Saturday 3 April 1976


The following article is an overview of the career of French guitarist, composer, arranger, and conductor Tony Rallo. The main source of information is an interview with Mr Ragnarsson, conducted by Bas Tukker in Vaucresson, Greater Paris, January 2013. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Tony Rallo's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2013

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Tony Rallo
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: January 26th, 1941, Tunis (French Tunisia)
Nationality: French


Tony Rallo co-composed, arranged, and conducted the 1976 French entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Un, deux, trois’. Performed by Cathérine Ferry, this song came second in the international festival final held in The Hague. One year previously, he had been the conductor of the studio recording of Turkey's first entry, 'Seninle bir dakika', arranged by Timur Selçuk, who also conducted the song in the international final.


Antony ‘Tony’ Rallo was born into a French family of Italian descent living in Tunisia, at that time a French protectorate. His father, originally from Sicily, worked as a mechanic in one of Renault’s factories. “Like every parent, my father must have dreamt of his son following in his footsteps, but I was not born to be a technician," Tony laughs. "As you would expect in an Italian family, my parents were good singers and I adored listening to them. I also loved the songs I heard on the radio. It was not long before the desire to make music awoke in me. We lived in very humble circumstances, so there was no question of calling upon the help of professional teachers. My father, though, was gentle enough to allow me to go to a friend of his, who was a good accordion player. I must have been seven years old at that time. Instead of teaching me the accordion, that man made the correct choice of starting out with solfege lessons. I was happy to learn anything as long as it was music!"

"After about a year of music theory, my teacher thought the time was ripe to put it into practice. As there was no money to buy an accordion, my father had to rent one! He rented it for a year; and in this year, I managed to master the instrument fairly comprehensively. Unfortunately, my parents lacked the means to keep it longer than one year - so there I was! A couple of years later, when I was about thirteen, I managed to sell my bicycle and buy an acoustic guitar of the money I had made. As I read music without any problem thanks to those theory lessons of a couple of years before, I was able to teach myself how to play it. To me, it was very easy and it felt as something completely natural.”

The young accordionist in Tunis (1950)

In 1955, when Tony was fourteen, his father was transferred to another Renault factory, in Metz, North Eastern France. “That was some transition,” Rallo recalls. “From the Mediterranean heat into the freezing winters of Lorraine! I went to school for two more years, but at sixteen, I had had enough; only music interested me. I had jobs in a factory in Thionville and at a hotel. Meanwhile, I played the guitar here and there in bars and cabarets. I was in a jazz band, which mainly performed for the American soldiers stationed in our region – not only in Metz, but also in Luxembourg. Though I earned some welcome money for my parents, I really was the canard noir, the black sheep of the family. After all, I had quit school and I knew exactly what I wanted and even better what I did not want.” 

Between 1960 and 1963, Tony performed his obligatory 28 months of military service. “These were the days of the Algerian War. I was terrified at the prospect of maybe being sent there. Initially, I was part of the parachutists’ corps, but I wanted to get out of it at all cost; I told my commanding officer I was an aspiring musician. Was there a possibility of joining an army band or orchestra? What he did, though, was giving me a job as a wireless operator – which had absolutely nothing to do with music! But at least it meant I was safe!”

While Tony served in the army, his parents had moved once again – this time to Montmorency, a suburb of Paris. “I knew nobody in Paris. The only thing I had after two and a half years of army service was an excellent physical condition. Back with my parents, I developed the habit of daily walking all the way from their house to the city-centre of Paris, some fifteen kilometres! Of course, I was looking for a job, but it was not all that easy. One day, early in the morning, I made a stop at a bar in Pierrefitte to drink a cup of cocoa. There, I overheard a conversation of two gentlemen talking about a bar near the Eiffel Tower and how they regretted the guitarist of the band playing there would shortly have to leave due to problems with his residence permit. Boldly, I interrupted them, asking for the details of the cabaret they had been to. Needless to say, I went straight to that café, which was in the Rue de Grenelle, but, not surprisingly, at 11 am, it was closed."

"After many hours of waiting at the door, the evening fell and finally they opened. Inside, I was received very friendlily by the waiter, who brought me to the nightclub’s singer, a certain Rudo Cardi. It was true, in a couple of days he would need a new guitarist. To check if I was any good, he auditioned me in that evening’s live performance; and, as I had built up vast repertoire knowledge back in Metz, I virtually knew all of the songs he performed. I was hired! That was some time late in 1963. I became good friends with Rudo, who, in the summer months of the following year, took me to his native Corsica, where we performed together for two months. It was there that I met my future wife!”

In 1964

Back in Paris, Rallo found out they had to look for a new job. “The owner of the nightclub had already replaced me with some other musician; and thereby saved my life, for who knows, perhaps otherwise I would have played there the rest of my career! Now, I had to look for something else. Michel Mallory, a young singer-songwriter I had met in Corsica who I had become close friends with, asked me to accompany him at an audition he did with arranger Paul Mauriat. Mauriat liked what he heard and Michel got to record an album with him… but I was picked up as well, by André Pascal, a lyricist who worked with Mauriat frequently. He helped me getting a job at the publishing company of Jacques Plante. I had to write out sheet music of all songs which were released under Plante’s aegis. In those days, this sheet music was published and put on sale for the general public. Though it was a laborious job, I was happy to accept, as this secured me an income! Meanwhile, I played the guitar in a cover band called Les Kelton, which included my friend Raymond Donnez as its pianist.”

In 1965, at another publishing company, Tutti, Rallo got to write demo arrangements for rhythm section as well. “These were demos to check if the song was any good. If the answer was yes, a fully-fledged recording with a proper orchestrator was made. One day, I was working on a demo for Claude François, who had taken a friend of his along, a guitarist, to check on my work. For this song, I had even written some string parts; and the guitarist was so impressed by my score, that he took me along to a Parisian recording studio that same evening. There was a huge orchestra, ready to record several songs, and its guitarist, Nini Rosso, asked me to take over his job. I was tested! I sight-read the score in front of me and played along with the orchestra on the spot without further preparation. It was only much later that I found out that this is an ability that is possessed by very few! This was the crucial moment in my music life, because it secured me three or four recording sessions a day as a guitarist for the next seven years or so.”

As a session musician, Rallo got to work with many of the most sought-after record arrangers of the 1960s, including Michel Magne, Michel Colombier, François Rauber, Christian Chevalier, Raymond Lefèvre, and Franck Pourcel. In 1968, Rallo was part of Guitars Unlimited, a formation of jazz guitarists which made the album ‘Nuages - manoir de mes rêves’ based on the original recordings of the legendary Django Reinhardt. In this same period, Rallo followed private courses with composer André Hodeir for two years (1966-67) with the ambition of working as an arranger himself.

“The main thing I wanted to learn from Hodeir was the classical style of writing music – and harmony! Remember, during my youth, I had never known anything else than just entertainment music. Hodeir was an alluring teacher for several reasons, one of those being that he was an expert of classical as well as jazz music. It dawned to me quite early that jazz would never be my main interest, but the introduction to it was useful. While I thoroughly studied Théodore Dubois’ standard work on harmony, Hodeir gave me composing assignments, encouraging me to be creative and do the unusual. Thanks to Hodeir, genuinely a grand monsieur, I acquired the ability to write arrangements without harmonic mistakes. This requires a certain amount of perfectionism!"

