1956 Contest Song Reviews: Switzerland

Switzerland sent one singer to perform both of its songs in 1956: Lys Assia, who performed one song in German, and one in French, representing the two more widely-spoken of the country’s four official languages. On the night, the song in German, “Das Alte Karussell” (The Old Carousel) was performed second in the running order. It is a gentle track which you can literally imagine being played at an ageing merry-go-round in the quiet corner of a circus. And that is probably its problem as well: it feels like background music which is easily forgotten once the listener goes home and the circus packs up to move on to the next town.

As Eurovision fans will know, it is the French song which Assia sung later that evening that won her the first contest and a special place in Eurovision history. It is not hard to see why “Refrain” took out the top spot that evening. The music guides Assia’s voice through the song, carefully carrying her up to its peaks and down to its troughs, with lyrics reflecting the highs and lows of youthful romances. The arrangement is clean and not claustrophobic like some of the other entries. Additionally, the vocals and music appear to be in greater balance, rather than the music just serving as a backdrop for the singer. I particularly like how the ending mirrors the beginning: a crash of brass-dominated notes from the orchestra rather than Assia straining for a high note.