Saturday 23 April 1983


The following article is an overview of the career of Israeli pianist, arranger, and comedian Silviu Nansi Brandes. The main source of information is an interview with Mr Brandes, conducted by Bas Tukker in Tel Aviv in December 2011. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Silviu Nansi Brandes' Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2011

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


Born: May 1st, 1946, Bacău (Romania)
Nationality: Romanian (1946-1975) / Israeli (1975-)


In the Eurovision Song Contest editions of 1982 and 1983, Silviu Nansi Brandes was the arranger and conductor of the Israeli entries ‘Hora’ and ‘Hi’, interpreted by Avi Toledano and Ofra Haza respectively. Both of these songs finished in second place. Moreover, he was involved in the 1989 effort from Israel as well, ‘Derech ha-melech’, for which he wrote the arrangement in collaboration with composer Shaike Paikov.


Silviu Nansi Brandes – usually known simply as Nansi Brandes – was born into a Jewish family in Bacău, north-eastern Romania, just one year after the Second World War. Nansi’s father worked as a tailor. The family moved to the capital Bucharest one year after Nansi was born. 

“My parents were lucky to survive the war without having suffered too much from ill-treatment by the Nazis or the Antonescu regime. Sure, life was hard for them… and conditions did not improve much after the war. Both of my parents were avid amateur musicians. My father was a good singer, while my mother played the piano. There was a piano in our house and I started trying my hand at this fascinating instrument when I was just four years of age. My parents believed I had some talent and when I was old enough, they sent me to a piano teacher. For some three years, I made my teachers’ life a hell. I was not the easiest of children and, though I liked the piano, I hated the lessons so much, that I changed teacher every year. The last one told my father, “Mr Brandes, I am sorry, but my health is more precious to me than your money”. When I was nine, my father decided these music lessons were no use. From that moment on, I stopped practicing music and focused on that other passion, playing football.”

Nansi as a teenager with a prehistoric keyboard

A couple of years later, when he entered secondary school, Nansi returned to studying music, after he had made an important discovery. 

“I must have been twelve or thirteen years old, at high school… a boy who was in my class and played some piano, attracted girls like a magnet. Though my lessons had been discontinued for years, I knew I was a much better pianist than him even then. Conquering girls and women has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember… even before I could read or write! Therefore, as an adolescent, I started taking up the piano studies like a madman – because of the girls. They really were my principal motivation to take music seriously. It wasn't so much classical music, but the entertainment music which interested me."

"In 1963, with four friends, I founded a group, Roşu şi Negru, in which I played the Hammond organ. Our examples were the Shadows with Cliff Richard; yes, their music was acceptable to the communist party in Romania, because Cliff and his men cut their hair properly! The Beatles, however were banned from the radio because of their hairdo… their music was believed to corrupt the youth. We played to our comrades at school, but gradually we won some fame and were invited to perform in dance halls in Bucharest.”

Nansi Brandes decided to pursue a thorough classical education at the George Enescu Conservatoire in Iaşi (Jassy), northern Romania. Starting his studies there in 1966, his main subject was the piano, while he also took classes in harmony, instrumentation, arranging, and conducting. In 1970, he graduated with flying colours. 

“All the while, I knew I wanted to be a pop star and a pop star only. Nonetheless, this classical education was important. In a way, Bach and Beethoven laid the foundations for popular music. The knowledge I acquired about harmony and instrumentation at the conservatory has been helpful throughout my career. For my school band, I already wrote the arrangements – but these were somewhat rudimentary. At the conservatoire, I learnt to orchestrate for the full range of instruments."

Performing his military service in the Romanian army

"When I left Bucharest to study in Iaşi, Roşu şi Negru was disbanded. In Iaşi, however, I formed a new group with the same name. I invited two guitarists from the nightclub band Gaudeamus, Florin Marcovici and Bondi Stenzler, to join the new Roşu şi Negru. As in the previous band, I was not only the Hammond organist, but the composer, arranger, and impresario as well. Yes, I was quite businessman-like, as far as possible in a communist country! In Iaşi, we made our first studio recordings.”

In 1969, Roşu şi Negru experienced its real breakthrough at the so-called Festival Club A in Bucharest, the first-ever pop music festival in Romania. Brandes and his band won the festival with their entry ‘Cry baby’, while also taking away the trophy for best solo vocalist and best rock performance. Mixing glam rock, jazz, and progressive pop, Roşu şi Negru became Romania’s most popular act. Often, the group performed with additional instruments, like brass and flute, creating a sound not unlike well-liked Western pop acts of the early 1970s, such as Focus and Blood, Sweat & Tears. 