Guitars Unlimited meeting singer-songwriter Jean Ferrat at Paris' Palais des Sports in 1969, from left to right - Jean Ferrat, unknown (perhaps Francis Darizcuren?), Pierre Cullaz, Raymond Gimenes, Francis le Maguer, and Tony Rallo

"Apart from all this, the recording studio was some sort of school, as well; in a way, it was my conservatoire! Working with great arrangers and conductors taught me important lessons. Some of them, such as Michel Magne and Bernard Gérard, started asking me to write orchestrations; especially Gérard was such a great guy. He was too modest and too intelligent to tell me how he wanted me to tackle certain problems; instead, he simply encouraged me to make my own choices.”

Gradually, Rallo was given more and more arranging assignments besides his studio musician’s work. In 1970, he co-arranged Luis Mariano’s musical comedy La caravelle d’or, while he also wrote the orchestrations to the works of several film composers, such as François de Roubaix and Roland Vincent. In co-operation with Charles Dumont, Rallo composed the music to the TV series Les aventures de Michel Vaillant (1967). In the early 1970s, he wrote arrangements which were recorded by Raymond Lefèvre and Franck Pourcel, including an unusual arrangement of ‘Love Story’, which included an Indian sitar, for Pourcel’s orchestra. In 1971, he decided to cut short his activities as a studio instrumentalist once and for all, instead focusing exclusively on arranging.

In the first half of the 1970s, Tony Rallo arranged for the likes of Daniel Guichard, including his success ‘Mon vieux’ (1974), and Marcel Amont, but it was his connection with Dalida which propelled him to the top of the music business. He was responsible for the musical arrangements to her biggest 1970s hits, ‘Gigi l’amoroso’ (1974) and ‘J’attendrai’ (1976). 

“As luck would have it, Léo Missir, one of the main producers of record label Barclay, trusted me with a song his wife, Patricia Carli, had written for Dalida. Because that turned out quite nicely, Dalida’s brother and impresario, Orlando, called upon me again. With ‘Gigi l’amoroso’, which was more of an Italian opera than a pop song, I won his confidence once and for all, proving that I had the ability to write arrangements in Italian style. Then came ‘J’attendrai’, which was originally an Italian song from the 1930s. I re-arranged it completely in disco style with a jazz bigband – an unusual cocktail, but Orlando liked what he heard and Dalida’s disco version of ‘J’attendrai’ became one of the biggest hits in her entire career. One year later, we recorded ‘Salma ya salama’, a song in Arab which was another chart success.”

Tony Rallo (far left) playing the guitar for Charles Aznavour at the Olympia Concert Hall in Paris (1972). In front of him, Aznavour introduces backing singer Françoise Walle, while Yvon Rioland (far right, bass guitar) can also be recognised

In the meantime, Rallo, who had accompanied Johnny Hallyday on stage as a guitarist in his first Palais des Sports concert series (1967), became the guitarist in the band accompanying French superstar Charles Aznavour in a world tour bringing him to as far away as Japan and the USA. He had been recommended to Aznavour by session arranger Claude Denjean. Not much after, in 1972, Aznavour asked Rallo to conduct a TV concert. 

“Charles knew that I had begun working as a studio arranger myself. At one point, he needed a replacement conductor for some television programme – and he asked me. Of course, I lacked all formal education to be a conductor, but I had seen the best of France’s arrangers at work in the studio, including the geniuses Lefèvre, Pourcel, and Rauber – so I knew what was expected of a conductor of entertainment music. Charles was so happy with the way I handled the orchestra, that he entrusted me with several more of his TV performances. In 1974, I conducted the orchestra which accompanied Aznavour for two long months in the Olympia Concert Hall in Paris. At his request, I re-arranged all of his most popular songs. Charles always wanted new arrangements, both to surprise his audiences and because he derived personal artistic satisfaction from it."

"Unfortunately, I had to discontinue my work for Charles in 1974, when I was handed the opportunity to conduct a weekly TV show with a comprehensive orchestra and host Jacques Martin, Taratata. For two seasons, my orchestra accompanied many national and international stars from various genres. The highlight for me personally was the performance with jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, who was so impressed by the score I had written for him that, after the show, he wanted to keep it as a souvenir with my autograph on it!”

As a result of his recording successes with Dalida, Rallo became one of France’s most sought-after studio arrangers. In the remainder of the 1970s, he worked with the likes of Leny Escudero, Mireille Mathieu, Les Alumettes, Franck Olivier, Jean-Claude Massoulier, Line Renaud, and Adamo, whilst he also wrote the orchestrations to hit records including ‘Glory alléluia’ for Les Poppys (1974), ‘Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher’ for Caroline Verdi, and ‘You know I love you – Tu sais je t’aime’ for Malaysian superstar Shake; the last-mentioned song sold nearly a million copies worldwide. Though his arranging work did not leave him much time for composing, Rallo wrote songs which were recorded by the likes of Jean-Claude Pascal, Sacha Distel, Isabelle Aubret, Marie Myriam, Annie Cordy, and Johnny Hallyday. His main hit as a songwriter, apart from the Eurovision success ‘Un, deux, trois’ for Cathérine Ferry (1976), is ‘Il a neigé sur yesterday’ for Marie Lafôret in 1977.

In the studio, early 1980s

Meanwhile, Rallo also became one of the protagonists of French disco, working on studio albums with ephemeral names such as Pacific Blue, Tany Welck, and Janet Manchester. In 1978, an LP he recorded with Dutch singer Theo Vaness, ‘Back To Music’, entered the American charts. For these disco releases, Rallo often chose to use a pseudonym, Tony Lexter or Anthony Lester. 

“Like all of my colleagues,” Rallo explains, “I experienced the problem that disco music with a French name on the label would not sell domestically. With a pseudonym, the chances of good sales were much higher in France. My friend and colleague Raymond Donnez became Don Ray, whilst I chose Anthony Lester.”

Following the success of ‘Back to Music’, Rallo was invited by British producer Alec R. Costandinos to record a disco album in London with some of the best English and American session musicians. This release, ‘Burnin’ Alive’ (1979), entirely composed by Rallo himself, was a major club success in the United Kingdom and America. Much later, in 2002, the Chemical Brothers, an English dance formation, recorded an orchestral version of the title track of Rallo’s album under a new title, ‘Come With Us’. “The funniest thing of all of this is that the album ‘Burnin’ Alive’ sold well abroad, while there was no interest in France; perhaps again because my proper name was on it this time. The Chemical Brothers’ cover version, however, was a number one hit in France!”

In the 1980s, the music industry changed profoundly, as nearly all big studio orchestras were replaced by electronic devices. How did Rallo cope with this development? “Unconsciously, I sensed there was a revolution coming, already by 1974. In the Aznavour concert in Olympia, I included a synthesiser in my orchestra. Somehow, I felt I was on the right track, mixing the orchestral elements with synths, and I sensed the audiences liked the sound of this novel instrument. In the early 1980s, when the computer appeared on the horizon, I bought myself an Atari and studied its possibilities meticulously. Before long, I wrote my arrangements on this computer. For some years, I took it to the recording studio for sessions until I had had enough of that and decided to build a studio of my own underneath my own house, where I have recorded virtually all projects I have been engaged in since. Sadly, many of my arranging colleagues who thrived in the 1960s and 1970s, failed to adapt to this new era of music and disappeared from the scene altogether.”

