ESC Insight

ESC Insight

Eurovision Insight Podcast: In-Depth With Songwriter Bill Martin

Eurovision Insight Podcast: In-Depth With Songwriter Bill Martin

Bill Martin’s musical career stretches over fifty years, from his first taste of success with Adam Faith to his upcoming collaborations with artists including Celine Dion. For ESC Insight readers, two of his biggest hits are going to be instantly recognisable (Sandie Shaw’s ‘Puppet On A String‘, and Cliff Richard’s ‘Congratulations‘).

Ewan caught up with Bill at his show in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to talk about his career, winning the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK, his other involvements with the Song Contest, and who he’d get to sing Scotland’s first Eurovision song…

Eurovision Insight Podcast: In-Depth With Songwriter Bill Martin

Ewan Spence shares a drink with songwriter Bill Martin to talk about his Eurovision memories, with ‘Puppet on a String’, ‘Congratulations’, ‘Let Me Be The One’, ‘All Kinds Of Everything’, and more…

Sandie Shaw and Bill Martin (image:

Sandie Shaw and Bill Martin (image:

You can follow Bill’s latest endeavours at his website,

As the summer continues, keep up to date with all of the Eurovision news by subscribing to the ESC Insight podcast and our daily shows. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight


Portugal’s Big Decision: The Politics And Logistics Behind Lisbon 2018

Portugal’s Big Decision: The Politics And Logistics Behind Lisbon 2018

On Tuesday 25th July, Portuguese broadcaster RTP hit the first of its Eurovision 2018 targets by announcing the host city and dates for next year’s contest, but it was the heavy hints in the press conference and subsequent interviews that may give us a better insight on what to expect next May.

No Surprises

Anyone who knows the EBU’s shopping list for the Eurovision Song Contest will not be surprised that the Portuguese capital saw off the other challengers to win the honour of becoming Portugal’s first host city.

The suggestions from RTP in the days after Salvador Sobral’s victory in Kyiv, indicated that Lisbon’s hosting was already a done deal. After all, the 20,000 capacity Atlantic Pavilion (MEO Arena) had been earmarked as Portugal’s venue of choice since it opened back in 1998. So why was there a two month delay in finally confirming the venue and date?

One reason is that in June, RTP had to react appropriately to the appalling wildfires which claimed over sixty lives in the Pedrógão Grande area. Dealing with such a distressing tragedy, clearly was RTP’s priority and as the national broadcaster it played a major role in organising the “Juntos Por Todos” (Together For All) benefit concert which was staged at very short notice in the MEO Arena on June 27th. The concert included live performances from leading Portuguese music acts including Ana Moura, Rui Veloso, David Fonseca, Camané, Amor Electro, Carlos de Carmo, and Luisa and Salvador Sobral. The concert was broadcast on all Portuguese TV channels and raised over a million euros for victims of the tragedy. It also gave foreign viewers a chance to look at the likely Eurovision venue as well as a likely presenter, Katarina Furtado, who hosted the show.

The second issue causing the delay was the host city bidding process and to understand why that was required, you need to appreciate something of the politics of Portugal and how they impact broadcasting.

Since its foundation in 1935, the Portuguese national broadcaster has been headquartered in Lisbon. This year the television service celebrated its 60th anniversary, making it one of the longest established television channels in Europe. While its services cover all the Lusophone countries, it has always been based in Lisbon. Indeed RTP’s headquarters are only a ten minute drive from the Eurovision 2018 venue.

Being based in the capital means that RTP is seen as being close to national government and part of the Portuguese establishment. It also opens it up to charges of being too focussed on Lisbon, at the expense of Portugal’s other regions, a charge that local politicians can use to appeal to their support base.

Consequently the Eurovision Song Contest hosting choice risked becoming the rope in a Portuguese regional tug-of-war if other cities were not considered as potential venues for one of the biggest international events ever to be staged in the country. While it was almost always certain that Lisbon would host, RTP had to be seen to give consideration to other cities, lest it be accused of being too Lisbon-centric.

It also has to be remembered that in 2016 Lisbon became the venue of the highly lucrative Web Summit, which caused envy in other cities, not just in Portugal.

Rosa Morta Pavillion, Portugal

Rosa Morta Pavillion, Portugal. Maybe next time?