After Brandes had completed his obligatory six months of military service (1970), he transferred Roşu şi Negru from Iaşi to Bucharest. In the five following years, the band recorded three albums, while many of their song creations – such as ‘Soare şi vânt’ (1971) and ‘Cadrane’ (1972) – climbed the Romanian charts. Besides many live concerts across Romania, Roşu şi Negru was often invited to perform on nationwide television, not only with its own repertoire, but as an accompanying band for other vocalists as well.

Meanwhile, Nansi Brandes managed to broaden his professional activities in Bucharest. He has some hit compositions for other artists to his credit, including ‘Povestea’ for Cornel Constantiniu (1973) and ‘Gînduri’ for Aurelian Andreescu (1975); moreover, he wrote a couple of songs for Romanian superstar Mihaela Mihai. More surprisingly, Brandes composed for the theatre, writing the accompanying music to a Romanian staging of Molière’s play The Imaginary InvalidIn spite of all success, Brandes felt increasingly unhappy about the conditions under which he had to work.

One of the many different formations of Roşu şi Negru, from left to right: Moby, Emil Trocan, Ovidiu Lipan, Florin Marcovici, and Nansi Brandes

“True, under the communists in Romania, bands were allowed to play the wildest possible guitar music, as long as the lyrics were not offensive – that is: offensive to communist ideology. Before each television appearance, all our lyrics were meticulously checked by a party censor. Hilariously, innocent words were sometimes understood as a metaphor for the political situation and in those cases, we were forced to adapt the lyrics. In the course of the 1970s, the Ceauşescu regime became more and more oppressive, curtailing artistic freedom. I felt deeply frustrated about that. What was more, authorities did not allow us to perform abroad. As our music was highly internationally orientated, we received offers to perform in West Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Italy, but time and again, these offers were refused by Romanian party officials."

"In 1975, we were invited to perform in Bulgaria, but not even this was allowed. For me, this was the final straw… Bulgaria was ruled by communists as well, belonged to the Eastern block – it was a prison similar to Romania. I had had enough; j’en ai marre, ça suffit! I went to the Israeli embassy and asked for a visa for Israel. Now, the Romanian state was paid 5,000 dollar by a Jewish organisation in the USA for every Jew who was allowed to move to Israel – understandably, the authorities in Bucharest were quite keen to capitalize on this goldmine, allowing 200,000 Jews to move to Israel. Nevertheless, all applicants had to wait for two years before the Romanian state would permit them to leave… not in my case, however. Within a month, I had received all necessary papers! Clearly, the communists thought I was a bad example for Romanian youth. The sooner I left the country, the better it was for them.”

“Coming to Israel was a shock. On Sunday, I did my last live concert with Roşu şi Negru in Bucharest, which some 10,000 people attended. Afterwards, I cried, embracing the other group members to say goodbye. My plane to Tel Aviv flew on Monday – and on Tuesday I was working as an anonymous bar pianist in Jaffa. Nobody knew me, nobody noticed me… from a farewell concert with thousands of spectators to zero in a matter of just two days. I told myself to be happy about every little job that came my way – types of work I would not even have considered doing in Romania; playing in nightclubs, for example. The fact that I lowered my expectations and thereby avoided disappointment kept me going."

"Still in 1975, I had to cease my professional activities for three months to perform military service for my new home country. In spite of this, slowly but gradually, I climbed the ladder… first, I was invited to become the keyboard player in the accompanying band of Shimi Tavori. Thanks to Eldad Shrem, who was extremely helpful in those early years, I became Ilanit’s piano player at live stage shows. In fact, Eldad helped me into the business and I later became one of his fiercest rivals as an arranger… he created a monster! Nevertheless, we have always remained good friends.”

Working as a bandleader in a theatre concert (1980s)

Asher Reuveni, Shimi Tavori’s impresario, much impressed by Brandes’ abilities as a pianist, entrusted him with the arrangement of ‘Moshe’, the song with which Tavori won the 1979 Oriental Song Festival. It was Brandes’ first success as an arranger. From the early 1980s onwards, he became known as one of Israel’s most prolific song arrangers, especially estimated for his ability to score Mizrahi or oriental music. Among dozens of others, Brandes worked with such Israeli stars as Mirel Reznik, Yehoram Gaon, Avi Toledano, Tsvika Pik, Ilanit, Shimi Tavori, Chaim Moshe, Shlomi Shabat, Doron Mazar, and Ofra Haza. 