Tony with British guitar legend Chris Rea, who produced Guitars Unlimited’s comeback album in 2003

In the course of the 1980s and 1990s, Tony Rallo wrote orchestrations for the likes of Marie Myriam, Annie Cordy, Sophie & Magaly, Nicole Croisille, and Alan Kaupp. In 1981, he wrote all arrangements to François Valery’s album ‘Dream in blue’ as well as to Linda de Suza’s chart success ‘Toi mon amour caché’. He also supervised one of the last recordings of Tino Rossi. Moreover, Rallo arranged the official French hymns for the 1982 FIFA World Cup and 1983 Five Nations Rugby Tournament, whilst, in 1989, he was responsible for recording ‘Liban libre’ with Guy Béart. He continued writing the orchestrations for Dalida until her tragic demise in 1987. 

“Shortly after her death, her brother Orlando telephoned me, telling me about an old radio recording in which she performed Charles Aznavour’s ‘La Mamma’. It had been preserved on a Revox cassette and he wondered if I had any ideas about working it up to something which was worth releasing. With my computer, I managed to separate her voice from the original instrumentation. Instead, I wrote an oriental arrangement to ‘La Mamma’. When it became a success, Charles Aznavour, always the gentleman, was the first to congratulate me on this!”

Apart from his work for pop artists, Tony Rallo composed the music to several TV productions for children, such as Salut les Mickey (1983), Chip & Charlie (1992), and Les contes du chat perché (1994). Moreover, in the 1970s and 1980s, he wrote radio jingles and music for advertisements, while he arranged the soundtracks of Roland Vincent to the TV film En haut des marches (1983) and Jean-Marie Sénia’s movie Si t’as besoin de rien, fais-moi signe (1986). More recently, he penned the arrangements to the French-Italian film production Corto maltese, la cour secrète des arcanes (2002).

In the new century, Rallo wrote arrangements for Israeli pop star Sarit Hadad as well as for Chantal Goya and Michel Orso, whilst he composed several songs for Isabelle Aubret. In 2003, he took part in a reunion of his 1960s jazz formation Guitars Unlimited, recording an album in London produced by Chris Rea. In 2010, with Jean-Jacques Debout, he co-composed the soundtrack to the movie ‘Gigola’. Two years later, Rallo was responsible for the arrangements to Debout’s musical comedy Bourlingueur des étoiles (2012). He has also continued being involved in composing for TV films and advertisements.

Tony Rallo at his house in Vaucresson (January 2013)


Though Tony Rallo made his only appearance as a conductor in the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest, he was involved in the competition the year before as well, recording the arrangement to ‘Seninle bir dakika’, the first-ever Turkish Eurovision participation; the score was probably written by Timur Selçuk, who also got to conduct the song in the international final in Stockholm. This song, performed by young Semiha Yankı, was recorded in Paris and released on Eddy Barclay’s record label. Understandably, given that he only conducted the session in Paris, Rallo does not remember anything about this Turkish project.

In 1976, Rallo co-composed the catchy up-tempo ‘Un, deux, trois’ with Jean-Paul Cara, a young singer-songwriter who later wrote several more Eurovision entries, including the winning ‘L’oiseau et l’enfant’ (Marie Myriam, 1977). Performed by Cathérine Ferry, ‘Un, deux, trois’ won the French pre-selection in Paris and came close to winning the Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague as well, finishing second behind Brotherhood of Man (United Kingdom). Tony Rallo wrote the arrangement to ‘Un, deux, trois’ and also conducted the song in the international Eurovision final. Was it Rallo’s personal ambition to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest?

“Not at all," Rallo answers without thinking further. "The initial idea was Jean-Paul Cara’s. He wanted to submit a song to the French Eurovision committee and wanted it to bear the title ‘Un, deux, trois’, a clever idea. When he turned to me, he had already managed to write a part of the music. He wondered if I could work up his sketch; Jean-Paul is not a professional musician and he needed some guidance. Though we had never worked together before, he was probably advised by someone else to turn to me. These were the days when I was extremely sought-after as an arranger. For Jean-Paul, to have the same person finish the composition of his song and arrange it right away was an interesting option. I was known for being very fast both as a composer and an arranger – and it was no different with this song. We made a demo recording with a girl who was a backing singer in the Parisian recording studio and submitted it to the SACEM, the French association of songwriters and music publishers, as was usual in those days. To our delight, the song was admitted to the pre-selection here in France.”

With ‘Un, deux, trois’ being due to be performed on nationwide television, Cara and Rallo were in need of a singer – and they had to find someone fast. For Rallo, this was an opportunity to reward a friend in the business.

The French Eurovision team in 1976, from left to right - songwriter Jean-Paul Cara, vocalist Cathérine Ferry, and co-composer/arranger/conductor Tony Rallo

“In those days, I extensively worked with Léo Missir, a producer at the Barclay record company. Thanks to him, a lot of arranging work, including Daniel Guichard’s repertoire, was coming my way. I felt it would be right to ask him first if there was an artiste he wanted to promote and who was perhaps suitable to embark on our Eurovision project. He invited me over to the Barclay studios, where an attractive young blond girl was waiting for us, Cathérine Ferry. She did not have a record deal – nothing. She turned out to be the girlfriend of Daniel Balavoine, one of Léo’s protégés, but who was desperately unsuccessful at the time. When Cathérine sang the song with a pianist accompanying her, I immediately realised she was exactly the kind of girl we needed. Formidable! Shortly after, we recorded ‘Un, deux, trois’ with Cathérine. Léo Missir asked me for another favour; to include Daniel Balavoine and his brother in the group of backing singers accompanying Cathérine. Moreover, for the B side of the single release of ‘Un, deux, trois’, one of Daniel’s compositions was used. To be honest, I had never heard of Balavoine before.”

In that year’s French pre-selection, which consisted of several shows, Rallo also arranged and conducted ‘Aimer quelqu’un heureux’ for Caroline Verdi, but Cathérine Ferry effectively swept away all of her competitors and won the right to represent France in the international Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague. 

“Jean-Paul Cara and I were really surprised that our song won in France. Let me speak for myself; I had not foreseen its true hit potential. Of course, it was extremely commercial, but Cathérine was the real asset – for this song, she was the ideal vocalist. Unfortunately, in The Hague, she was more nervous than back in Paris. I remember I had to calm her down right before the TV performance. She was terrified! I told her, “Whatever you do on stage, keep looking me in the eyes – do not ever lose sight of me.” The orchestra was in front of the artists’ stage and I was with my back to the audience, facing Cathérine. Her rendition was quite alright, but not as confident as in the selection show back home; but what could you expect? She was a hairdresser without any podium experience! The fact that she was Daniel Balavoine’s girlfriend was the only reason she had been picked up by Léo Missir.”

"Speaking for myself, I was not nervous at all. I have never suffered of stage fright – perhaps in the Taratata TV show I conducted at that time, but only in the minutes before the lights went on and the show started. From the moment I climbed the stage, all worries subsided. In the case of Eurovision, there was no reason whatsoever for me personally to feel nervous. For Taratata, I had to conduct about a dozen pieces per broadcast, with many different tempi to remember. ‘Un, deux, trois’, on the other hand, was the only song I conducted in that Eurovision final – a song, moreover, I had composed and arranged myself. It was easy! What was more, during the rehearsals I quickly found out that the orchestra musicians were top-notch and, generally speaking, the Dutch organisation of the festival was fantastic. Nothing could go wrong. Nevertheless, I realised it was an important moment in my career – for, at that time, quite contrary to nowadays, the Eurovision Song Contest was an important manifestation. I looked the part, that night, wearing a striking dark red outfit; mind you, that was haut couture, bought at the Lanvin Fashion House in Paris!”

Cathérine Ferry on the Eurovision stage in The Hague

What were Rallo’s emotions after finishing second behind the UK’s Brotherhood of Man? “Being up front with the British during the entire voting procedure, we were slightly disappointed to lose out against them in the end. ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ was a good song too… a light song, like ours – that was the style which sold well in those years! Of course, we were happy with the hit success of ‘Un, deux, trois’ in so many different European countries. For Daniel Balavoine, who was trying so hard to make a career in music, it was slightly painful to see his girlfriend rising to stardom all of a sudden. In the end, however, Daniel became a successful recording artist, while Cathérine faded away, unable to top the success of that one Eurovision hit. With ‘Un, deux, trois’, her career was launched beautifully, but, understandably, she did not want to continue recording songs in that style for the rest of her life; and perhaps that is what audiences expected of her.”

Although Rallo did not make a second appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest as a composer, arranger, or conductor, there are two footnotes to add to his festival record. In 1981, he arranged ‘Moi je dis stop’ for Julie Bataille, the French cover version of ‘Making Your Mind Up’, with which UK’s Bucks Fizz had won that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Five years later, in 1986, Rallo again submitted a composition to the French selection committee, with lyrics by the renowned Eddy Marnay, ‘Tout commence et recommence’. The song was rejected by the selection committee, all the more incredible when realizing the interpreter was none other than… Céline Dion, the Canadian songstress who was to win the Eurovision Song Contest for Switzerland two years later with ‘Ne partez pas sans moi’ and then went on to worldwide stardom in the 1990s.

“I must be the only producer in the world who has a Céline Dion recording on the shelf which has never been released!" Rallo chuckles. "The project was Eddy Marnay’s brainchild. He had the lyrics ready and wanted me to compose and arrange the music to it. He came up with Céline Dion. We recorded the demo down here in my home studio. It was a gentle ballad. I cannot begin to understand why our recording was rejected by French television. I have often thought about passing it onto Michel Drucker (famous French TV host - BT), who could then surprise Céline with it during his show. No doubt, she has forgotten about the song altogether. So far, I have not done that, though – the demo is still here on the shelf.”


So far, we have not gathered memories of other artists who worked with Tony Rallo.


Country – Turkey
Song title – “Seninle bir dakika”
Rendition – Semiha Yankı
Lyrics – Hikmet Munir Ebcioğlu
Composition – Kemal Ebcioğlu
Studio arrangement – Timur Selçuk
(studio orchestra conducted by Tony Rallo)
Live orchestration – Timur Selçuk
Conductor – Timur Selçuk
Score – 19th place (3 votes)

Country – France
Song title – “Un, deux, trois”
Rendition – Cathérine Ferry
Lyrics – Jean-Paul Cara
Composition – Jean-Paul Cara / Tony Rallo
Studio arrangement – Tony Rallo
(studio orchestra conducted by Tony Rallo)
Live orchestration – Tony Rallo
Conductor – Tony Rallo
Score – 2nd place (147 votes)

  • Bas Tukker interviewed Tony Rallo in Vaucresson, Greater Paris, January 2013
  • Photos courtesy of Tony Rallo, Yvon Rioland, and Ferry van der Zant


Born: January 23rd, 1930, Graz (Austria)
Died: September 12th, 2018, Graz (Austria)
Nationality: Austrian

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


Erich Kleinschuster studied for the bar and even wrote a thesis; moreover, he also completed piano and trombone courses at the conservatory. As a trombonist, he played in the orchestras of Johannes Fehring, Friedrich Gulda, Kenny Clarke, and Peter Herbolzheimer. In 1966, he founded a jazz sextet. In 1969, he was the founder of the jazz department at the Vienna Conservatory. From 1971 to 1981, Kleinschuster was Head of Entertainment at ORF, the Austrian broadcaster and moreover led the ORF Big Band until its dissolution in 1981. Between 1981 and 1996, he was a professor at the Music University in Graz, teaching improvisation. From 1998 onwards, he has been one of the organizers of a festival called the Grazer Jazz Sommer.


During his days as Head of Entertainment at ORF, Kleinschuster twice conducted an Austrian entry in the Eurovision Song Contest: ‘Falter im Wind’ by the Milestones in 1972 and ‘My Little World’ by Waterloo & Robinson in 1976. Both songs finished in fifth place. In the intervening years, Austria did not participate in the festival.


Country – Austria
Song title – “Falter im Wind”
Rendition – Milestones (Günther Grosslercher / Christian Kolonovits / Beatrix Neundlinger / Norbert Niedermayer)
Lyrics – Heinz Unger
Composition – Manuel Rigoni / Richard Schönherz
Studio arrangement – Richard Schönherz
Live orchestration – Richard Schönherz
Conductor – Erich Kleinschuster
Score – 5th place (100 votes)

Country – Austria
Song title – “My Little World”
Rendition – Waterloo & Robinson 
(Hans Kreuzmayr / Sep Krassnitzer)
Lyrics – Gerard Heinz
Composition – Gerhard Heinz
Studio arrangement – Christian Kolonovits
Live orchestration – Richard Oesterreicher
Conductor – Erich Kleinschuster
Score – 5th place (80 votes)


Born: April 28th, 1923, Ortelsburg, East Prussia (Germany, modern-day Szczytno, Poland)
Died: December 24th, 2016, Berlin (Germany)
Nationality: German

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


Jo Plée (pseudonym of Joachim Plewa) was released from a Russian prisoner-of-war camp in 1946; subsequently, he moved to Berlin and studied harmony, instrumentation, composition, conducting, and the piano at the Sternsche Konservatorium. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he arranged music for dance orchestras. In the 1960s, he became a studio arranger for various producers, most prominently Jürgen Kramer and Jack White. In the 1960s and 1970s, Plée orchestrated songs by Lena Valaitis, Tony Marshall, Marianne Rosenberg, Juliane Werding, Rex Gildo, and the Kelly Family. Hit songs with arrangements by him include ‘Olala l’amour’ (Séverine, 1972) and ‘Ein Festival der Liebe’ (Jürgen Marcus, 1973). In the 1980s, he was the musical director of several TV shows. Plée became the president of the Association of German Orchestrators in 1989.


In 1972, Jo Plée wrote the all-important orchestration to Mary Roos’ ‘Nur die Liebe lässt uns leben’, a song that finished third for West Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest in Edinburgh; it was conducted by Paul Kuhn

Six years later, in 1976, Plée conducted the Eurovision orchestra himself for Jürgen Marcus, who represented Luxembourg with his song ‘Chansons pour ceux qui s’aiment’ (composed by producer Jack White), which finished fourteenth. Plée actually could have conducted two entries on the night, given that he also wrote the orchestration to West Germany's pre-selection winner,  'Der Star' by Tony Marschall. That song, however, was disqualified and replaced by the runner-up, performed by The Les Humphries Singers.


