1956 Eurovision Song Contest

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As part of the Eurovision element of this blog, I intend over time to trace the history of the contest by watching, or listening to old contests and reviewing them here.

The first contest was held in Lugano in Switzerland. Sadly there is no Televised recording of the contest still available. A radio recording of the contest in full can be found here. The contest was created after a meeting of the European Broadcasting Union to take it’s inspiration from the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy that still exists today, only a Europe wide version. Lugano is an Italian speaking area the south of Switzerland which was a key aspect of why it was chosen to host the first contest.

The recording is fairly easy to follow despite the whole thing being broadcast in Italian, with the exception of the songs of course. The honour of hosting the first contest was given to Lohengrin Filipello, a known TV host in both Switzerland and Italy. 7 countries entered the contest, this did not include the United Kingdom who would not enter for the first time until the following year, however the contest was broadcast on the BBC with Wilfrid Thomas providing the commentary. The show was also broadcast in all seven competing nations as well as Denmark and Austria.

The format, which was never repeated, was all nations would submit two songs and two judges. In the first contest each judge would simply pick their favourite song, their was no restriction on voting for your own country, that did not come in until the following year. The fact Luxembourg could only afford to send one judge gave the hosts the advantage as the host broadcaster picked an additional third Swiss judge as a replacement. It is therefore no surprise that one of the Swiss songs was declared the winner. No voting details were ever revealed, just the winner announced.

Jetty Paerl will forever be the first to perform, representing the Netherlands with a bright and breasy song capturing the essence of the title “De Vogels Vam Holland” (The Birds of Holland) title. The hosts were next with Lys Assia performing her weaker song, she along with Michele Arnaud for Luxembourg performed both of the songs their countries has entered. Fud Leclerc for Belgium then dampened the mood with his rather depressing number “Messieurs les noyes de al Seine” (The Drowned Gentleman of the Seine”)

Walter Andreas Schwarz was next for Germany. There was a lot of dramatic talking over the music, we later found out why, to hide the fact his voice was not that great. France and Luxembourg’s first songs were classic Vera Lynn style numbers which were rather nice and of the time but had nothing special about them. Italy completed the first half of the contest with Franca Raimondi and “Aprite le Finestre” (Open The Windows). Slightly more upbeat but still very much of the time, Franca without doubt has the best voice of anyone we had heard so far, a great combination and for me in the lead heading for the second set of songs.

The Netherlands second song was sung by Cory Brokken, a young inexperienced at that point female singer, the song was nothing special and the nerves showed but this would not be Cory’s only appearance in the contest as the Netherland’s would bring her back again in later years. Lys Assia’s second song for the hosts “Refrain” (Chorus) had a touch of Hollywood about it and it’s clear why it had appeal. It could easily be the soundtrack to a film of the era. Mony Marc’s second song for Belgium was standard fare, but was notable for the contests first and certainly not use of ‘Ding Dong.’

Would the 1950’s contests provide a ‘You what?’ moment as today’s contest always does every year? Yes. Provided by Germany and Freddie Quinn who clearly fancied himself as a bit of a German Elvis, who of course was big at the time. This combined with a swing sound with hints of ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was simply horrible to listen to. Dany Dauberson’s second offering for France may have worked with someone with a more powerful voice, Dauberson though sadly did not have it. Luxembourg with another appearance from Michele Arnoud, and Italy finished the contest in forgettable style.

After a short musical interlude the host announced Lys Assia with “Refrain” as the winner to polite applause. The recording of the reprise does exist and can be found here. My top 3, which will be known as ‘The Moon Of Liberty Jury’ can be found below.

MOON OF LIBERTY EUROVISION SCOREBOARD

1056 Eurovsion Song Contest At The Teatro Kursall, Lugano. Switzerland

MOON OF LIBERTY JURY

8 Points – Netherlands – Jetty Paerl – “De Vogels Van Holland (The Birds Of Holland)

10 Points – Switzerland – Lys Assia – “Refrain” (Chorus)

12 POINTS

ITALY

Italy

Franca Raimondi – “Aprite Le Finestre” (Open The Windows)

ACTUAL RESULT

WINNER

SWITZERLAND 

Switzerland

Lys Assia “Refrain” (Chorus)

No 2nd or 3rd Place information

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