Without a shadow of a doubt, however, his arrangements for Zohar Argov (1955-87), the King of Mizrahi, are his most recognized contributions to Israeli pop music. Brandes arranged Argov’s hugely successful album ‘Up to date’, which included ‘Ha’perach begani’, the winning song of the 1982 Oriental Song Festival and, more significantly, one of the most popular songs in Israel of all times.

Nansi Brandes has very sharp recollections of his first encounter with Zohar Argov. “Again, it was Asher Reuveni who got me the job… he wanted me to arrange ‘Ha-perach begani’ for the Oriental Song Festival. I did not even know who Zohar Argov was. A week before the festival, Asher sent Zohar over to my place in Bat Yam to talk the arrangement through. Now, my Hebrew was still quite lapidary… when Zohar said he wanted us to open with a mawwal, a traditional Arab vocal start of a piece of music, I was sure he meant malawah, a Yemenite fried bread. Therefore, I replied, “If you want to eat, there is a Turkish restaurant downstairs”. After clearing up all misunderstanding, Zohar sang his mawwal. I was riveted to my chair… that was really something! In the arrangement, I combined the three elements of my musical upbringing: symphonic music, rock, and traditional Balkan folk."

"A week later, we were at the Binyanei Ha-Ouma Congress Hall for the rehearsals. Zohar and Asher came to hear the sixty-four man strong orchestra (conducted by Yitzhak Graziani - BT) playing my arrangement for ‘Ha-perach begani’. When the orchestra had finished, Zohar hugged me with tears in his eyes, saying, “You are God, I swear you are God!” Zohar Argov was a genius, who usually recorded songs in just one take. When asked to do another one, he was able to sing a totally different version just as perfectly. The guy had a remarkable talent for improvisation.”

In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Nansi Brandes managed to keep finding enough work as an arranger, in spite of the changing market, mainly thanks to his ability to modernize – in ’85, he was one of Israel’s first producers who bought a computer. Besides his work as a studio arranger, Brandes developed a string of other professional activities. He wrote the soundtracks to three motion pictures, ‘Abba Ganuv II’ (1989), ‘Neshika bametzach’ (1990), and ‘Tipat Mazal’ (1994), of which the two last-mentioned titles won the Ophir Award, the most important film prize in Israel. Moreover, Brandes accompanied many artists in live concerts as a pianist and musical director. Between 1985 and 1995, he was the chief conductor of the Big Band of the Israeli Air Force.

“With the Israeli Air Force Band, I played big band music in the style of Quincy Jones. It was a new challenge for me, as I had never really explored jazz before in my life. I had a wonderful time with the band, participating in many manifestations, including a TV gala on the occasion of the fortieth birthday of the State of Israel in 1988”. 

In 2001, Nansi Brandes made the most striking of career moves; he climbed the stage as a stand-up comedian. “In reality, it was less striking than you would think at first sight. My friends have always said I am a fool. In Romania, on stage with Roşu şi Negru, I made jokes about Ceauşescu in between songs. One of Ceauşescu’s sons was a fan of Roşu şi Negru and he often warned me that I was living on the edge, as he could not protect me once the communists would want to punish me for these remarks. Later, when I was a musician or MD for Ilanit and other singers, I liked to perform all kinds of practical jokes on stage while seated at the piano. I readily admit to being flamboyant; I just love being on stage and entertaining an audience. At one point, I decided that this was what I wanted to do professionally. In fact, now that I am successful in this corner of the business, it's a dream come true for me.”

Nansi’s approach as a performer can perhaps best be described as ‘comic musical theatre Las Vegas style’; for his shows, he prefers working with a full orchestra and classically educated singers, with which he does parodies of operas and classical symphonies. In between the different music pieces, he entertains the audience with stand-up comedy. In addition to his work on stage, Brandes is a well-liked guest in Israeli chat and comedy shows. A full thirty years after leaving the country he was born and raised, Brandes also managed to make a comeback on the Romanian market with translated versions of his Israeli stage shows.