Country – West Germany
Song title – "Nur die Liebe lässt uns leben"
Rendition – Mary Roos 
Lyrics – Joachim Relin
Composition – Joachim Heider
Studio arrangement – Jo Plée
Live orchestration – Jo Plée
Conductor – Paul Kuhn
Score – 3rd place (107 votes)

Country – Luxembourg
Song title – "Chansons pour ceux qui s'aiment"
Rendition – Jürgen Marcus
Lyrics – Fred Jay / Vline Buggy
Composition – Jack White
Studio arrangement – Jo Plée
Live orchestration – Jo Plée
Conductor – Jo Plée
Score – 14th place (17 votes)


Born: November 30th, 1949, Kibbutz Hanita (Israel)
Nationality: Israeli

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


Matti Caspi (מתי כספי‎) studied the piano at the Nahariya Conservatory. During his army service, he formed his first music group, The Three Fat Men (later renamed The They Don’t Care Trio). During the Yom Kippur War (1973), he toured army bases to cheer up the soldiers with his music, along with – amongst others – Leonard Cohen. In the years after, Caspi developed into a singer-songwriter, who, over the years, has released many albums. At the same time, Matti Caspi composed songs for other artists, such as Yehudit Ravitz, Shlomo Gronich, and, more recently, Riki Gal. Many of his compositions were written in collaboration with lyricist Ehud Manor.


Matti Caspi wrote a bouncy pop song called ‘Emor shalom’ (lyrics: Ehud Manor), with which female singing trio Chocolata, Menta, Mastik represented Israel in the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague. Caspi had arranged the music to the song himself and conducted the Metropole Orchestra in the international final. ‘Emor shalom’ finished sixth among eighteen competing entries.


Country – Israel
Song title – "Emor shalom"
Rendition – Chocolata, Menta, Mastik 
(Yardena Arazi / Ruti Holzman / Lea Lupatin)
Lyrics – Ehud Manor
Composition – Matti Caspi
Studio arrangement – Matti Caspi
Live orchestration – Matti Caspi
Conductor – Matti Caspi
Score – 6th place (77 votes)



Born: August 10th, 1940, Croydon, Greater London (United Kingdom)
Died: December 26th, 2007, Basingstoke, England (United Kingdom)
Nationality: British

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


Les Humphries was christened John Lesley Humphreys and joined the Music Corps of the Royal Marine at the tender age of thirteen. In 1966, he moved to Hamburg (West Germany) and played in several orchestras as an organist and pianist. In 1970, he co-founded the Les Humphries Singers, a group of vocalists with which Humphries recorded gospels and spirituals to great success, most notably ‘To My Father’s House’, ‘Mexico’ (written by Humphries himself), and ‘Mama Loo’, all of which were international hit singles. Humphries also worked as an arranger for other gospel ensembles, such as the Lee Patterson Singers. He composed the signature melody of Derrick, Germany’s most popular TV detective of all times. In 1991, the Les Humphries Singers came together again for a short time, but, after that, Humphries withdrew from the music scene altogether.


The Les Humphries Singers took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976, when their heyday as an internationally acclaimed music group was over already. They came second in the German final, but when winner Tony Marshall was disqualified, they were allowed to represent West Germany in The Hague with ‘Sing Sang Song’, composed by Ralph Siegel. Les Humphries co-wrote the English lyrics, while the arrangement was penned by Norbert Daum. In The Hague, he conducted the Metropole Orchestra during the rendition of ‘Sing Sang Song’, which finished 15th. Actually, this meant the death-knell for the group, which disbanded that same year.


Country – West Germany
Song title – "Sing, Sang, Song"
Rendition – Les Humphries Singers (Judy Archer / Jimmy Bilsbury / Jürgen Drews / Peggy Evers / John Lawton / David O’Brien)
German lyrics – Kurt Hertha
English lyrics – Jimmy Bilsbury / Les Humphries
Composition – Ralph Siegel
Studio arrangement – Norbert Daum
Live orchestration – Norbert Daum
Conductor – Les Humphries
Score – 15th place (12 votes)


The following article is an overview of the career of Dutch conductor Jan Stulen. The main source of information is an interview with Mr Stulen, conducted by Bas Tukker in Wilnis, Netherlands, December 2012. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Jan Stulen's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2012

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Jan Stulen
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: January 7th, 1942, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Died: July 22nd, 2017, Wittlich (Germany)
Nationality: Dutch


Jan Stulen was the surprise choice as chief conductor of the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest, held in The Hague (Netherlands). Since the regular conductor of the Metropole Orchestra, Dolf van der Linden, was not interested in being the musical director of the festival, he suggested that Stulen, a classically trained musician, took over. Jan Stulen conducted the intro music and the finale, while leaving the orchestra in the hands of Harry van Hoof for that year’s Dutch entry, ‘The Party Is Over’.


Jan Stulen was born in a well-to-do family in Amsterdam; his father was the managing director of a technical installation company. “My father was an avid collector of classical music records,” Stulen comments, “while my mom’s part of the family harboured some very good musicians, including composer Paul Christiaan van Westering. My mother sang in amateur choirs. For as long as I can remember, my parents took me to concerts in the Concertgebouw. One of my aunts taught me to read music as well as my first piano lessons. In 1948, when I was 6 years old, my parents sent me to church musician Willem Vogel, who taught me piano, organ, and music theory for many years. Even before I started attending grammar school, I was convinced I wanted to be a musician – and what was more, my ambition was to be a conductor. The maestros of the concerts in the Concertgebouw inspired me endlessly, even as a young boy. I wanted to do what they did!”

Upon graduation at the Hervormd Lyceum in 1960, Jan Stulen became a student at the Amsterdam Conservatory of the Muzieklyceum Society. He was taught the piano by Karel Hilsum and orchestral conducting by Peter Erős; at the institute, he also followed courses in singing, the violin, as well as a wide range of obligatory theoretical subjects. Stulen, who graduated in 1964, has only good memories of his days as a student. 

Jan Stulen rehearsing with the Interscholair Aulakoor, the choir of the Reformed Youth Council, in Amsterdam’s Amstel Church (1963)

“The Muzieklyceum was a small school with some 150 students, no more – a big plus for us, the students, because our teachers were able to pay much attention to the individual. Peter Erős was a young musician from Budapest who had escaped his country in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In Amsterdam, he was associate conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. His trademark was an absolutely reliable and functional conducting technique, which he was able to bring across to his students excellently. Jaap Spaanderman was the other conducting teacher at the institute, an older musician brought up in the great 19th century romantic tradition of classical music."

"I was taught the violin by Louis Metz, while the headmaster, Everard van Rooyen, was adamant that we learnt about Renaissance and Baroque music long before this historical movement of the revival of ancient instruments such as the harpsichord began; it was an important part of my musical upbringing. Peter Erős taught me instrumentation as well. No, I did not take any courses in composition; I have never had the ambition to make my mark as a creative musician. I do not believe I am the right person to add interesting creations to all the wonderful music that has been written before me.”

Taking the advice of Erős, Jan Stulen, who during his time at the conservatoire had regularly worked as a church organist and a répétiteur for choirs in Amsterdam, wrote open applications to several opera theatres in West Germany. He was contracted by the Münster Municipal Theatre, where he worked for 6 years (1964-70) in various capacities. 

Conducting in Münster’s Municipal Theatre, 1968

“Erős gave me sound advice; he knew that, in Germany, young conductors were given more opportunities than in the Netherlands. In Münster, I started out as the répétiteur for ballet performances; and, indeed, within a year, the theatre’s musical director thought the time was ripe to allow me my first performance as a conductor of a ballet. Slowly but gradually, I was given more and more opportunities to conduct. In the end, I became the assistant musical director of the theatre, rehearsing and conducting opera and operetta productions of my own, the first one being My Fair Lady. In what turned out to be my last season in Münster, a Dutch TV crew filmed an item about me while I was working on Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin. As a result of this, I was invited by the Netherlands’ Dance Theatre to do some guest performances with their orchestra. After a couple of months, I was offered the position of musical director there. In 1970, I returned to Amsterdam.”

