A Rare Meeting With Enya
“For me the career means really much. I would never change any moment from my life”.
Enya’s music is a thing that remains in everyone’s memory who hear her music only once. But the singer herself cannot be seen very often, nor one doesn’t know hardly anything about her. Therefore, the invitation to Paris to a dinner party arranged by Enya was an exceptional occasion.
The Baroque-style Chateau de Vaux-le-vicomte castle near Paris is in its festive illumination. Candles are burning in the wine-red hall’s cut-class chandeliers and the entire hall is full of journalists and music specialists from across the world. Most of them are dressed up accordingly to the dress code, only some are sipping their champagne wearing jeans.
The mood is expectant, and at last the discussion dampens down. A world-renowned singer Enya has appeared to the room without anyone noticing. In her simple, red evening dress and simple jewellery she merges into the crowd as if she was, like others, a guest celebrating the launch of a new album by some superfamous singer. No room-filling charisma typical for big superstars, no diva-like behaviour; nothing in her being even implies that she must be a millionaire thanks to over 64 million album sales.
Rather on the contrary, Enya looks like so ordinary 44 years old woman, that it is difficult to believe that we have one of the world’s most listened-to female artist. How could so delicate and composed woman own such a powerful voice?
Although no-one makes fuss about Enya’s arrival, everybody knows that this evening is a special one. Enya shows up to media and to her audience very, very rarely. She does not tour nor perform in concerts, and even getting her interviewed happens very seldom. She only makes albums.
“I would like to start my everyday living as soon as possible after the launch of this album. I need a lot of time to be on my own, so that I could create new”, explains Enya later.
Then when she appears in the public, she makes it just like this. We have been invited into a November dinner to Paris in order to celebrate Enya’s new, 7th album Amarantine. In the next dining hall the tables have been prepared for a festive dinner –lamb steak and vintage wine. But, before we move into our places shown by our place cards, everyone is guided to the terrace in order to follow the fireworks display. Or, to say it more aptly, to stare the stunning and heavenly show, as the banging of the rockets rhythmically weaves into the magical music resounding in the garden.
Naturally, the fireworks show has been designed to the music of Enya’s new album. Everyone who has, even once, heard her music will recognise it, but it is nearly impossible to describe: beautiful, calming, mystic… difficult to determine. Such music that suits to Lord of The Rings movie’s legendary mood. One of her best-known pieces, May It Be, was indeed composed by Enya to the movie The Fellowship of the Ring, and that piece brought both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations to its makers.
A bargain of three
In the dinner at Enya’s table are sitting, as a matter of course, Nicky and Roma Ryan. Although Enya’s music is marketed with her own name and that she composes all of her pieces, this Irish couple is also strongly behind the success. Charmingly hoary Nicky is responsible for producing Enya’s music. His wife Roma does all the lyrics of the songs and does all the business related to Enya.
The trio has a long-lasting partnership together. Nicky Ryan met Enya for the first time when she was still 19-year-old Eithne Ní Bhraonáin -this given name Enya received after a Celtic goddess. Grown in the family of 9 children, in a village of Dore in northwest Ireland, Enya had started the classical music studies, but then joined to folk music group Clannad founded by her family members. Nicky worked as the manager of that, in Ireland quite popular in the early 1980’s, band.
The man soon noticed, that the talents of this young lady would be lost if she would stay as a keyboard player of the band. He decided to leave the job as a manager and start a new project with his wife: Enya would now compose music and sing it, he would produce her and Roma would make lyrics.
Enya moved to live with the Ryans, and with their last savings they built an own studio into the garden of the Ryans; Enya even sold her saxophone because of the studio project. The first album came out some years later, but anyone was not interested in it very much –until the director of Warner Brothers Rob Dickens heard the album and then uttered his later quoted words: “Sometimes the purpose of a record company is to make money and sometimes music”.
The rest is sheer success, both to the trio and to the record company.
Everything else is, however, as before: Nicky, Roma and Enya make music still in their studio in Dublin and spend time tightly together, so not much more is actually known about them as persons than 20 years ago. Even Enya herself has remained as a barely stunning voice for her fans. No-one knows her private life, nor any paparazzi pictures have been published. On her website the fans pretend to know that the singer has had even 12 cats, that she loves cooking but doesn’t eat red meat, and that her favourite hobbies are black-and-white movies and shopping.