The Lack Of Alternatives

The most obvious alternative Eurovision Song Contest host city was Porto in the north. It’s the only city with the required number of hotel rooms and an international airport (albeit with far fewer connections than Lisbon).

However with its only large arena, the Rosa Mota Pavilion, being upgraded and unavailable, the bids from nearby towns Gondomar and Santa Maria Da Feira faced huge logistical challenges and the proposed venues were just too small to be considered. Two other northern cities, Braga and Guimarães also expressed interest, but with smaller venues, challenges on hotel rooms and the distance from an international airport, they always struggled in comparison to Lisbon. Portimão in the Algarve’s token interest had more than a ring of ‘me too’ about it.

When it came to a choice, one option stood head and shoulders above the others. It was always going to be Lisbon.

The 21st century Song Contest is a very different beast to the Contest which was staged in the tiny Irish town of Millstreet in 1993. In the quarter-century that has passed the event has doubled in terms of competing nations, and the size of the live audience and travelling press and fan entourage is several multiples of what it once was. The idea of bussing people from hotels in nearby towns on a daily basis now seems rather quaint and by contrast, Lisbon is likely to the biggest Eurovision related tourist boom in the history of the Contest.

Lisbon Gets Ready

With a state of the art 20,000 capacity venue, an international airport offering flights to over 120 cities, a modern efficient public transport system and one of Europe’s most popular city break locations offering a huge variety of accommodation options, Lisbon ticks every Eurovision box for the perfect host city. Then you get to consider the good weather, nearby beaches and famous nightlife.

It was notable that the city’s mayor was one of the dignitaries at the press conference which confirmed Lisbon as host and already the city authorities are providing one of its major public spaces, Terreiro Do Paço (Palace Yard) also known as Praca do Comercio (Commercial Square) as the site of the Eurovillage.

Lisbon's TerreiroDoPaco, this could be our EuroVillage.

Lisbon’s TerreiroDoPaco, this could be our EuroVillage.

This downtown square on the banks of the Tagus is an iconic Lisbon landmark with a chequered history  will become a magnet for visitors next May when it is transformed into the Eurovillage for ten days. The square regularly hosts big events such as the Earth From Above exhibition and live screenings of big football games. It is planned that those who want to watch the live Eurovision shows but who cannot get tickets for the arena will be able to see them on big screens in the square. Though it has yet to be officially confirmed, the nearby Pátio da Galé (Gale’s Courtyard) or Praça do Município (Mayor’s Office) may be used for the Eurovision Red Carpet welcome event.

Lisbon Tourism is already heavily involved in the Eurovision planning, so visitors can expect the city to be brightly dressed for the event as well as having many exciting options for tours and special events. With a commitment to spread the organisation of the contest throughout the city, many visiting fans may wait to see the location of the venues for the Euroclub and Eurocafe before deciding where to stay in Lisbon.

The National Tourist Board is also helping out on this unique opportunity to showcase Portugal to the World. With tourism being such a large and growing part of the economy, it would be surprising if the Eurovision postcards did not feature the attractions that Portugal offers, just as Austria did in 2015. Expect everything from painted tiles and custard tarts to ocean surfing and the internationally famed Port wine.

Pavilhão Multiusos de Guimarães.

Pavilhão Multiusos de Guimarães, Fesitval Da Cancai 2018’s venue.

Festival Da Cancao 2018

As well as the Eurovision Song Contest dates and venue and Eurovillage location, RTP made a number of other significant announcements.

As already speculated, Portugal’s Eurovision selection will not be in Lisbon. Festival da Canção will be moved from Lisbon and hosted in the northern city of Guimarães, as something of a consolation prize for not hosting Eurovision. The Pavilhão Multiusos de Guimarães has a seated capacity of 8,000 and while that could be reduced for a large stage and camera positions, it should still allow RTP to make tickets available to the general public (unlike the 2017 show).

Interest in all things Eurovision has never been higher in Portugal and Guimarães may see a visitor boost in early March.

Next year’s Portuguese selection is broadly based on the same format as 2017, with two semi-finals and a final. For 2018 a total of 20 songs will compete in two semi-finals, staged in RTP’s studios in Lisbon with the finalists making their way to Guimarães for the final on March 4th. Once again RTP are likely to invite selected songwriters and producers, but one name that won’t be on the list is Luisa Sobral, the songwriter of ‘Amar Pelos Dois‘. Luisa has said that she wants this year’s Eurovision experience to be a one-off special memory.

