Eurovision Song Contest 1956

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Eurovision Song Contest 1956
ESC 1956 logo.svg
Final24 May 1956
VenueTeatro Kursaal
Lugano, Switzerland
Presenter(s)Lohengrin Filipello
Musical directorFernando Paggi
Directed byFranco Marazzi
Executive supervisorRolf Liebermann
Host broadcasterRadiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana (RTSI)
Interval actLes Joyeux Rossignols &
Les Trois Ménestrels Edit this at Wikidata
Number of entries14 (7 countries performed 2 songs each)
Debuting countries
  • Belgium in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956France in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956France in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956Luxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956Switzerland in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest 1956A coloured map of the countries of Europe
    About this image
         Participating countries
Voting systemTwo-member juries from each country, each member individually awarded points; the voting method is uncertain.
Winning song  Switzerland
Eurovision Song Contest → 1957

The Eurovision Song Contest 1956 was the inaugural edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. It took place in Lugano, Switzerland, and was held at the Teatro Kursaal on Thursday 24 May 1956.

Organised by the European Broadcasting Union, the pan-European music competition was inspired by the Italian Sanremo Music Festival. Lohengrin Filipello hosted the first contest which lasted approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Seven countries participated, with each of them performing two songs. Two jury members from all participating countries cast their votes in secret, based on which song was their favourite.

This first edition of the Eurovision Song Contest included several procedures that were not repeated in any subsequent edition: Two songs for each country, secret voting, double voting of one country on behalf of another, optional inclusion of the jury members' own represented country in their voting, only "Grand Prix" title reception for the winner and a solo male presenter.

Background and location[edit]

During a meeting in Monaco in 1955, members of the European Broadcasting Union discussed ideas to organise a pan-European music competition, taking inspiration from Italy's Sanremo Music Festival.[1] From that meeting, the concept of the Eurovision Song Contest was born. A decision was reached to hold the first ever contest the following year in Lugano, Switzerland.[1][2] Lugano, located in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland, is the 9th largest Swiss city and the largest with an Italian speaking majority outside Italy.[3]

The inaugural Eurovision Song Contest took place at the Teatro Kursaal, a casino and former theatre, on 24 May 1956.[1] The theatre, designed by Italian architect Achille Sfondrini, was used for theatrical and musical performances, ballroom dance and other shows. The theatre closed shortly after the last show in April 1997 and was demolished in 2001 to make room for the extension of the Casino. Now known as Casinò Lugano, it opened again on 29 November 2002.[4]


The programme was hosted in Italian by Lohengrin Filipello,[2] making it the only Eurovision Song Contest to have a solo male presenter and up until the 2017 edition hosted by a male trio,[5] the only edition without a female presenter. Although it was mainly a radio programme, there were cameras in the studio for the benefit of those who possessed a television.[2] The programme lasted approximately an hour and 40 minutes, of which all performances, including the repeat performance, and parts of the interval act survives in audio, while only the repeat performance survives on video.

Only solo artists were allowed to enter the contest, and their songs were not to exceed three and a half minutes in length. They were accompanied by a 24-musician orchestra, which was led by Fernando Paggi, along with four guest conductors, which came from Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Italy. The interval act, whistling by the Joyeux Rossignols, had to be extended due to a delay in the voting procedure. It had been strongly recommended that each participating country have a preliminary national song contest.[2]

Voting controversy[edit]

Two jury members from each participating country travelled to Lugano to cast their vote on the songs, except for Luxembourg which was unable to send juries. The EBU conducted a secret voting and a system allowing the juries to also vote for the two songs representing their own country, as well as allowing the Swiss jury to vote on behalf of Luxembourg. Claims were raised that the Swiss entry won as a result of these procedures.[6] This system was never repeated, as from the second edition of the contest onwards the voting is visible, excludes the jury's own competing country from their voting and includes individual jury members for each country.[2]

While the results have never been officially released or confirmed, the 25 May 1956 issue of the Italian newspaper La Stampa, published the day after the contest, claimed that each jury member ranked each song between 1 and 10 points, meaning each song could have obtained a maximum of 120 to 140 points; depending on whether jury members also voted for their own country's two songs, and that the winner, "Refrain", got in total 102 points, 72.8% of the theoretical votes available for each song.[7]

Lost tapes[edit]

While the contest was shown and recorded for television broadcasting in some European countries (as television sets were somewhat uncommon still at this time), no copies have survived, with the exception of Lys Assia's repeat performance at the end of the contest. It is one of only two contests to not have survived completely in video form, along with the one of 1964, and the only contest in which there is no complete recording in audio or video form (the entire 1964 radio broadcast has survived, while the 1956 broadcast is missing most of the interval act).