Between 1970 and 1976, Stulen worked at the Netherlands’ Dance Theatre, initially as the musical director and conductor of the Netherlands’ Ballet Orchestra and the Dance Theatre (1970-72) and continuing to work solely with the last-mentioned ensemble for another four years (1972-76). In international productions with the Dance Theatre, Stulen conducted the New Opera Orchestra in London, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and the Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra as well as at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. 

“In one production with the Ballet Orchestra, some players of the Residential Orchestra or The Hague Philharmonic had been added to the orchestra, which led to me being invited to work on a concert with the Residential Orchestra; and one thing led to the other, because this performance was broadcast on radio and drew the attention of the artistic leadership of the Promenade Orchestra, one of the many classical ensembles of Dutch radio at that time. This orchestra specialised in light classical music, mainly operettas. In 1971, I conducted my first radio concert as a guest with the Promenade Orchestra. When the orchestra’s chief conductor Gijsbert Nieuwland passed away quite suddenly in 1975, I became the deputy for some time. One year later, the broadcaster’s musical director of classical music, Piet Heuwekemeijer, told me the orchestra wanted me to take over Nieuwland’s position once and for all. Of course, I accepted!”

On the set of TV show 'Jonge Mensen op het Concertpodium' (1980)

Between 1976 and 1992, Jan Stulen was under contract to the public broadcasting stations in Hilversum, being the resident conductor of the Promenade Orchestra (1976-84) and the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra (1984-92), a merger of the Promenade Orchestra and the Broadcasting Orchestra. 

“Originally, I was contracted for the Promenade Orchestra only, but after one or two years, the terms of the contract were changed to the effect that I was supposed to work with all orchestras of the broadcaster, mainly the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Radio Chamber Orchestra. My main job was to rehearse and conduct concerts for nationwide radio. Thanks to one excellent producer, Joop de Roo, who set up exchange programmes with broadcasting services abroad, I was given the opportunity to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra in London and the WDR Broadcasting Orchestra in Cologne as a guest on several occasions. In the course of the 1980s and early 1990s, because of many commitments elsewhere, my conducting commissions for Dutch radio became increasingly few and far between, until it was agreed upon by mutual consent to tear up the contract in 1992. Since, I have continued working with all broadcasting orchestras as a guest.”

Apart from his radio work for the public broadcasting service, Jan Stulen conducted in several TV programmes, most notably Jonge Mensen op het Concertpodium (Young People on the Concert Stage), which ran for many years in the 1980s and early 1990s. Stulen: “Jonge Mensen op het Concertpodium offered a stage to fledgling young musicians who were about to graduate from conservatoires or had just successfully participated in international competitions for soloists. Our producer Jos Cleber roamed the Netherlands and other countries looking for talent. Musicians who later won international fame, such as flute player Emmanuel Pahud and cellist Colin Carr, performed in our programme. The Promenade Orchestra, and later the Radio Symphonic, conducted by me, accompanied the soloists. There was a passionate team working on the programme with director Joop Stokkermans and host Cees van Drongelen. All in all, it was a delight to be involved in this production.”

The team behind TV production ‘Jonge Mensen op het Concertpodium’; standing, from left to right - director Joop Stokkermans, host Cees van Drongelen, and producer Job Maarse; seated - Jan Stulen (conductor) with Elise Mancini (assistant director) (c. 1985)

Several years later, when Stulen was no longer under contract to the broadcaster, he got involved in the immensely popular TV show Una Voce Particolare for 13 consecutive seasons (1997-2010). 

“This was a fundamentally different programme when compared to Jonge Mensen. In Una Voce Particolare, we worked with talented amateur vocalists who sang parts from light classical works or musicals. Most of them had never seen, let alone worked with an orchestra, which meant it was up to me to help them feeling comfortable working with us, the orchestra musicians. Initially, for this show, I conducted the Dutch Promenade Orchestra – this ensemble should not be confused with the orchestra bearing the same name which I conducted in the 1970s and 1980s – and, from 2003 onwards, L’Orchestra Particolare, a freelance orchestra especially brought together to work on this television programme. Sometimes, working on Una Voce Particolare proved slightly problematic. For a start, most of the production crew were no musicians, but people who did not understand the orchestra needed time to rehearse the pieces properly. The schedule of rehearsals, occasionally even with two programmes being recorded in one day, required superhuman stamina. Nevertheless, we nearly always managed to pull it off properly.”

From 1976 onwards, when Dolf van der Linden invited Jan Stulen to replace him as the chief conductor of the Eurovision Song Contest held in The Hague, Stulen regularly worked with the Metropole Orchestra, the light-entertainment orchestra of the Dutch broadcaster. When Rogier van Otterloo took over the leadership of the orchestra from Van der Linden (1980), Stulen regularly replaced him for operetta performances. In 1987, he conducted the orchestra in a radio performance of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ with piano virtuoso Alan Makowicz, while he also led it for the recordings of a CD with André Popp’s mood music creations, ‘La musique qui fait Popp’, in 1993. 

At a reception, flanked by Dolf van der Linden (left) and producer Joop de Roo (1989)

With the Metropole Orchestra, Stulen recorded a host of soundtracks for television and the cinema, including Zwarte sneeuw (1996), Kees de jongen (2003), and Pluk van de Petteflet (2004). These were by no means Stulen’s first experiences as a conductor of soundtracks, as he had already conducted the Promenade Orchestra for the musical accompaniment to TV series such as Hollands glorie (1976) and Willem van Oranje (1984).

For an impressive ten years (1986-96), Jan Stulen was the permanent conductor of the WDR Broadcasting Orchestra in Cologne, West Germany; simultaneously, he worked as a regular guest conductor at the NDR Broadcasting Orchestra in Hanover. 

“The Germans knew of me thanks to the exchange programmes between the radio services in Hilversum and West Germany. In those days, the broadcasters of each of the states of West Germany had its own orchestra for Gehobene Unterhaltungsmusik, sophisticated entertainment music’. In Cologne, the conducting was usually done by Heinz Geese and Curt Cremer; these two guys were well versed in light entertainment music, but they were there because they were the producers of the radio programmes with the orchestra – in other words, no trained conductors. The orchestra members were keen to get a classical conductor on board and that is where I came in. Apart from my regular work with the NDR orchestra in Hanover, I performed as a guest with the radio orchestras in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.” 

Teaching a group of students at the Maastricht Academy of Music (c. 1990)

Beside his work for German radio, Stulen was the director of the German Chamber Orchestra in Frankfurt from 1989 to 2000. Moreover, he has continued performing as a guest conductor across Germany, working with classical orchestras in Gelsenkirchen, Hilchenbach, Coblenz, Ludwigshafen, Gießen, Kaiserslautern, and Leipzig.

From the 1990s onwards, Stulen has conducted orchestras and opera companies throughout Europe and beyond. Since 1997, he has been the regular guest conductor of the Transylvania State Philharmonic in Cluj, Romania, while he has held the same position at the Flanders Symphony Orchestra in Bruges, Belgium, from 1998. As a guest, he also performed with ensembles in Switzerland, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, Egypt, South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand. 