Those Heavy Hints

While the official logo and slogan for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 have yet to be officially announced, it was confirmed in the press conference that the Song Contest’s theme and branding will have a connection with seas and oceans, as befits Lisbon’s long, proud nautical history. With a Contest venue built on the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, Lisbon’s place as Europe’s bridge to the world is likely to play a big part in the event’s unique branding.

Eurovision 2018 reaches the Lisbon bus shelters.

Eurovision 2018 reaches the Lisbon bus shelters.

RTP is believed to be working with a provisional budget of around 26 million euros in total. That’s in line with Stockholm 2016 and Vienna 2015, but that money is likely to go further in Portugal due to lower costs. However when interviewed on the evening news RTP’s President Gonçalo Reis gave a commitment that the Contest “will be the most economical in recent years”. Reis said that RTP would look at transposing the values ​​that marked Salvador Sobral’s Eurovision victory in 2017 into the organisation of next year’s Contest. Values ​​such as authenticity, simplicity and elegance over excess will be core values for Lisbon 2018.

If at all possible, RTP will have to have a cost-neutral event.

This will not come as a surprise to most people in Portugal. RTP has a record of providing top quality programming on relatively modest budgets. The television licence fee which funded RTP was abolished in 1992 and was replaced with a direct government subsidy and advertisements. A radio licence fee was introduced in the early 1990s to fund public radio channels which are advertising-free, and which is charged through electricity bills under the name ‘Taxa de Contribuição Audiovisual’ (Portuguese for ‘Broadcasting Contribution Tax’). The radio licence fee is approximately €33 per year, but this money cannot be used for Eurovision.

MEO Arena from the sky.

MEO Arena from the sky.

What Next As RTP Prepares For Eurovision 2018?

RTP’s next main challenges are commercial and technical. As the third most watched TV channel i the country (behind commercial broadcasters TVI and SIC) RTP will have to raise much of the money to fund the Eurovision Song Contest from commercial sponsorship, so as not to impact other programming demands.

As well as input from the tourist board, negotiations with some of Portugal’s major companies have already begun and large international brands are also likely to want a piece of the action in a young and growing economy. Interestingly the press conference did not refer to the MEO Arena directly. This is primarily because the venue is likely to go through name change for the Song Contest, just as happened with the Düsseldorf Arena/Espirit Arena in 2011 due to advertising restrictions. No doubt RTP is still negotiating with a telecoms network sponsor such as MEO. Expect sponsorship announcements to be made later in the year as this money will fund much of the infrastructural costs until ticket sales are generated.

Unlike the confusion and chaos in the ticketing arrangements in Kyiv, RTP is likely to engage with a major international ticketing organisation and it is likely that Eurovision Song Contest tickets will go on sale before the end of the year as the venue has a long history of staging big events, which lessens the logistical challenges.

The technical challenges come with staging such demanding live shows and making them look good on screen, as well as in the arena. Back in May the Portuguese Eurovision delegation suggested that they would use the long-established German & Swedish technical teams that have worked on most of the recent contests. However the RTP President’s comments on the values that they would use for next year’s Contest may throw that into doubt… RTP may yet choose to go with its in-house expertise. Indeed many Eurovision watchers might suggest that a fresh insight and less ‘off the shelf’ production values and concepts is just what the Contest needs to break the deja-vu nature of recent years.

One way or another, it’s clear that RTP has its own ideas and values that will take precedence in 2018. This is Eurovision, Portuguese style.

Categories: ESC Insight


Reviewing Eurovision Choir of the Year 2017

Reviewing Eurovision Choir of the Year 2017

Yes, yes, I know I’m a bit late with this, I’ve been working on a secret project with a song contest artist which you will no doubt find out about in due course! (ahem – Ed). I do hope you were watching the inaugural Eurovision Choir of the Year, and unless you’ve been under a rock for the past two days you will know that Slovenia’s choir Carmen Manet took the title; second place was given to Wales and third place to Latvia.

