The global phenomenon of Secret Garden has been so far reaching that it's hard to believe the duo of Norwegian keyboardist/composer Rolf Lovland and Irish violinist Fionnuala Sherry have only recorded three previous studio albums in addition to their 2001 compilation, Dreamcatcher. Once in a Red Moon continues Secret Garden's tradition of organic storytelling melodies and straight-from-the-heart performances with a wink back to the innocence and raw simplicity of their debut. Lovland and Sherry felt that their second and third recordings, White Stones (1997) and Dawn of a New Century (1999), were conceived as larger-scale projects which would help build the scope of their live performance presentation. This time, they wanted to let the natural performance of the piano and violin be the leading force; to this end, they built their productions based on the first, original sensitive and raw takes in the demo phase. There are also some unique new elements: guest appearances by the Irish National Symphony Orchestra and RTE Concert Orchestra players performing live in the studio fronted by Sherry (five of which were scored and conducted by Steven Mercurio, musical director for Andrea Bocelli); guest vocalist Karen Matheson of Scotland (on the ethereal universal love message "The Gates of Dawn" and the dreamlike, atmospheric "Greenwaves," with lyrics by Ann Hampton Calloway, who wrote the words for the Barbra Streisand song based on another Secret Garden track); Swedish harpist Asa Jinder, who worked on Secret Garden's debut and helps define the Nordic/Celtic mix of the duo's music; and world-renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, duetting with Sherry's violin on the sweetly melancholy "Duo." Once in a Red Moon also features a once-in-a-lifetime musical experiment. Via their website, the duo asked people to participate in the new album by sending them "the global C," recorded on a piano. They received piano chords from all over the world, creating a global energy of sound for the final chord of the emotional closing track, "Elegie."
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran