Wednesday 1 September 1971


Born: November 19th, 1914, Santarém (Portugal)
Died: July 23rd, 2009, Lisbon (Portugal)
Nationality: Portuguese

Below, a medium-length article detailing the life and works of Joaquim Luís Gomes can be found. Hopefully, in due course, it can be extended to a full-fledged biography


Hailing from Santarém in Central Portugal, where he was born in 1914, Joaquim Luís Gomes discovered his passion for music at a tender age. He started taking lessons with maestro Manuel Ganhão in his native town. Ganhão, having noticed Gomes’ musical talent, in 1931 sent him to Lisbon to study composition at the National Conservatory. From 1932 onwards, Gomes played the clarinet in the Band of the Fifth Battalion of Riflemen in the Portuguese army. In 1940, he changed to the famous Band of the National Republican Guard, in which he was the harpist. During those years he was also involved in music shows broadcast on national radio.

Gomes, however, decided to leave the army and turned to working as an arranger in the popular music industry. In this capacity, he worked with all great Portuguese musicians of his era, including the likes of Tony de Matos, Carlos do Carmo, and Maria de Lurdes Resende. Gomes also wrote charts for Amália Rodrigues; ‘Grândola, vila morena’ and his own composition ‘Nostalgia’ are among the songs recorded by her in an arrangement done by him. Moreover, Gomes conducted the studio orchestra for singer-songwriter to be Fernando Tordo when he started his career in music.

Apart from his work in the recording studio, Gomes took up conducting on stage as well. During the 1950s, he led the folk ensemble Orquestra Típica Scalabitana. He also conducted orchestras for broadcasts on radio and later television. Apart from his involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest, he also accompanied Portuguese entrants in other song festivals in Brazil and Spain.

Although Gomes is best known for his work as an arranger, he was also a notable composer in his own right. He wrote music for theatre, motion pictures, and TV documentaries. In the field of classical music, he distinguished himself with the piano concerto ‘Sonata em Mi Bemol’; other works of his include various symphonic pieces, as well as works for his two beloved instruments, the harp and the clarinet. His composition ‘Mar Português’ was inspired by the poem ‘Mensagem’ by Fernando Pessoa.

In 2005, Gomes was awarded the medal of honor of the SPA, the Portuguese Society of Composers, of which he had been a member since 1937. He died in the summer of 2009, aged 95.


In the 1960s, RTP, the Portuguese broadcaster each year changed conductor for its national Eurovision final, in those days referred to as the Grande Prémio TV da Canção. In 1968, it was Joaquim Luís Gomes’ turn; he conducted all ten entries, arranged by others and performed by Simone de Oliveira, Tonicha (both of whom sang two songs), Mirene Cardinalli, Nicolau Breyner, João Maria Tudela, Carlos Mendes, José Cid, and António Calvário. In the end, Carlos Mendes won the competition with ‘Verão’, composed by Pedro Osório and arranged by Thilo Krasmann, both of whom were to conduct the Eurovision orchestra on several occasions in later years. Gomes accompanied Mendes to the Eurovision Song Contest in the Royal Albert Hall, London, where Portugal landed an 11th position with a slightly more upbeat version of ‘Verão’ than in the Grande Prémio.

In other years, Gomes was involved in the Portuguese Eurovision preliminaries as an arranger for songs conducted by others. In 1964, António Calvário’s song ‘Oração’, which was Portugal’s first entry to the song contest, was orchestrated by him. Three years later, he again arranged the winning entry in Portugal’s Grande Prémio, ‘O vento mudou’, sung by Eduardo Nascimento. Perhaps the most famous song that Gomes worked on as an orchestrator, was the folksy ‘Desfolhada Portuguesa’, with which Simone de Oliveira went to the Eurovision Song Contest of 1969 in Madrid, gaining only one point. Nonetheless, the song became one of De Oliveira’s trademark tunes in Portugal.