On stage in one of his comic music theatre shows (2012)


Silviu Nansi Brandes conducted two consecutive Israeli Eurovision entries: ‘Hora’ (1982) and ‘Hi’ (1983); not accidentally, both songs were composed by Avi Toledano, who was a good friend of his. Toledano himself performed ‘Hora’ – which, as Brandes’ recollections prove, is another case in which the arranger should be credited at least at the same level for the final product as the composer. 

“Avi told me he had written a disco hit, which had the English working title ‘I Gave You My Heart’. He wanted me to create an upbeat disco sound to the melody. I wasn't too enthusiastic, as I felt Avi lacked the aura of a disco singer… it wouldn't have been authentic. My lukewarm reactions could not convince him to change ideas – Avi insisted on disco! Now, his publisher Shlomo Zach, a powerful man in Israeli show business, who appreciated my string arrangements in gypsy style which I had written to some other song, wanted me to copy this concept for ‘Hora’. In those days, nobody opposed Shlomo – so Avi had to back down and ‘Hora’ became a folk song in gypsy style rather than a disco tune. Shlomo’s instinct did not betray him; ‘Hora’ was a huge hit in Israel and earned him loads of money.”

What was more, after Avi Toledano had won the Kdam, the Israeli Eurovision pre-selection in 1982, with the song, he went on to represent Israel in Harrogate (England) and finished second behind runaway winner Nicole from West Germany. 

“I could have killed Nicole,”, Brandes laughs. “When I heard ‘Ein bisschen Frieden’, I was convinced that was the winner… les jeux étaient faits. We were happy to be the best of the rest. To my surprise, the orchestra musicians in Harrogate had been looking forward to rehearsing with me, because my name was spelled Nancy Brandes in the official programme and all of them expected to work with a female conductor. Of course, it was a good joke. Everyone has always called me Nansi, but to avoid confusion and to make my name sound somewhat more masculine, I decided to add my Romanian first given name Silviu – though I have never used it in daily life. That is the reason why I was introduced to the audience as Silviu Nansi Brandes in the two Eurovision finals in which I participated.”

Sheet music of Avi Toledano's 1982 Eurovision entry 'Hora'

Did Brandes find working with a foreign orchestra challenging? “No, not at all. True, in 1982, I did not have much experience as a conductor on stage, but I had been writing and recording orchestrations for years already – starting with Roşu şi Negru before I left Romania. Moreover, at the music academy, I studied classical conducting. Really, nobody had to instruct me on how to work with the orchestra of the BBC in Harrogate. When working with an orchestra, I always start by making the musicians feel at ease by making them laugh. Even the following year, in Munich, I managed to get some laughs from these Germans, who are not exactly known for their sense of humour. It requires some intelligence to use the right jokes at the right time, but I think that is one of my qualities!”

In 1983, Avi Toledano penned the Israeli entry again, a most pleasant sing-along in the best Israeli Eurovision tradition: ‘Hi’. The Yemenite-Jewish singer Ofra Haza (1957-2000), who later won huge international acclaim with ethnically inspired music, interpreted it and managed to earn Israel another second place in the Eurovision Song Contest which was held in Munich (West Germany). The fact that the festival was held in Germany added some extra edge to the determination of the Israeli delegation to obtain a good score. 

“A couple of days before the contest," Brandes digs into his memory, "we visited the concentration camp of Dachau, the oldest of the German death camps from the days of Nazi rule. Ofra, who was moved to tears when hearing about the horrors which had passed there, confided to me when we walked out the camp gate, “Nansi, with the history of anti-Semitism in this country, the symbolic value of winning the festival in Germany would be massive.” As I could feel her emotion, I was close to being reduced to tears myself. Ofra Haza, la pauvre, she was a great artist and I feel privileged to have worked with her. Quite contrary to Harrogate the year before, we were indignant when we lost the festival with a couple of points to Luxembourg. Just two countries did not give Israel any votes, Cyprus and Turkey – it was so obvious they ignored us for political reasons… it was immensely frustrating!”

Not for the first time in Eurovision history, the Israeli delegation was surrounded by top-notch security personnel. “I could understand it was wise to have a guard with us, given the political situation in the Middle East, but the guy who was sent by Israeli’s embassy in West Germany really took things slightly too seriously. He was a paranoiac who kept telling us all kinds of false rumours about impending danger… of course, this did not help us feeling at ease in Munich. Can you imagine; during the broadcast, at the point when I was about to be introduced to the audience by the German host, he grabbed my arm and whispered, “When you hear a gun, please remember to fall flat on the floor immediately.” Just seconds later, I took my bow with a smile… and of course nothing happened.”

