ‘Celtic wave’, which helped.”
The result, ultimately, was a career that’s taken the pair around the world.
The new release is a best-of, in essence. “It’s a teaser while we wait for the new album, which is in production,” Sherry explains.
“There are three main things with it, really. One is to release the Johnny Logan [title] track that has never been released. It’s a big thing to get out.
“There have been all kinds of problems behind it, but I think we have some reconciliation now.
“We’ve sort of landed that conflict, a few years ago, actually. It feels very good.
“Then we have another vocal song that we haven’t really done before, and that’s a new thing for an album, plus lots of bits and pieces, piano solos, stuff like that.”
Lovland adds: “Really, the melody is the story. You are the ones to add some pictures of words to it.
“I think that’s true for all instrumental music. We lead the listener into their own stories, and hope it opens up some pictures and some imagination in them.
“It could be uplifting, or suit you when you’re in a dark mood, or whatever.”
As for those two broken arms? “It was a very big drama at the time,” Sherry recalls. “I’m back play-ing, and nobody would hear the difference.
“I say sometimes it’s like asking a professional golfer to hit the same distance with a shorter club.
“They were very bad breaks. I feel the difference, but you wouldn’t be able to sense the damage that I’ve done to myself.”
Broken bones, living in different countries, and even Johnny Logan’s objections simply couldn’t hold this pair back.
Secret Garden’s new song collection, You Raise Me Up (which includes the first release of the title track to feature Johnny Logan’s vocals) is out now.