Probably Enya is still a single; the latest details about her love life are, however, 4 years old. Back then Enya, unlike her manners, said to the journalist of The West Australian newspaper some sentences about other things than just music:
“Many childless single woman would be at my age already in panic. Also I have been thinking for the last 3 years, why I have been sacrificing so much time for my work. But, I have ended up to a thought that I would never change a single day out of my life. It would be lovely to get a family one day, but my life doesn’t end even if that would not happen”.
Maybe it is meant that Enya stays as mysterious as a person as her music is. Or is she only an unassuming person? As we swallow down our last forkfuls of chocolate cake bits under the castle’s cut-class chandeliers we do not even notice, that the star of the night has left the building as quietly as she had arrived there. Probably by helicopter, as the journalists are thinking.
In the intimate mood
In the next day’s press conference I sit a couple of metres away from Enya. We listen to Enya’s new album first in the Parisian luxury hotel and drink tea. The atmosphere is lovely and intimate.
Enya is wearing a black, simple dress, and the only decoration is her red cross pendant on her neck. Roma and Nicky are with Enya also today, and the trio seems to enjoy each other very much.
“Has the teamwork that has lasted over 20 years been always this friendly”, starts the first journalist.
“By no means. Especially I and Nicky have got a lot of disagreements, but they are nearly always associated to music. Because we both are very strong-willing persons, we might sit in the opposite corners in the studio argueing about things. One does never know beforehand, whose idea works the best way”, tells Enya.
Nicky Ryan says the same thing more bluntly.
“Of course also we argue. But if the argueing becomes too aggressive, Roma comes and calms us down”.
The hand microphone circulates from journalist to another. Everyone is allowed to ask only one question. A Dutch TV person wants to know, what the name of the new album, Amarantine, does mean.
“The title track of the album tells about a happy love. Amarantine is an ancient word, which means eternity. The poets describe an undying flower with that word, and I fell in love with that idea”, replies Enya.
“For me that word suited rhythmically to the refrain of the piece. A-ma-ran-ti-ne. In our website the fans tried to guess something super-romantic to be the album’s name, but this word was obviously never guessed by anyone”, adds Nicky laughingly.
With an own language
Only Time, a piece from Enya’s previous album was played a lot after the terrorist attacks of New York. In her new album she says to want to tell that there are still a lot of beautiful and good things in the world. How are her pieces created?
“When entering the studio, I don’t know what will happen. I do a so-called trip into myself: I sit down at the piano and the melody might start to evolve from my playing or then I might start to sing it. At that stage I do not yet have clear ideas about what kind of emotions I would like to express. Until I play the completed piece to Roma and Nicky and when I observe their reactions, the music gets its meaning”, tells Enya.
The discussion moves on to the lyrics of Enya’s songs, which often contain more exotic languages than English, for example Welsh or Latin. Part of the lyrics on the new album cannot be understood even though one would do everything to have a try, because Roma has developed a new language that has been created for Enya’s voice. The idea derives from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish language from his Lord Of The Rings books.
“English or any of the genuine languages does not always suit to Enya’s music”, clarifies Roma.
Although there are no limitations set for the question topics, everyone are showing their discretion and ask only about music from Enya. When a female journalist dares to ask the name of Enya’s favourite clothing designer, Enya looks a bit puzzled, but answers shortly: “Maria Grachvogel”.
She has then a same taste than e.g. Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry, who also belong to the customers of the well-known British “star fashion designer”.
A moment in an embrace
I am the last person to ask questions. I would like to know a bit more private about Enya and ask: “The people assume that you already have everything that one can have. Is there anything still missing from your life?”
The female singer looks at me friendly. But no, she doesn’t intend to tell about her private longings.
“For me this career and that I am privileged to do a job I love to do, means really, really much. I would never change any moment from my life. When making music I sink myself into the process as deeply as I can and forget all of the success”, she replies.
The taping device are shut down, but the trio stays in for a moment in order to chat with the journalists. Nicky Ryan comes next to me and tucks me fatherly to his embrace.
“From which country you were? Oh, from Finland! We have been sending sick children to Lapland to see Santa Claus. I have heard that it’s a splendid place”, thanks Ryan.
He also reveals the reason why we are now in Paris.
“We wanted to launch the Enya’s new album this time in a city that is as beautiful as possible –and Paris is one of Enya’s favourite cities.”
Anna: Henna Helne | November 24, 2005
translated from Finnish by Suvi Kaikkonen