Celebrate Diversity

I know this was the theme of this years Eurovision Song Contest, but we really saw it come to fruition in Riga. There was a vast diversity of musical and choral styles in the programme, a little something for everyone I’d say. Jazz, chamber, folk, wine-song, African close harmony and a few mad moments along the way, were all showcased by the nine choirs who competed, here’s a bit of a run down (with some opinion) in case you missed it…

We open with a beautiful video which, if nothing else, will make you want to visit Riga, the sun rises over the city and we are treated to some great shots up the river. We move into the arena where representatives of each choir are joined by 600 other singers in a mass choir piece called Fly to Paradise, composed and conducted by Eric Whitacre who is one of our hosts of the evening. We meet our other host Eva, a well-known cultural TV presented in Latvia.

Each choir is introduced by a short postcard video, similar to the song contest and Junior Eurovision, first up is Estonia…

ETV Girls Choir, Estonia

They are choosing to present one entire piece, however it comes in several movements, beginning quiet and ethereal and moves into a more declamatory section. The all-girls choir moves around the stage creating several formations, they are dressed in traditional Estonian costumes, and every one of them has French braids in their hair. The piece finishes with some dramatic vocal sliding and torch lights. This is a wonderful merging of choral singing and folk music, great openers to the show.

Academic Choir of Aarhus, Denmark

Our first mix choir of the night therefore naturally producing a fuller and rounder sound. We begin with the first piece which is somewhat traditional, possibly what you’d expect from a choir, in does in fact remind me a little of the choral section at the beginning of Riverdance. We then move into a very quirk and bold piece for the second part of their programme. I give full credit to those taking the solo leads, they’ve been asked to do something pretty outrageous, which is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Les Pasteureaux, Belgium

Our first view we see the boys in assorted colour polo shirts with black shorts and trousers. I hate to go straight for the outfit choice, but it’s so uncreative and unimaginative that it sets me up to think their programme is likely to be a bit dull. The first piece is good, but kind of what I expected, it’s a great example of timing control. The pause in between the two pieces is just on the wrong side of uncomfortable. The second piece feels like the wrong song for this choir. Almost like the thought we have to do something contemporary or everyone will think we’re old fashioned, yet I think it comes across that this choir is not used to singing this style at all. I want authenticity in the Eurovision Song Contest, I want it in Choir of the Year too please.

Jazzchor Freiburg, Germany

We start with some vocal beat boxing and a sound that wouldn’t be out of place in a remake of The Lion King. This is a bit cheesy but the sound is very impressive, African close harmony is not easy to do at all without wandering off the notes and I must say I’m pretty impressed. The monochrome colouring looks good, sticking to black and white and allowing each performer to choose their own outfit works really well. The second piece is equally cheesy but good – and hey, it’s Eurovison (of sorts) after all, we need a little bit of cheese. There is some great harmony work and the beat boxing continues and definitely adds a finish on to this performance. Think what you’d like, I’d buy their CD.

Carmen Manet, Slovenia

A stylish and classy look and feel coming from the ladies of Carmen Manet. The grey/green colour story looks just stunning on TV, before they’ve even started I’m expecting great things from this choir. A beautiful ethereal and soft start to their programme, with a beautiful vocal tone exhibited by the soloists and the choir as a whole. There is storytelling throughout the performance. Whilst the choir move through a few different styles, they all feel authentic and, well correct, for want of a better word. This choir lack nothing for not having any male voices in it, a well thought out and executed programme.

Bela Bartok, Hungary

Wine and singing, what’s not to love! There is nothing like the power of a male- voice choir. This choir have the ability to present the bold and forceful passages as well as the softer more gentle phrases, transitioning between the two with easy and calmness. It’s very easy in a choir to show too much anticipation of what’s to come and that can leave the audience feeling uncomfortable, none of that here. Hungarian wine-song genre showcased brilliantly. I just wished they’d necked the wine at the end of it – I bet they wanted to!

Cor Merched Sir Gar, Wales

Of course we are expecting to hear the Welsh language here and that is what we’ve got with the first part of the programme. I have to say I’m not loving the outfit that they’ve chosen, it’s a bit too old for a choir of secondary school girls and the colour is not great on TV, however the ethereal celtic sound generated by these ladies is amazing, so pure and so fresh, it’s no wonder Wales has such a great reputation for music. A programme in three parts, the last being probably the most well-known piece of music Wade in the Water, their arrangement of it is amazing, true to the song, yet true to them too.