“In Vietnam, I taught some conducting master classes as well”, Stulen comments. “Admittedly, all these international commissions just crossed my path; I have never consciously looked for them. "Do not pursue things, but embrace things which come your way," is the creed of a good friend of mine, jazz pianist Louis van Dijk – and I agree with him. One should not run away from interesting opportunities coming one’s way. I am proud to have been involved with renowned orchestras, especially the Transylvania State Philharmonic, which is an excellent group of 120 musicians.”

During a rehearsal with the Metropole Orchestra (1997)

As a freelance conductor, Jan Stulen has performed with all professional classical orchestras in the Netherlands, most notably the Limburg Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the Brabants Orkest. With the LSO, he embarked on two tours with Boudewijn de Groot, one of the Netherlands’ most popular singer-songwriters. Besides, he was the artistic advisor of the Opera Forum in Enschede for several years.

Jan Stulen, who has long engaged in teaching private conducting lessons and workshops in the Netherlands and beyond, was a professor of orchestral conducting at the Maastricht Academy of Music between 1988 and 2007, whilst he was affiliated to the Rotterdam Conservatoire in the same capacity from 2003 to 2007; moreover, in Maastricht, he combined his teaching activities with the function of artistic director for almost ten years (1993-2002). 

“This was another thing that came my way. Anton Kersjes, head professor of conducting at the Maastricht Academy, was a good friend of mine. As he was about to be pensioned off, he wondered if I was interested to follow in his footsteps. Because I had been involved in private teaching, mainly for studio arrangers of pop projects who needed to master the basic conducting techniques, I had some experience in this field. Looking forward to the prospect, I accepted the job in Maastricht and worked there for 20 happy years. As the institute’s artistic director, I checked on the courses of all teachers and presided over the examination commissions. In Rotterdam, headmaster George Wiegel invited me to assist conducting teacher Hans Leenders, who, at that time, lacked the experience to manage on his own. Since reaching the pensionable age, I have continued teaching in Maastricht and elsewhere as a guest.”

Stulen with l’Orchestra Particolare, the orchestra accompanying TV talent show 'Una Voce Particolare' (2006)

In 2012, Jan Stulen published a book about his experiences as a conductor and teacher, ‘De Tao van het dirigeren. Een andere kijk op (muzikaal) leiderschap’ (= The Tao Of Conducting. A Different View on (Musical) Leadership)

“Over the years, I have collected notes and ideas about conducting and about my experiences and ideas on how to handle an orchestra and rehearse a piece of music properly. Though, originally, these notes were purely intended for private use, after a while I realised it might be an interesting idea to put these ideas together coherently. When I put myself to this, it struck me that there are interesting parallels between conducting an orchestra and the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. To my mind, a key element of being a good conductor is not to force natural processes. In fact, there are many similarities between conducting and managing a company. In one of my master classes in Vietnam for young conductors, the session was attended by a large number of Vietnamese and Dutch business managers. Apparently, my vision of leadership transcends the world of music!”

Jan Stulen continued working as a conductor until about one year before he passed away on his holiday address in Germany in the summer of 2017.

Rehearsing with the Metropole Orchestra for a concert on the occasion of Dolf van der Linden's 100th birthday (2015)


Quite unexpectedly, Jan Stulen received the invitation to be the chief conductor of the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague. Stulen had not been involved at all in the Dutch preliminary contest, in which Hans van Hemert’s composition ‘The Party Is Over’, interpreted by Sandra Reemer, was chosen as the Netherlands’ representative for the international festival. What was more, the then thirty-four year old maestro had never conducted the Metropole Orchestra before in his life and seemed a tabula rasa in the world of light entertainment music. 

“It is fair to say that my musical upbringing was entirely classical," Stulen comments. "As a student, though, I struck up a lifelong friendship with jazz musician Louis van Dijk, who, at that time, played the piano at the so-called Interscholair Aulakoor, the choir of the Reformed Youth Council in Amsterdam. Thanks to him, I got the hang of jazz and we played the piano together on many occasions, but solely in private. In the early 1970s, I regularly conducted the Promenade Orchestra, one of the orchestras of the Netherlands’ public broadcasting service, which specialized in lighter classical genres, mainly operetta. In that sense, there was this affinity with light orchestral music, which was also played by the Metropole Orchestra, the broadcaster’s light entertainment orchestra.”

The chief conductor of the Metropole Orchestra between its foundation in 1945 and 1980 was Dolf van der Linden, who had been the regular conductor for the Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest until 1971. In 1972, the record companies had insisted on having Van der Linden replaced for the contest by their own favourite, Harry van Hoof, a move which left Van der Linden astonished as well as insulted. Van Hoof conducted every Dutch Eurovision representation between 1972 and 1979. Nonetheless, with Harry van Hoof being a studio arranger, who at that time had no other involvement with the Metropole Orchestra than just being the musical director of the Dutch pre-selection programmes, Dolf van der Linden himself was the obvious choice to be the musical director of the international final of 1976, due to be held on April 3rd in The Hague’s Congresgebouw. What was the exact reason Van der Linden was replaced by Stulen for this prestigious television project?

“It was Dolf van der Linden himself who wanted me to take over for this commission of musical director of the Eurovision Song Contest!" Stulen reveals. "Frankly speaking, Dolf admitted he was fed up with the festival. The year before, he had had a conflict with Vicky Leandros, who, in the rehearsals for some television show, had arrogantly tried to explain him how she wanted him to conduct the orchestra for her. He felt genuinely insulted; who was Vicky Leandros to tell him, with decades of experience under his belt, how to handle a group of musicians? Dolf frowned upon the prospect of being lectured for an entire week by self-willed teenage pop singers – and to my mind, he had every right to say so. Therefore, he declined working on the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976."

Stulen working with the Ballet Orchestra (1972)

"For some strange reason, Dolf wanted me to stand in. Feeling responsible for his orchestra, he suggested me to the organising committee. He must have seen me at work with other broadcasting orchestras and felt that this young talent should be given the opportunity of working with his orchestra. It was only a couple of months later that I was contracted by the broadcaster, meaning they had to pay me for this Eurovision commission, but apparently that was not a problem.”

Did Jan Stulen, the serious classical conductor, have any second thoughts about accepting to work on a pop music competition which was frowned upon in certain circles? “No, my reaction was; why not? Never in my life have I been a conscious career builder. In this case, I relished the opportunity to work with such an interesting ensemble as the Metropole Orchestra. Most of the players were much older than I. The generation of musicians who had been in the orchestra for decades, such as pianist Dick Schallies, sax player Kees Verschoor, and violinists Benny Behr and Sem Nijveen, was still there, while some young eager beavers had recently strengthened the ensemble, most notably concertmaster Ernö Olah."

"To prepare the contest properly, Dolf van der Linden invited me over to his house in Hilversum, explaining certain details. Judging by his advice, it was abundantly clear he was extremely experienced in this kind of television projects. Apparently, he did not want to take any chances with me, for he had rehearsed the intro music and the finale with the orchestra! I thought that was adorable of him – he really wanted to make life easy for me! There are not many conductors who would have wanted to do so much work for a colleague, but that was Dolf’s character! In the run-up to the contest, I was allowed one rehearsal with the orchestra to play the music a couple of times, but their rendition was flawless from the beginning. My job was the easiest one imaginable!”

As the Netherlands’ entry ‘The Party Is Over’ was conducted by its arranger, Harry van Hoof, and all other delegations had brought along a conductor as well, Stulen did not conduct any of the participating songs. This makes Stulen one of only four maestros in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest who did not conduct one single entry, the other ones being Malcolm Lockyer, Yitzhak Graziani, and Igor Kuljerić. The interval music was played by Peter Schilperoort’s Dutch Swing College Band, meaning Stulen’s main job in the rehearsal week was to help out the guest conductors from all participating countries if need be.

