People are always asking Shirlie how she came to Slovenia, and if you speak Slovene, you can find the full story in her Slovene autobiography ‘Pojoce Srce’ (Singing Heart – pub. Mladinska Knjiga, Ljubljana). Her first visit was in 1992, just after the newly-formed Republic had been created, when a small group of Slovenes heard her singing at Gaunts House in Dorset and invited her and friend John Christian to their new country. She thought that any place with the word ‘Love’ in its name had to be special, and over the years, has developed her own personal ‘love affair’ with this beautiful little country, which has inspired a whole collection of songs from her.
The breathtaking beauty and unspoiled nature of Slovenia, together with the Slavic soul of the people who from Shirlie’s first visit took her, her voice and her music to their hearts, still continues to touch her in so many different ways. The concerts have now run into hundreds in an amazing variety of venues from huge concert halls to beautiful baroque churches, craggy castles, old monasteries and lake-side chateaux, ancient vineyard wine cellars, hospitals, homes for the mentally and physically disabled and the elderly, schools, forests, mountain-tops and sometimes even rustic barns. Shirlie learned to sing in Slovene and loves to mix the traditional Slovene folk songs together with the Irish, Welsh and Scots tunes from the British Isles, and she also enjoyed setting some of the poems by Slovenia’s literary gem Preseren to music (‘Kam’ and ‘Pod Oknom’ on the Simply Slovenia cd).
Slovenia has inspired a variety of projects in Shirlie over the years, from her ‘Vanishing Lake’ cd to the ‘Simply Slovenia’ book with Slovene photographer Bogdan Kladnik which has a cd of her Slovene songs, including the lively ‘Green Dragon’ Ljubljana tribute (brilliantly translated into Slovene as Zeleni Zmaj by Andrej Rozman Rosa). Her latest creative venture is a proposed concert of her songs about Slovenia, arranged for symphony orchestra by UK arranger Derek Barnes to create the Simply Slovenia Suite which will be performed with orchestra Cantabile in August 2015
It is now more than twenty years since Shirlie first visited Slovenia, but her friends and joyful experiences in this beautiful country continue to multiply – as does the singing. RTV Slovenija even filmed a documentary on her: “Singing Heart – Ambassador of Light/Pojoce Srce – Ambasadorka Luci” which you can watch online at http://tvslo.si/#ava2.59728538
From a concert in Sneznik Forest to assist Janez Kandare and friends in the fight to save the ancient beeches of Sneznik, to one at Bled alongside Slovene singing star Aleksander Mezek and colleagues to help save the Sava Dolinka river, to another to help raise money to rebuild the Alpine Village of Log pod Mangrtom after a mudslide, to closing the Unicef Show at the Cankarjev Dom with her children’s song ‘Kako Lepo’, you’ll always find her there with guitar and open heart, celebrating the joy and beauty of this wonderful country and people.
“When I am near you, it feels like the spring to me
When I am near you, the mountain tops sing to me
When I am near you, I am never alone…Slovenia…”
Shirlie is also a Trustee of the British Slovene Society in London (www.britishslovenesociety.org), and well-known in the Republic of Slovenia for the healing power of her voice, her uplifting concerts, the positive appeal of her music and lyrics, her sound workshops, and also her vision to work alongside and help preserve nature and the environment.
“I suddenly heard a deeply moving, beautiful song about Liza Cernuta on the radio. Shirlie Roden was singing it. Liza Cernuta was an old lady from Log beneath Mangrt Mountain who was seen on television the day before the fatal landslide, vehemently asserting that she would not leave. During the night, the landslide swept her and her house down the valley towards the Soca River. An unrecognisable landscape of mud, branches and stones remained. Shirlie Roden sang so movingly about this tragedy – which was simultaneously an act of heroism, tenacity and rebellion – so deeply, softly and empathetically”. (Boris Jez, Sobotna Priloga, Delo Newspaper, Slovenia).