HardChor Linz, Austria

Another nation known for it’s classical music, but you don’t have to scratch too far below the surface to discover another layer of Austrian music. HardChor Linz are not exactly hardcore as the name would suggest, but more quirky, folky and generally entertaining. Choral singing can be fun and entertaining, it doesn’t have to be standing in rows making cathedral style sounds. The is folk choral music at it’s most happiest, most relaxed and most fun. It certainly won’t be up everyone’s street, but it’s got me (I know, I’m a little biased *waves Austrian flag up high)

Spigo, Latvia

I’m not surprised they put the home nation at the end, knowing it would get a big reception from the crowd. This choir have really bought us full circle, from where we started in Estonia with folk choral music back to that genre of music. The traditional costuming and the musical programme all serve to showcase Latvia’s rich musical heritage. And yet for all that tradition, this feels like a modern choir. There is a beautiful blending of the ancient and modern and each girl looks very comfortable in her part. It is great to see a female conductor too, the only one of the evening, in a role completely dominated by men.


So the three judges made a decision and Slovenia was announced the winner, truth be told that was the one part of the show that was a bit of an anti-climax. Yes we had three world renowned music heavyweights, but where were the international juries, the sense of jeopardy, the 12 points?! Maybe it will come in the future, if this was a year of experimenting to see if it could work as a part of the Eurovision family of events, so I’ll let them off, but if you’re doing it again we need a bit of voting drama, and maybe some hosts who can actually host without looking smarmy or wooden, though of course we know that the words ‘Eurovision’ and ‘hosting’ have never been exactly comfortable together!

Let’s do it all again!

Yes let’s, really, I mean that. It was a great show and as someone who has sung in choirs and vocal harmony groups since the age of 12 (I’m now almost 40) and performed everything from Handel to Conchita and quite a lot in between, I completely enjoyed it. Viewers were introduced to a wide collection of choral genres, choir types and national cultures – long may Eurovision Choir of the Year continue.

Categories: ESC Insight


Your Guide To Tonight’s Eurovision Choir of the Year

Your Guide To Tonight’s Eurovision Choir of the Year

Following on from Wednesday’s introduction to the Eurovision Choir Of The Year where we met our choirs and took a look at the rules of the Choir of the Year Contest, today let’s meet the three judges who will decide which choir will take home the trophy.

The Judges

Elīna Garanča

Elīna Garanča was born into a musical family in Riga, Latvia, where her father was a choral conductor and her mother a singer, under whom she learned at the Latvian Academy of Music before continuing her studies in Vienna and the United States.

It was Garanča’s triumphant 2003 Salzburg Festival debut, as Annio in La clemenza di Tito with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, that was responsible for her international breakthrough. She made her Vienna State Opera debut as Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana and became a regular with the company, initially specializing in Mozart roles before becoming equally dominant in bel canto and Romantic repertoire. Her Viennese appearances included Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro with Riccardo Muti, and seminal accounts of two roles on which she would indelibly put her stamp: Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and Charlotte in a new, televised staging of Massenet’s Werther. To date, she has sung more than 150 performances with the company.

The Latvian mezzo-soprano is consistently praised for her iconic portrayals of the leading roles in her repertoire. Forging deep connections with each part she plays, she is a consummate artist whose distinctively dark, sultry voice boasts a power and warmth to which her regal bearing and alluring looks provide the perfect counterpoise. She regularly headlines landmark productions at the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Bavarian State Opera, and Vienna State Opera, where she recently became the youngest female singer to be honored with a Kammersängerin Award.

John Rutter

John was born in London in 1945 and received his first musical education as a chorister at Highgate School. He studied music at Clare College, Cambridge, where he wrote his first published compositions and conducted his first recording while still a student.

His compositional career has embraced both large and small-scale choral works, orchestral and instrumental pieces, a piano concerto, two children’s operas, music for television, and specialist writing for such groups as the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and the King’s Singers. His larger choral works, Gloria (1974), Requiem (1985), Magnificat (1990), Psalmfest (1993) and Mass of the Children (2003) have been performed many times in Britain, North America, and a growing number of other countries.