Nansi Brandes in 1983; picture taken from the official Eurovision 1983 programme

Silviu Nansi Brandes never returned to the international Eurovision stage, although he came close on several more occasions. He composed ‘Nagni la balalaika’ for Doron Mazar, who finished second in the 1986 Kdam behind the duo Moti Giladi and Sarai Tzuriel with their song ‘Yavoh yom’.  “I could not help but feeling hugely disappointed once again. My song had the potential to be a hit in the whole of Europe, while ‘Yavoh yom’ was a hideous piece of music which finished near the bottom of the scoreboard in the Eurovision final.” 

In 1989, Brandes co-wrote the arrangement to the Israeli entry ‘Derech ha-melech’, but composer Shaike Paikov chose to conduct the Eurovision orchestra himself. When asked about 'Derech ha-melech', Brandes comments, “The original idea of the arrangement for this song was mine, so I should have conducted it. Shaike made things worse by claiming I had not been involved in writing the arrangement at all. Having said that, I am not the kind of person to be down-hearted for too long – and the song did not do well anyway!”

Nansi Brandes wrote the arrangements to many Kdam entries, but, unless a song he orchestrated actually won, his participation did not involve any conducting, because, usually, the Kdam organization in the 1980s and 1990s opted for backing tapes instead of a live orchestra. The 1991 edition of the pre-selection was one of the exceptions, but two of the involved conductors – besides Nansi Brandes also Kobi Oshrat – confirm the orchestra did not play live; to avoid sound problems, all arrangements had been pre-recorded a couple of days before the actual broadcast. With a play-backing orchestra in front of him, Brandes decided to add a little spice to his conducting performance.

“It was not live anyway, so I allowed myself to behave as a true showman by clapping my hands during the chorus of ‘Hava nagila’. It was performed by Uri Feinman, who came second. Being aware there were some close-ups of the orchestra, I felt I had to do something special for the Israeli audience. Television is all about being noticed… and why not clap and dance along to the music? True, I did not do this when I represented Israel in the international contest with ‘Hora’ and ‘Hi’, but a European audience wouldn't have understood me, whereas the Israeli TV public which watched Kdam knew my style and character. Compared to Kdam, Eurovision was something sacred and I did not want to make the impression of not taking representing my country seriously. Representing Israel in those two Eurovisions was an honour, something which I took enormous pride in... and that's how I think back of it.”

Brandes (in white) on the 1983 Eurovision stage in Munich, surrounded by participants from his own Israeli delegation (to his left) as well as from Turkey (including conductor Buğra Uğur), Switzerland, and Austria 


So far, we have not gathered comments of other artists who worked with Silviu Nansi Brandes.


Country – Israel
Song title – "Hora"
Rendition – Avi Toledano
Lyrics – Yoram Tahar-Lev
Composition – Avi Toledano
Studio arrangement – Silviu Nansi Brandes
Live orchestration – Silviu Nansi Brandes
Conductor – Silviu Nansi Brandes
Score – 2nd place (100 votes)

Country – Israel
Song title – "Hi"
Rendition – Ofra Haza
Lyrics – Ehud Manor
Composition – Avi Toledano
Studio arrangement – Silviu Nansi Brandes
Live orchestration – Silviu Nansi Brandes
Conductor – Silviu Nansi Brandes
Score – 2nd place (136 votes)

Country – Israel
Song title – "Derech ha-melech"
Rendition – Gili Netanel & Galit Burg 
Lyrics – Shaike Paikov
Composition – Shaike Paikov
Studio arrangement – Silviu Nansi Brandes / Shaike Paikov
Live orchestration – Shaike Paikov
Conductor – Shaike Paikov 
Score – 12th place (50 votes)

  • Bas Tukker interviewed Silviu Nansi Brandes in Tel Aviv, December 2011
  • Many thanks to Amir Herschkovitsch for doing some valuable research in Israeli popular music history
  • All photos courtesy of Silviu Nansi Brandes


Born: March 29th, 1940, Copenhagen (Denmark)
Died: November 26th, 2020
Nationality: Danish

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


Allan Botschinsky, one of the world’s most famous jazz trumpeters and flugelhorn players, studied at the Royal Danish Conservatory (1953-1955) and the Manhattan School of Music (1963). From the late 1960s until the early 1980s, he worked for DR, the Danish public broadcaster, and its big band as an instrumentalist, arranger, and conductor. In 1985, he moved to Hamburg (West Germany), where he worked with the Peter Herbolzheimer Big Band and founded a record label, M.A. Music, for which he arranged and produced music of other artists. Botschinsky composed symphonic pieces such as ‘Dronning Dagmar Patchwork’ and ‘Tumus’.

