Enya’s classical music has been soothing hearts and relaxing minds for decades. Get to know the woman behind the voice and the stories behind her timeless melodies.
Enya (born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin; 17 May 1961), is an Irish singer, songwriter, musician, and producer. Enya began her musical career in 1980, when she briefly joined her family’s Celtic band Clannad, before leaving to pursue a solo career. She gained wider recognition for her music in the 1987 BBC series The Celts.
Enya’s Early Life
Enya was born on May 17, 1961, in Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland, into a musical family. Her father was a badger and her mother a music teacher. She began playing the piano at age 3 and soon showed signs of being a natural musician. When she was 4, her family moved to the nearby village of Dore, where she started taking riding lessons and joined the local Pony Club.
At age 8, Enya started taking formal piano lessons and also began to learn classical music theory. She joined her local choir when she was 9 and soon began to take an interest in other instruments, including the harp, flute, and oboe. When she was 12, Enya’s parents bought her a Yamaha keyboard, on which she taught herself to play chords and melodies. A few years later, she began studying music full-time at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.
Enya’s Music Career
Enya began her music career in 1980, when she briefly joined her family’s Celtic band Clannad before going solo. She gained wider recognition for her music in the 1987 BBC series The Celts. Several of her songs were notably used in films and television shows, including the US drama series Roseanne and the British miniseries The Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, which drew unexpectedly high viewing figures in 1992. She signed with Warner Music UK in 1987 and released her debut album Enya the following year. Four additional studio albums followed before she took an extended break from music in 1997.
Enya achieved global success with her 2000 album A Day Without Rain; it sold 15 million copies and became the second-bestselling new-age album of the 2000s on Billboard magazine’s charts. In 2002, she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Miniseries or a Movie (appearing as a presenter) for May It Be, which was used as part of the Lord of the Rings film franchise soundtrack. In 2005, Enya released Amarantine and then took another break from music to focus on charitable efforts; she donated royalties from her album sales to environmental projects around the world through her WEBB Charitable Trust—the Womens Environmental Background Benefit Trust—which seeks to empower women and girls to effect positive change within their local communities.
She returned with another album nine years later: Dark Sky Island (2015) topped Billboard magazine’s Top New Age Albums chart and won Enya her third Grammy Award for Best New Age Album, making her the only artist to have won that award more than once.
Enya’s Classical Music
Enya is known for her new-age and Celtic music, but she also has dabbled in the classical genre. She has released two classical albums, and she has even written a classical piece for orchestra. Let’s take a look at Enya’s classical music.
Enya’s Music Style
Enya’s music often features her soft, ethereal soprano voice accompanying gentle but complex melodies in multiple electronic layered tracks. Lyrics—if present—are in English, Gaelic, or Latin; they are few, brief, and generally focused more on mood than narrative. Enya is sometimes credited as the sole producer of her work; she largely composes at home and prefers to record early morning when she is ” feathersing “, a word she has coined to describe the feeling of being “enveloped in music”. Although Enya throughout her career has avoided the mainstream limelight, her work has achieved substantial commercial success.
Enya’s Classical Albums
Enya has released nine studio albums, three compilations, one live album, and one soundtrack album. Her first album, Enya, was released in 1987 and reissued in 2001 with a previously unreleased track. The title track was used in the popular British soap opera Bros. The album spent 73 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and went multi-platinum in several countries.
Enya’s second album, Watermark (1988), became an international success, reaching number three in the UK and becoming her best-selling solo album to date. It remains her biggest hit album in the US, where it was certified six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of five million copies. In Germany, Watermark was certified five-times platinum for sales of two million copies.
The Memory of Trees (1995) debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart and number eleven on the US Billboard 200 albums chart. It became her third multi-platinum selling album in both countries; it was certified four-times platinum by the BPI and six-times platinum by the RIAA respectively. A Day Without Rain (2000) reached number two on both the UK Albums Chart and Billboard 200; it sold one million copies within a week of its release in November 2000 and became her fastest selling studio album. It was also her fourth consecutive album to debut at number two on the Billboard 200. Amarantine (2005), Enya’s first holiday themed album, reached number four on Billboard 200; it also peaked at number one on Billboard’s Top New Age Albums and Classical Crossover charts respectively. And Winter Came… (2008), Enya’s seventh studio venture, made its debut at number seven on Billboard 200; it peaked atop Billboard’s Top New Age Albums chart becoming her second chart topper there.”
Enya’s Influence on Classical Music
Grammy award-winning New Age music artist, Enya, has had a profound influence on the classical music genre. Her unique sound has resonated with fans all over the world, and her musical compositions have been praised by some of the most respected names in the industry. Enya’s music has been used in films, commercials, and video games, and her work has been covered by well-known artists such as Andrea Bocelli and Gregorian. Let’s take a closer look at the artist and her impact on classical music.
Enya’s Impact on the Music Industry
It would be hard to overestimate Enya’s impact on the music industry. She has transcended genre, selling over 80 million records worldwide. Enya is known for her ethereal, otherworldly sound, and her music has been used in many films and television shows. She has won four Grammy Awards and has been nominated for an Academy Award.
Enya’s music is often described as “new-age” or “celtic” but she herself has said that she does not like to be pigeonholed into any one genre. Her sound is unique and instantly recognizable. She makes use of synthesizers, samplers, and drum machines to create her signature soundscape. Her voice is often layered and multitracked to create a “wall of sound.”
Enya’s influence can be heard in the work of many other artists, including Clannad, Loreena McKennitt, Chelsea Wolfe, and Bat for Lashes. Her music has been used in films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Crow, The Blair Witch Project, and Solaris. Enya is one of the best-selling musicians of all time and her impact on the industry is undeniable.
Enya’s music has had a profound influence on classical music, particularly in the realm of film scores. Her unique sound, built around her sweeping vocals and cascading keyboard melodies, has been borrowed by some of the most celebrated film composers of our time.
In 1995, Enya won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “May It Be” from the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The song was composed by Enya and her longtime collaborators, Romani producer and arranger Nicky Ryan and English lyricist Roma Ryan.
Since then, Enya’s music has been featured in a number of high-profile films, including The Passion of the Christ, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and Avatar. Her work has also been used in television shows like Game of Thrones and Outlander.
Enya’s impact on classical music can also be heard in the work of other artists who have been inspired by her unique sound. This includes Irish singer-songwriter Hozier, who drew comparisons to Enya in his 2014 hit “Take Me to Church.”