From 1975 to 1979 he was Director of Music at Clare College, whose choir he directed in a number of broadcasts and recordings. After giving up the Clare post to allow more time for composition, he formed the Cambridge Singers as a professional chamber choir primarily dedicated to recording, and he now divides his time between composition and conducting. He has guest-conducted or lectured at many concert halls, universities, churches, music festivals, and conferences in Europe, Africa, North and Central America and Australasia.

In 1980 he was made an honorary Fellow of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, and in 1988 a Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians. In 1996 the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred a Lambeth Doctorate of Music upon him in recognition of his contribution to church music. He was honoured in the 2007 Queen’s New Year Honours List, being awarded a CBE for services to music.

There can’t be an Anglican church in the United Kingdom that hasn’t got several copies of Carols for Choirs (in many volumes) or who’s choir has not performed a piece of work by John Rutter. In 2011 John composed a special piece of choral music entitled This is the Day for the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, which was performed by the choir of Westminster Abbey.

Nicolas Fink

Nicolas was born in Switzerland, where he completed his studies with high honours in choral conducting from the Luzern Conservatory, he also studied voice, earning his concert diploma as a baritone.

Providing listeners with a new perspective on choral music, and creating new kinds of performance experiences are two of Nicolas Fink’s particular pursuits. Mr. Fink conducted the Berlin Radio Chorus’ renowned production Human Requiem at the 44th Arts Festival Hong Kong and at the Klara Festival in Brussels. He conceptualized and conducted the ‘visual concert’ production of the Norwegian premiere of Frank Martin’s Le Vin Herbé with photographer Magnus Skrede and the Edvard Grieg Kor. With the WDR Cologne Radio Chorus, he helped develop and conducted the acclaimed choreographed production of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil.

Nicolas has conducted the radio choruses of WDR Cologne and MDR Leipzig, the Berlin Radio Chorus, the Choeur de Radio France, the Vocalconsort Berlin, the Coro Casa de Musica Porto, the Cor del Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Edvard Grieg Choir and many others. He also is a sought after chorusmaster and has collaborated with dozens of leading conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Marek Janowski, and Daniele Gatti. In 2014, he began his tenure as the choral director of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chorus.

As an educator, Nicolas directed conducting workshops in Hong Kong and Indonesia, and co-directed the choral conducting masterclass at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival with Simon Halsey. Following his successful collaboration with the Edvard Grieg Youth Choir in Norway, he will continue working with young singers as the conductor of the Swiss Youth Choir.

What You Need To Know

Below is your handy guide to the events this evening, a recap of the choirs and the pieces they will be singing. Of course at the Eurovision Song Contest we spend a lot of time analysing the running orders as they are released, with this being a new competition, everything is a bit speculative. The hunch is that this order slightly favours Estonia, Austria and Latvia – there may be no televote but running order does come into play, even with the calibre of music professionals judging the show.

Eurovision Choir Of The Year 2017, Running Order details

Eurovision Choir Of The Year 2017, Running Order details (Click for full size)

Each Choir will be separated by a ‘postcard’ video, similar to that seen in the Eurovision Song Contest, and the judges will be given five minutes at the end to decide the results. There are four elements that choirs will be judged on:

  • The artistic personality of the Choir
  • Faithfulness to the musical score
  • Quality of the sound and intonation
  • General musicianship

Where And How To Watch

Live TV broadcasts will air in these countries:

  • Belgium (La Trois) 20:00 local time
  • Denmark (DRK) 20:00 local time
  • Estonia (ETV 2) 21:00 local time
  • France (Arte Culture) 20:00 local time
  • Hungary (M5) 20:00 local time
  • Latvia (LTV 1) 21:00 local time
  • Slovenia (RTV 1) as live
  • Serbia (RTS 2) 21:00 local time
  • Wales (S4C) 19:00  local time

They’ll be a delayed broadcast in:

  • Albania (RTSH 1) 22 July, 21:40 local time
  • Austria (ORF 2) 22 July, 22:50 local time
  • Germany (WDR) 30 July, 07:40 local time
  • Germany (SWR) 5 August, 21:20 local time

And if you don’t live in any of those countries then you can watch the livestream through the official YouTube channel.

Categories: ESC Insight


What is the Eurovision Choir of the Year?