Representing Denmark, Allan Botschinsky took part in two editions of the Nordring Radio Prize, playing the trumpet in the country's 1976 entry 'Sentiments' in Inverness, while being the composer, conductor, as well as flugelhorn soloist of the 1983 effort 'The Music Goes Round' in Blankenberghe. In that year's festival, Botschinsky was awarded with the prize for best instrumental soloist of the festival.


Between 1979 and 1983, Allan Botschinsky conducted all Danish entries in the Eurovision Song Contest. These include ‘Disco tango’ and ‘Krøller eller ej’, the two first attempts in the festival by Tommy Seebach (1979 and 1981). ‘Disco tango’ finished sixth, the best result of the five entries in which Botschinsky was involved.


Country – Denmark
Song title – "Disco tango"
Rendition – Tommy Seebach
Lyrics – Keld Heick
Composition – Tommy Seebach
Studio arrangement – Ole Høyer
(studio orchestra conducted by Ole Høyer)
Live orchestration – Ole Høyer
Conductor – Allan Botschinsky
Score – 6th place (76 votes)

Country – Denmark
Song title – "Tænker altid på dig"
Rendition – Bamses Venner (Flemming 'Bamse' Jørgensen / Mogens Balle / Bjarne Gren Jensen / Arne Østergaard)
Lyrics – Flemming 'Bamse' Jørgensen
Composition – Bjarne Gren Jensen
Studio arrangement – Per Oluf Hansen / Bamses Venner 
Live orchestration – Svend Skipper
Conductor – Allan Botschinsky
Score – 14th place (25 votes)

Country – Denmark
Song title – "Krøller eller ej"
Rendition – Tommy Seebach & Debbie Cameron
Lyrics – Keld Heick
Composition – Tommy Seebach
Studio arrangement – Ole Høyer
Live orchestration – Ole Høyer
Conductor – Allan Botschinsky
Score – 11th place (41 votes)

Country – Denmark
Song title – "Video-video"
Rendition – Brixx (Jens Brixtofte / John Hatting / Bjørn Holmgaard Sørensen / Torben Jacobsen / Steen Ejler Olsen)
Lyrics – Jens Brixtofte
Composition – Jens Brixtofte
Studio arrangement – Brixx
Live orchestration – Wolfgang Käfer
Conductor – Allan Botschinsky
Score – 17th place (5 votes)

Country – Denmark
Song title – "Kloden drejer"
Rendition – Gry Johansen
Lyrics – Flemming Gernyx / Christian Jacobsen
Composition – Lars Christensen / Flemming Gernyx / 
Christian Jacobsen
Studio arrangement – Lars Christensen / Flemming Gernyx / Christian Jacobsen / Billy Cross / Jan Glæsel 
Live orchestration – Wolfgang Käfer
Conductor – Allan Botschinsky
Score – 17th place (16 votes)



Born: February 25th, 1938, Mainz (Germany)
Died: April 1st, 2020, Stuttgart (Germany)
Nationality: German

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


From 1945 onwards, Dieter Reith studied the piano with private teachers, such as Kurt Hermann (1953-56). As an adolescent, he played in jazz club Katakombe in Mainz (1956-58). He went to university and studied music as well as experimental physics. From 1961 onwards, he worked as a professional musician, becoming the pianist of the SWF Big Band, where he would stay until 1971. He also played in the orchestras of Peter Herbolzheimer and Kurt Edelhagen; with Herbolzheimer and Jerry van Rooyen from the Netherlands, he composed and arranged the music which was played by Edelhagen’s orchestra during the opening ceremony of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. 

From 1973 onwards, Reith led the orchestras of broadcaster SWR (Südwestrundfunk) for many TV and radio productions; for SWR, he also worked as an arranger. He released jazz records of his own and wrote arrangements for other artists, most importantly Lalo Schifrin. Reith performed with many jazz greats, including Maynard Ferguson, Stan Getz, and Jean ‘Toots’ Thielemans.


