The first contest we still have the television recording of is 1957, and I found this to be particularly enlightening in considering the contest’s humble beginnings and where it is today. To begin with, the formality is strange to see, providing the impression of a showcase/concert rather than a competition. The focus was very much on the song and little else, meaning that the only thing which changed each song staging-wise was the backdrop behind the performer. It was also striking to see how much the conductor is considered to be part of the team, a trend which I’m sure carried on for a while longer, but I’ll admit that I’m a fan of the modern era in the sense that when I first saw the contest live in 1997, the orchestra was on its way out.
In brief, I’ll talk about the songs where my opinion was shifted one way or another by the performance.
Luxembourg had a very tight camera angle on Dupré, and I think it worked: I felt like I understood the song better afterwards and it was well delivered.
My preferred song going in was that of Austria, and it held up for me: Martin was clearly enjoying himself and I came away with the impression he knew the song was a bit silly but he didn’t mind.
While I wasn’t hugely impressed by the song of Corry Brokken’s second attempt for The Netherlands, once I saw the performance I could see why she won. Her emoting was excellent, and the enthusiastic violin solo towards the end of the song really set it aside from the other acts.
The only entry which disappointed me was Germany, as the song structure was different to what I’d heard in the recording, where Heilscher ran through several languages in quick succession in the middle of the song, not at the beginning as she did on the night. I think this decision weakened the song, and Heilscher didn’t emote as well as I thought she might.
Denmark provided the first real performance of the contest, costumes and all. I suspect had this been a modern entry the stage would have been dimly lit, with props about to create the atmosphere of a dock. More than any other performance thus far, this one showed the way Eurovision would eventually head.
Lastly, Lys Assia’s return performance for Switzerland showcased her majestic presence and highlighted why she was a worthy winner in 1956, but the song still let her down.
All other acts didn’t move me one way or another and I stand by my assessment of their songs.
The voting process was quaint but charming, as the host Anaid Iplicjian sat down at a small table with an assistant and called all the participating countries for their votes. She managed to get through all ten countries with her knowledge of German, French and English — sadly, I think the days of hosts being fluent in multiple languages are in the past. The allocation of points felt random at times because each juror was given one vote. Some countries gave all their votes to two or three entries, others spread themselves out.
1) Austria – “Wohin, kleines Pony?” by Bob Martin
2) Denmark – “Skibet skal sejle i nat” by Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler
3) Luxembourg – “Amours mortes (tant de peine)” by Danièle Dupré
4) Netherlands – “Net als toen” by Corry Brokken
5) Germany – “Telefon, Telefon” by Margot Hielscher
6) Switzerland – “L’enfant que j’étais” by Lys Assia
7) United Kingdom – “All” by Patricia Bredin
8) France – “La belle amour” by Paule Desjardins
9) Italy – “Corde della mia chitarra” by Nunzio Gallo
10) Belgium – “Straatdeuntje” by Bobbejaan Schoepen