In 1970, Portugal did not take part in the contest. Still, RTP organised a Grande Prémio. The winner was Sergio Borges with ‘Onde vais rio que eu canto’, again with an arrangement by Joaquim Luís Gomes. The score of another entry in that year’s competition, Maria da Glória’s ‘Folhas verdes’, was also penned by him. Gomes returned another three times to the competition as an arranger of non winning preliminary entries (in 1974, 1976, and for the last time in 1977). The 1974 effort ‘Cantiga ao vento’ was also conducted by him.

Although it is true that Gomes has a more impressive record as an arranger and conductor than as a composer, it is still surprising to find that he only ever wrote one song for the Portuguese selection himself, ‘Eu nunca direi adeus’, a ballad sung by Sérgio Borges, which came second behind Madaléna Iglesias and her ‘Ele e ela’ in 1966.

Carlos Mendes on the Eurovision stage in London's Royal Albert Hall (1968)


Fernando Tordo, Portuguese entrant in the 1973 and 1977 Eurovision Song Contests, remembers Joaquim Luís Gomes Gomes well. The first songs that he recorded had an arrangement by Gomes. “He asked me to play my songs for him, accompanying myself on the guitar. While I sung, he kept looking at me very intensely. Then he said, "The arrangement has already been made, the only thing that remains to be done now is to put it to paper". To my mind, he is the master of all Portuguese arrangers. Besides, he was a man of enormous culture and sensibility. I remember his folk orchestra from the 1950s well; he was a musician who was much attached to traditional Portuguese music.” (2009)

Fellow-arranger Jorge Costa Pinto has nothing but praise for Gomes. "I very much liked the arrangements of Joaquim Luís Gomes; and he liked mine. When I worked at SABC in South Africa, I recorded several of his compositions with the local radio orchestra. Though he was considerably older than me, we maintained a good friendship. In the last years of his life, we regularly met to have a conversation about music." (2018)


Country – Portugal
Song title – "Oração"
Rendition – António Calvário
Lyrics – Rogério Braçinha / Francisco Nicholson
Composition – João Nobre
Studio arrangement – Joaquim Luís Gomes
(studio orchestra conducted by Joaquim Luís Gomes)
Live orchestration – Joaquim Luís Gomes
Conductor – Kai Mortensen (MD) 
Score –13th place (0 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "O vento mudou"
Rendition – Eduardo Nascimento
Lyrics – João Magelhães Pereira 
Composition – Nuno Nazareth Fernandes
Studio arrangement – Joaquim Luís Gomes
(studio orchestra conducted by Joaquim Luís Gomes)
Live orchestration – Joaquim Luís Gomes
Conductor – Armando Tavares Belo
Score – 12th place (3 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "Verão"
Rendition – Carlos Mendes 
Lyrics – José Alberto Diogo
Composition – Pedro Osório
Studio arrangement – Thilo Krasmann
(recorded with Thilo's Combo led by Thilo Krasmann)
Live orchestration – Thilo Krasmann 
Conductor – Joaquim Luís Gomes
Score – 11th place (5 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "Desfolhada Portuguesa"
Rendition – Simone de Oliveira
Lyrics – José Carlos Ary dos Santos
Composition – Nuno Nazareth Fernandes
Studio arrangement – Joaquim Luís Gomes
(studio orchestra conducted by Joaquim Luís Gomes)
Live orchestration – Joaquim Luís Gomes
Conductor – Ferrer Trindade
Score – 15th place (4 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – “Onde vais rio que eu canto”
Rendition – Sergio Borges
Lyrics – Joaquim Pedro Gonçalves
Composition – Carlos Nóbrega e Sousa
Studio arrangement – Joaquim Luís Gomes
(studio orchestra conducted by Joaquim Luís Gomes)
Live orchestration – Joaquim Luís Gomes
Conductor – Jorge Costa Pinto
Score – none / Portugal chose not to participate in the contest

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