Dieter Reith was the musical director of several West German Eurovision preselections in the early 1980s, but he never accompanied the winner of those heats to the international festival. In 1983, when the Eurovision Song Contest came to Munich, Reith was commissioned to be the show’s musical director. His orchestra accompanied all 20 entries and Reith himself conducted the West German effort ‘Rücksicht’, performed by Hoffmann & Hoffmann – a song with minimal orchestral accompaniment.


Country – West Germany
Song title – “Rücksicht”
Rendition – Hoffmann & Hoffmann
Lyrics – Volker Lechtenbrink
Composition – Michael Reinecke
Studio arrangement – Geoff Bastow
Live orchestration – Geoff Bastow
Conductor – Dieter Reith (MD)
Score – 5th place (94 votes)


Born: 1950, Herceg Novi, Montenegro (Yugoslavia)
Nationality: Montenegrin

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


For many years, Radovan Papović was the chief conductor of the RTV Montenegro Symphony Orchestra (Simfonijski Orkestar Crnogorske RTV). As a guest conductor, he led various other orchestras, including the Mostar Symphonic and the Montenegro Symphonic. For the latter, he often orchestrated classical pieces, such as the opera Balkanska carica. He does not only perform and write music, but he also works as a teacher and is the president of Montenegro’s National Music Academy.


In 1983, a Croatian singer called Milan 'Daniel' Popović won the Yugoslavian Eurovision preselection with the self-penned ‘Džuli’, which was submitted by the Montenegrin broadcaster. As a result, it was RTV Montenegro conductor Radovan Papović who accompanied him to the Eurovision Song Contest in Munich. The orchestration to the song was written by Mato Došen, who played the accordion on stage. ‘Džuli’ finished fourth in the contest – at that time, Yugoslavia had never before scored so well – and became a best-selling record in many European countries.


Country – Yugoslavia
Song title – "Džuli"
Rendition – Daniel (Milan Popović)
Lyrics – Mario Mihaljević
Composition – Milan Popović
Studio arrangement – Mato Došen
Live orchestration – Mato Došen
Conductor – Radovan Papović
Score – 4th place (125 votes)


The following article is an overview of the career of Dutch guitarist, songwriter, and arranger Piet Souer. The main source of information are two interviews with Mr Souer, conducted by Bas Tukker in Breda, July 2007; and in Blaricum, September 2017. The article is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Piet Souer's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2007 & 2017

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

Born: March 29th, 1948, Eindhoven (Netherlands)
Nationality: Dutch


Piet Souer is the only musician from the Netherlands in Eurovision history to have conducted his own composition in the festival. In 1983, he led the orchestra in Munich for Bernadette’s rendition of ‘Sing Me A Song’, finishing seventh in a field of 20 contestants. A genuine veteran of the competition, Souer took part several more times, as a guitarist for Lenny Kuhr’s winning performance in 1969, as the songwriter of ‘De eerste keer’ in 1996, and as the arranger of four Dutch entries composed and conducted by others. Moreover, he composed nine more songs which took part in Eurovision pre-selections in the Netherlands and penned dozens of arrangements for Dutch and Belgian festival heats.


Pieter Cornelis Souer was born and raised in the provincial town of Eindhoven, in the southern half of the Netherlands. His father was an employee at the Philips factories. If Piet inherited his musical talent from anyone, it was certainly not from his dad.

“My father was a creative man in his own right, but rather as a craftsman," Piet recalls. "In his free time, he liked working with his hands. My mother, on the other hand, was an avid amateur musician, being a member of the local oratorio society. She had a good soprano voice. As you can imagine, all chorales and passions were kindled in me at an early age. Each time she was rehearsing for a performance, I used to listen and stick my nose in the vocal score of the St Matthew Passion or the St John Passion which was in front of her – however, without being profoundly interested in the music she was working on; I was maybe seven or eight years old… too young to be interested in classical music.”

Not much later, Piet discovered a music style which was more to his liking. “Listening to the radio, I heard Elvis Presley for the first time; but also Little Richard, the Shadows, and the Everly Brothers. From the start, it was the sound of the guitar which fascinated me. Behind it, there was a world of music which I desperately wanted to get involved in. I decided I wanted to learn to play that instrument. This, however, was beyond my father’s slightly narrow-minded mental grasp; and therefore mother, keen to avoid conflict, suggested asking one of my aunts if I could borrow her mandolin. She had played the instrument when she was younger; and so that mandolin was passed onto me."

