Happy Birthday Eurovision Song Contest!

Many things have changed in the 55-year-old history of the Eurovision Song Contest. Looking back at that first ever edition we can notice some differences to the event as it stands today.

The chosen venue for what was called then Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européene 1956 was the tiny Teatro Kursaal, a big difference compared to this year's venue, the football stadium Düsseldorf's Arena.

In 1956 only seven countries were taking part and each of them contributed two songs, but that's a one-off in the contest's history. Several rules, like the introduction of semi-finals, have changed since then to get to the 43 countries that took part in the 2011 competition.

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The host of the first contest was a male presenter, Lohengrin Filipello. Interestingly, in none of the 55 following editions a male host did solo presentations. He introduced the show fully in Italian as there were already commentators from most of the participating TV stations.

There was a home conductor available for all entries, Fernando Paggi, but four countries sent their own conductor. The orchestra was composed of 24 musicians. Since 1999 there's no live orchestra accompanying the entries at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Some excerpts of the first rules of the Eurovision Song Contest:

  • It was strongly recommended that the participating songs were chosen in public national selections.
  • The songs couldn't be longer than 3.5 minutes and had to be inedit.
  • The performers were only required in Lugano for rehearsals on the 21st of May, four days before the gala.
  • The order of appearance was drawn by lots, although each broadcaster could choose if they would contribute one or two entries and which of the entries was performed first.
  • There could be more than one winning song, although there was no economic award or trophy. The winner was only awarded the GRAND PRIX title.
  • Each broadcaster had to appoint two jurors of their choice to Lugano, although they had to watch the show on a TV screen, as the audience was supposed to be watching it at home. They had to mark every song from 1-10, meaning they could actually vote for their own country.
  • There was no language rule, although all the entries were performed in the official languages of the countries they represented.

The first song ever performed at the Eurovision Song Contest came from The Netherlands and was called De Vogels Van Holland. The singer was Jetty Paerl.

All documents concerning the voting were destroyed after the final, so no track of the rankings exist any longer. Only the winner was announced by the president of the jury, Rolf Liebermann of Swiss Television.

The winning song was one of the home entries, Refrain performed by Lys Assia who was accompanied by the Radiosa vocal quintet. The composers were Emile Gardaz and Géo Voumard.

To confirm this unique and historical piece of television broadcasting in the world, Eurovision.tv had the chance of interview Lys Assia only some days ago in Düsseldorf:

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Happy Birthday Eurovision Song Contest. Congratulations and hope to celebrate you many more years!

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