What is the Eurovision Choir of the Year?

This Saturday sees the launch of the newest event in the Eurovision family ‘Eurovision Choir of the Year’. I had hoped to be there, as someone who grew up singing in choirs and vocal harmony groups I couldn’t be more excited about this new addition to Eurovision Special Events and my plan was to head off to Riga for the weekend, but alas events keep me at home, so like many, I will be tuned to the livestream on ORF2 on Saturday night (more of that later!) instead.

How It Works

Nine countries will take part and for only the second time in history at an EBU event, the United Kingdom will not take part as a unified nation but the Principality of Wales will take part under it’s own name (the first was when Wales took part in Jeux Sans Frontières from 1991-1994). The contest will be judged by a profession jury made up of multiple award winning mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča (Latvia), world-renowned choral composer John Rutter (United Kingdom) and legendary choir conductor and choirmaster Nicolas Fink (Switzerland). There is no televote, but don’t let that put you off watching, from the choirs that are performing I know you are in for a wonderful evening of music.

Each country is represented by a choir, performing a piece of unaccompanied music lasting no longer than six minutes (twice as long as the Eurovision Song Contest’s three minute rule). Choirs are free to perform a singular piece of music or an arrangement that includes more than one composition, a ‘mash-up’ so to speak! As with the Song Contest, there is no set genre, choirs are free to choose the style and genre that best represents them, but with one caveat the performance should contain national or regional influence from the country they represent. Soloists are allowed but they must note predominate the overall performance and choirs may not use any instruments unless they are played by the choir singers.

Meet The Choirs


Hard-Chor Linz will fly the flag for Austria. A young contemporary mixed choir based (unsurprisingly!) in the beautiful city of Linz. The choir was established in 2007 by a group of dedicated and motivated musicians looking to bring something fresh and new to Austria’s already well-established music history and culture. The conductor and choirmaster is 37-year-old Alexander Koller, who was also one of the founding members, he has a plethora of music and performing arts degrees in his back pocket and works with a number of choirs throughout Austria. Find out more here:


Les Pastoureaux literally translated as ‘The Shepherd Boys’, is an all-male choir from Waterloo (no Abba references please!) The choir was established in 1974 and are known for their repertoire of beautiful and haunting sacred music as well as works by the classical masters (Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, to name a few). The choir consists of 60 boys whose voices range from soprano to Alto and are supported by 20 teenage and adult males providing baritone, tenor and base vocals. He choir is currently under the direction of Philippe Favette, a life-long music lover who joined the Conservatoire Royal de Liège at the age of 10. Having spent his time working with many choirs and Philippe became the choir’s musical and artistic director in 2006. Find out more here:


Academic Choir of Aarhus were formed in 1985 and consist of around 30 mixed vocalists all connected to the University of Aarhus or the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus. The all a capella choir’s passion is to showcase new Danish and Nordic choral music and whilst there is a love of the classics, it is in the new contemporary world that this group has firmly found their voice. The choir has released several albums which have all been widely praised both in Denmark and internationally. ACA have recently performed a series of oratorios in partnership with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. ACA’s conductor and choirmaster is Ole Faurschou, he is a graduate of the internationally acclaimed University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria. Ole won the ‘Best Conductor’ prize at the China International Chorus Festival in 2006. Find out more here: (Danish language only)


ETV Girls Choir will take to the stage to represent the Baltic nation. The choir had humble beginning in he Children’s Television Music Studio in Tallinn which was founded in 1990, today the choir comprises 25-30 female singers between the ages of 15 and 25 years old most of whom have a musical education and earlier choral experience. The choir has toured extensively throughout Europe and the USA and it should be noted they are not a new name to the EBU having won 1st prize in the youth category of the EBU’s International Choir Competition Let The People Sing in 2005, they also participated in the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest in Tallinn. The choir is conducted by Estonian classical music star Aarne Saluveer, who has a wealth of experience in choral conduction for prestigious events around the world, if anyone can get the best out of a choir, it’s Aarne! Find out more here:


Jazzchor Frieburg hail from the Black Florest region of Western Germany. A relatively small choir, what the lack in numbers they sure do make up for in talent and passion for music. This multiple award winning choir was formed in 1990 by Bertrand Gröger who remains the director of the choir to this day. The choir have toured Europe, enjoyed success in choir competitions around the world and release four successful albums, they are also sort after for radio and TV recordings which have brought the choir to national and international acclaim. Jazz enthusiast Bertrand himself has enjoyed much success as a choirmaster and conductor. He is also a lecturer at the Mannheim Pop Academy and a much-sort-after singing teacher for jazz, pop and rock vocalists. Find out more here:


Béla Bartók Male Choir carry the hopes of Hungary on their shoulders. Another multiple award winning choir with 42 awards in their trophy cupboard, including wins at the 2006 & 2008 Choir Olympics in Beijing & Graz respectively. Also touring extensively through Europe & the America’s performing to sell out audiences across the globe. This choir is the contest most long-established choir having formed in 1945 and current conductor and choirmaster Prof. Dr. Lanker Tamás began his role in 1980. As well as heading up this international acclaimed choir Prof. Dr. Tamás is currently Professor of Choral Conducting at the Pécs University of Sciences. Find out more here:


Spīgo will be the choir representing host nation Latvia, so expect their performance to go ‘big in the hall’ to borrow a phrase from the Song Contest! Spīgo is actually a school choir, made up entirely of female voice and established in 1977 at Jelgava’s 4th secondary school. The choir celebrate their 40th anniversary this year knowing that they have an impressive history, like all our choirs, having won multiple awards over the years for their outstanding choral vocal ability. Spīgo have been under the direction of Līga Celma-Kursiete since 2004. Līga studied music composition at the Latvian Academy of Music with further studies in The Hague and Copenhagen before moving back to her native Latvia. Find out more here: (Latvian language only)


Carmen Manet, which means “the song remains”, is one of the newest of all the choirs performing in the contest. Established just 6 years ago, this all-female chamber choir has already built up an impressive repertoire and achieved great results in a number of international choir competitions. Added to that just two years after it’s inception the choir released their first CD ‘The Song of the Northern Wind’, which showcases the work of composers from Northern Europe. Primož Kerštanj has been directing and conducting the group since its beginnings. Although this choir maybe relatively new Primož himself has been conducting choirs since 2000 and has a rich background in composing and arranging music for choirs, Primož was a juror at the Linz International Choral Competition, so will his experience on the judging front be helpful to Carmen Manet’s success on Saturday? Find out more here: (English language option available)


Côr Merched Sir Gâr is a female youth choir made up of girls from secondary schools across Carmarthenshire in western Wales. The Welsh people have a long tradition of music and song and, this being the only Celtic country represented, we can expect to see some of that ancient tradition as well as the beautiful Welsh language in their performance. The youngest of our 2017 choirs Côr Merched Sir Gâr was established five years ago but have already been invited to perform at The Royal Albert Hall in London and won the title of Côr Cymru 2017 (Choir of Wales 2017) just a few months ago. It was this win that saw Welsh TV network S4C select them to represent Wales here in Riga. The choir is lead by the ever-so charismatic Islwyn Evans, a popular and much loved figure in Wales, having conducted many choirs in the past, and been a representative of the Association of British Choral Directors, Islwyn brings a fresh new wind to the world of the Welsh choirs. Find out more here:

How To Watch

Depending on where you are in Europe/the World, depends on how you can watch the show. The easiest way is through the official YouTube channel. There are already videos on the channel introducing each of the choirs, so you be up-to-speed by the time Saturday comes around.

I’ll be back on Friday with some more information about the judging, updates from rehearsals and essential viewing information for the 2017 Eurovision Choir of the Year.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways, with Ewan Spence

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways, with Ewan Spence

Time for our second visit to the Île de Bezençon, as the ESC Insight team gather for our little break over the summer months. Of course the strange rules of being on Eurovision Castaways means you can only have eight Eurovision records and a luxury… and you need to get them past customs.

Ellie Chalkley returns to border duty as Ewan Spence reaches back to Bardo, further back to Gigliola Cinquetti, and forward to Poli Genova and Mika.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways, with Ewan Spence

The ESC Insight crew are off to Île de Bezençon for the summer with their favourite Eurovision related songs and stories. Next up, Ewan Spence goes back to the beginning before arguing its not always about the melody.

Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast over the summer for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

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