Stulen conducting the Promenade Orchestra (1976)

“No, we did not rehearse the songs before the guest conductors arrived. I am not sure whether Dolf had taken care of this as well or if it was up to the guest conductors to familiarise the orchestra’s musicians with their respective scores. My duty was to be there while the guest conductors rehearsed. Amazingly, strict care was taken that all countries were given exactly the same amount of time to rehearse their songs; 15 or 20 minutes a day. All delegations were expected to rehearse their respective items within the time which had been allotted to them – and not one second more. After all, the Eurovision Song Contest is a competition and even a suspicion of bias had to be avoided!”

During the week of rehearsals, Stulen observed the guest conductors at work. “I was the watchdog, so to speak, who had to avoid any hiccups from occurring. One guest was more successful than the other, but no disasters happened. The pieces that did not go well on Monday yet, sounded well on Tuesday. Mostly, in a Eurovision Song Contest, the arrangers conducted the songs – usually excellent musicians, but no trained conductors; and conducting is a profession! These pop songs are usually played in one tempo; if a conductor counts in the orchestra correctly and the drummer picks up the right tempo, virtually nothing can go wrong. For such simple songs, musicians hardly pay attention to the conductor. They need a conductor for changes of tempo; for example, ballads with rubato, in other words; a slight speeding up and slowing down of the tempo, require strict guidance from a conductor – the rhythm section cannot help out in such cases! But even when a guest conductor lacked the required technique, the Metropole Orchestra players were extremely skilled in guiding themselves through the music."

“In the course of the week, the contact with the orchestra musicians got closer and closer. This was nice – after all, they had never worked with me before. During rehearsals, I was there all the time and there was ample time for a chat. When they had just had to work with one of those non-conductors, some of them asked me for my opinion. “This guy was hopeless! Can’t you teach him a lesson?” I was asked more than once. Somewhat differently from what I was used to with musicians from symphony orchestras, they liked being quite informal. The worst conductor they had to work with for this contest was without a doubt Les Humphries, who participated for West Germany with his vocal group. He was extremely bad-tempered, venting his dissatisfaction about the orchestra, but about his own singers as well; they were rebuked by him in the rudest of manners. At the same time, his conducting technique was nothing to speak of; with his antics in front of the orchestra, he gave the impression of a lumberjack rather than a conductor.”

“What struck me most about this Eurovision Song Contest was the huge number of security officers walking around in and outside the concert hall. Nowadays, every musician is perfectly used to having to show an accreditation before being allowed into the hall, but in those days, it was a totally new experience. With Israel participating in the contest just four years after the massacre at the Munich Olympics, our local authorities were not keen to leave anything to chance. All those cocktail parties and receptions were a new feature for me as well; and I was expected to turn up on all these occasions. In all my life, I never drank more alcohol than that week in The Hague! To refuse would have been impolite, wouldn't it?”

Tijdens de repetities van het Eurovisiesongfestival in Den Haag van 1976. Op de bok staat (met zijn rug naar de camera gekeerd) de dirigent van de Nederlandse inzending, Harry van Hoof

In the international final, Jan Stulen conducted the opening tune and finale, both of which had been composed and arranged by Bert Paige, one of the most experienced arrangers to work for the Metropole Orchestra in those years. When Stulen was introduced to the international television audience by host Corry Brokken, he looked quite tense. 

“Appearances can be deceptive! I cannot remember being nervous. The most difficult part of my task was to make sure the overture had to be played in tune with the introduction film which opened the programme. This can be a tricky business – much later in my career, I conducted countless film scores on stage with the Brabants Orkest while the film itself was running. If you discover, just 16 bars before the end of the piece, that you are trailing the image by 8 bars or that you have played it 8 bars too fast, you find yourself in a nasty situation. In the Eurovision Song Contest, however, everything went exactly according to plan”.

“In a way, this Eurovision Song Contest was a special moment in my working life. Quite opposite to nowadays, the programme used to have a huge status; I could not help but noticing this in the days and weeks after the programme, when my wife came home telling me that all kinds of acquaintances had told her how they had seen her husband on television in the Eurovision Song Contest – they probably thought I could not rise much higher than that. Realistically speaking, I had not done more than conducting two nice pieces of music which had been composed and arranged by someone else… that was it."

"The best part of the whole episode was that Dolf van der Linden was apparently pleased by my performance," Stulen concludes. "In the months and years which followed, he regularly invited me to perform as a guest with his Metropole Orchestra. For radio programmes, he simply gave me a list of music pieces which he thought were appropriate, including audio cassettes of all existing recordings of these pieces – that was so sweet of him! He realised I was not familiar with the light entertainment repertoire he was so well versed in. Much later, I was told that Dolf would have wanted me to succeed him as the orchestra’s chief conductor, but I would not have accepted anyway. For me, the Metropole Orchestra has always been an interesting ensemble to work with as a guest, but my main passion is and always will be classical music.”

Stulen with Dolf van der Linden (c. 1979)


Violinist Lucja Domski played in Jan Stulen’s Promenade Orchestra until joining the Metropole Orchestra in 1984, “I have known Jan since the late 1970s, when I joined the Promenade Orchestra. Later onwards, I encountered him on many occasions when he led the Metropole Orchestra as a guest. Jan Stulen is a versatile musician with unparalleled repertoire knowledge. As a conductor, he is most clever, while he has a great sense of humour, which he has used on many occasions to help the orchestra getting over problematic situations. For an orchestra musician, Jan is a very pleasant conductor to work with.” (2012)

Dick Bakker was the musical director and chief conductor of the Metropole Orchestra between 1991 and 2005, “Jan Stulen is an extremely skilful conductor with a very lucid conducting technique. He has a singular reputation with classical orchestras of all styles in the Netherlands and abroad. Apart from his generally acknowledged abilities in the classical world, Jan has won experience in all genres of light entertainment music as well. For decades, he has been regularly invited to conduct the Metropole Orchestra. Working on jazz and pop productions, Jan has the ability to give musicians the necessary amount of freedom, while exactly knowing when to take the orchestra by the hand at crucial moments. Because of this, he has won universal respect amongst musicians. Being so versatile, he is an example to any conductor.” (2012)


Musical director - no entries conducted

  • Bas Tukker interviewed Jan Stulen in Wilnis, Netherlands, December 2012
  • Jan Stulen wrote a book about his experiences as a conductor: “De Tao van het dirigeren. Een andere kijk op (muzikaal) leiderschap”, ed. Molenaar: Wormerveer 2012
  • Jan Stulen's very entertaining memoirs, "Ten voeten uit... Anekdotes uit een bewogen muzikaal leven", ed. GMF Baltic States: Viljandi 2017 
  • Bas Tukker's biography of Dolf van der Linden, in which Jan Stulen is quoted several times, "Dolf van der Linden. De vader van het Metropole Orkest", ed. Metropole Orkest: Hilversum 2015
  • A book about the history of the Netherlands’ involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest: Ferry K. van der Zant, “Wanneer wordt het weer een beetje net als toen”, edited by Stichting Eurovision Artists, Utrecht: part 1: 2003 / part 2: 2005
  • Many thanks to Dick Bakker and Lucja Domski for sharing their memories about Jan Stulen with us
  • All photos courtesy of Jan Stulen