Participating countries[edit]

Seven countries participated in the first ever contest, each were represented with two songs.[2] Two more countries, Austria and Denmark, were also expected to take part in the contest, but they missed the submission deadline and therefore could not take part.[2] Although it was thought that the United Kingdom was also expected to take part, it was later revealed by the EBU in January 2017 that it was a mythical fact created by fans of the contest.[8] The EBU further went on to explain that the "Festival of British Popular Song", a contest created by the BBC for the United Kingdom, was the inspiration that brought in changes to the contest format from 1957.[8]


Each performance had a maestro who conducted the orchestra.[9][10] The conductors listed conducted both performances for the indicated countries.


Except for the winning song, the results have never been published. Simon Barclay's book series The Complete and Independent Guide to the Eurovision Song Contest includes a table with what appears to be the rankings, but the author does not give a source. Under the chart, he writes that "the votes awarded have never been disclosed."[11] According to writer Jan Feddersen, "Im Wartesaal zum großen Glück" was most likely voted No. 2 behind Lys Assia.[6]

Draw Country Artist Song Language[12][13] Place[a][14]
01  Netherlands Jetty Paerl "De vogels van Holland" Dutch 2
02   Switzerland Lys Assia "Das alte Karussell" German 2
03  Belgium Fud Leclerc "Messieurs les noyés de la Seine" French 2
04  Germany Walter Andreas Schwarz "Im Wartesaal zum großen Glück" German 2
05  France Mathé Altéry "Le temps perdu" French 2
06  Luxembourg Michèle Arnaud "Ne crois pas" French 2
07  Italy Franca Raimondi "Aprite le finestre" Italian 2
08  Netherlands Corry Brokken "Voorgoed voorbij" Dutch 2
09   Switzerland Lys Assia "Refrain" French 1
10  Belgium Mony Marc "Le plus beau jour de ma vie" French 2
11  Germany Freddy Quinn "So geht das jede Nacht" German 2
12  France Dany Dauberson "Il est là" French 2
13  Luxembourg Michèle Arnaud "Les amants de minuit" French 2
14  Italy Tonina Torrielli "Amami se vuoi" Italian 2


The participating national broadcasters sent commentators to the contest, in order to provide coverage of the contest in their own native language. Details of the commentators and the broadcasting station that they represented are shown in the table below.

Broadcasters and commentators in participating countries
Country Broadcaster(s) Commentator(s) Ref(s)
 Belgium INR French: Janine Lambotte [fr]
NIR Dutch: Nand Baert [nl]
 France RTF Michèle Rebel [15]
 Germany ARD Wolf Mittler
 Italy Programma Nazionale Franco Marazzi
 Luxembourg Télé-Luxembourg Jacques Navadic
 Netherlands NTS Piet te Nuyl [16]
  Switzerland TSR Robert Burnier
Broadcasters and commentators in non-participating countries
Country Broadcaster(s) Commentator(s) Ref(s)
 Austria ORF Wolf Mittler
 Denmark Statsradiofonien TV Gunnar Hansen [da]
 United Kingdom BBC Television Service Wilfrid Thomas [10]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ The voting was held in secret and only the winner was announced; the exact scores were never revealed.


  1. ^ a b c "A decade of song: Eurovision winners through the years (1956-1959)". European Broadcasting Union. 4 November 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Eurovision History – Lugano 1956". European Broadcasting Union. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  3. ^ "List of Major Cities in Switzerland on Population". Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  4. ^ "History - Casinò Lugano". Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  5. ^ Jordan, Paul (27 February 2017). "Let's hear it for the boys! Meet the hosts of Eurovision 2017". European Broadcasting Union. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b Jan Feddersen: Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein. 1. Auflage. Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-455-09350-7. S. 374.
  7. ^ "Canzoni tristi al concorso di Lugano" (PDF). (in Italian). 25 March 1956. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  8. ^ a b Jordan, Paul (11 January 2017). "Shining a light on the United Kingdom: 60 Years at Eurovision". European Broadcasting Union. Retrieved 13 January 2017. Contrary to popular fan myths, the UK did not intend to enter in 1956 as the BBC had previously created their own separate contest, the Festival Of British Popular Songs
  9. ^ "And the conductor is..." Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  10. ^ a b Roxburgh, Gordon (2012). Songs for Europe: The United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest. Volume One: The 1950s and 1960s. Prestatyn: Telos Publishing. pp. 93–101. ISBN 978-1-84583-065-6.
  11. ^ Barclay, Simon (17 June 2010). The Complete and Independent Guide to the Eurovision Song Contest 2010. Silverthorn Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-4457-8415-1.
  12. ^ "Eurovision Song Contest 1956". The Diggiloo Thrush. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  13. ^ "Eurovision Song Contest 1956". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Final of Lugano 1956". European Broadcasting Union. Archived from the original on 27 March 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Concours Eurovision de la Chanson 1956" (in French). 23 March 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  16. ^ "Nederlandse televisiecommentatoren bij het Eurovisie Songfestival". Eurovision Artists (in Dutch).

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°00′N 8°57′E / 46.000°N 8.950°E / 46.000; 8.950