Known for their lush and atmospheric, largely instrumental music, the Irish/Norwegian duo Secret Garden rose to fame in the mid-'90s and have since won an international following for their gentle but emotionally evocative sounds, dominated by violin and keyboards and combining notes of Celtic and Norwegian folk, pop, and new age styles. The duo first came together to write and perform the song "Nocturne," which became Norway's winning entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. While they would dabble in vocal music on 2007's Inside I'm Singing and pare back their arrangements on 2013's Just the Two of Us, the sizable majority of their releases saw them remaining loyal to their trademark sound, playing music that touched the hearts and soothed the souls of their many fans around the world.
Secret Garden was formed by violinist and vocalist Fionnuala Sherry and keyboardist and composer Rolf Løvland. Sherry was born in Naas, County Kildare, Ireland in 1962. She began playing violin when she was eight years old, and at fifteen, she moved to Dublin to further her education in music, later graduating with honors from the College of Music at Trinity College. Sherry spent ten years as a member of the RTE Concert Orchestra (affiliated with RTE, Ireland's national broadcasting service), and she accompanied a wide variety of noted artists, including Van Morrison, the Chieftains, Sinead O'Connor, and Chris de Burgh. In 1994, Sherry met Løvland, who was born in 1955 in Kristiansand, Norway. Løvland began writing music when he was nine years old, the same year he formed his first band, and he studied music at Kristiansand's Music Conservatory and Oslo's Norwegian Institute of Music. By the time he began working with Sherry, he had become one of Norway's most successful songwriters, with his compositions reaching the top of the country's national radio charts over 60 times. In 1985, his song "La det swinge" became Norway's first winner in the Eurovision Song Contest, and with Sherry, Løvland hoped to make that happen again.
Sherry and Løvland called their duo Secret Garden, and one of their first collaborations was the song "Nocturne," a spare but inspiring melody with a brief vocal interjection from Sherry. The song became Norway's official Eurovision entry in 1995, and the song won Løvland and his homeland their second win in the international music contest. In the wake of their victory, Secret Garden released their debut album, 1986's Songs from a Secret Garden, which topped the album charts in Norway and spent two years on the New Age chart in the United States, where it peaked at number five. One of the album's admirers was Barbra Streisand; she recorded a version of the song "Heartstrings" with lyrics by Ann Hampton Callaway under the title "I've Dreamed of You" for her 1999 album A Love Like Ours, and later used the song at her wedding ceremony to James Brolin. The second Secret Garden album, 1997's White Stones, was another chart success, and by 2000, they had become successful enough to issue a greatest-hits album, Dreamcatcher: The Best of Secret Garden, in the United Kingdom. (It was released in the U.S. the following year.) In 2002, Secret Garden issued their fifth album, Once in a Red Moon; it included the song "You Raise Me Up," which went on to be recorded by over 100 artists, including Josh Groban, Westlife, Celtic Woman, and Il Divo. Secret Garden's international audience continued to grow — they continued to release new albums and toured in Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and China.