Piet (far left) as a group member of Eindhoven rock band The Valiants (c. 1964)

"I cannot begin to explain how unhappy I was – compared to the guitar, a mandolin was such a bourgeois instrument – but what could I do about it? After all, I was only ten or eleven years old at the time. My parents, unable to understand how I had fallen in love with the sound of the guitar, sent me to music lessons every week. After a while, I became so frustrated that I stuck the mandolin in the spokes of my bicycle; the thing broke in a thousand pieces. Apparently, it was the only way to tell my parents I did not want this instrument. My father took up the challenge. In a matter of hours, he had repaired it completely. However, my mom and dad now understood this was not for me – so that was the end of my career as a mandolin player.”

Instead, a classmate at Piet’s primary school who owned a guitar taught him the first chords. “And from that moment on, I was off,” Piet comments. “Instead of taking lessons, I met up in music shops with other young guys keen to learn to play the guitar, teaching each other little melody lines, chords, and discussing sounds. That was the way to do it in those days. Meanwhile, my school marks became worse and worse as I immersed myself in any music activity I could find. Some classmates formed a Dixieland band in which I played the drums. Of course, I was not a brilliant drummer and Dixieland was not my favourite genre, but it was music!”

A gamechanger in Piet’s life was his participation in the 1961 edition of the so-called Cabaret der Onbekenden, a talent show held in the Carlton Hotel in Piet’s hometown of Eindhoven. Piet, twelve years old, teamed up with his elder sister, who sang Conny Froboess’ hit song ‘Midi-midinette’ accompanied by Piet at the guitar. 

“At that time, I did not have a guitar of my own yet, so I borrowed one from someone living a couple of streets away. The guitar needed a strap, so I tied a rope onto it instead – and that is how I went on stage. One of the jurors was Conny Froboess herself, and of course she said she loved our performance! We did not win, but the big moment for me was yet to come. To close off the evening, the organizers had hired Anneke Grönloh and Peter Koelewijn, backed up by Peter’s band, The Rockets (including Harry van Hoof on the piano, BT). I literally could not believe my ears. It was my first experience of hearing a band. It was such an impressive wall of sound! I cannot remember being so excited and ecstatic in my life, before or after. In retrospect, that was the first time the inner arranger in me awoke, albeit subconsciously.”

Promotional picture of Eindhoven rock band The Cavaliers, with Piet Souer second from right

One year later, Piet met Paul Reekers, bass player of the Valiants, a local Eindhoven rock ‘n’ roll band. “Paul heard me play in Musica, the best-known music shop in town. Shortly after, he called me, asking if I was interested to join the Valiants as the lead guitarist. Of course I was keen to accept. My father, however, was totally against it – and I was too compliant to go against him. Luckily, mother came to my rescue and secretly escorted me out of the house, using the backdoor to allow me to do my first gig. When my father found out, he was beside himself with anger. To add insult to injury, that first performance was on a Sunday! It took years and years before he was reconciled to my career plans. Being a former police officer, he hoped I would follow his footsteps, but to me that prospect was utterly horrible. No way – by then, I knew I wanted to be a musician. I never seriously considered anything else.”

Between 1962 and 1969, Piet was a member of several Eindhoven pop bands; apart from the Valiants, he played the guitar in The Cavaliers and The Phantoms; with the last-mentioned group, Piet enjoyed considerable success in 1965 as their single ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ rose to the eleventh position in the Netherlands’ hit parade. 

“That must have been the first time I saw a recording studio from the inside. We recorded the track in the Bovema Studios in Heemstede. Around that same time, with the other members of the Valiants, I backed up Armand on his huge solo hit ‘Ben ik te min’ in Hilversum’s Phonogram Studios. Though musicians from Eindhoven enjoyed some nationwide success in the 1960s, the music scene was nowhere near as interesting as in towns in the western half of the country; we especially looked up to what was happening in The Hague. Looking back, I would qualify our style of playing as provincial, straightforward, and frankly rather goody-goody, but perhaps, that was part of the charm. I effectively played in several bands at the same time. All the while, though, I knew I did not want to keep on playing the guitar in rock bands for the rest of my life. There was a horizon full of musical possibilities to discover – I just did not know yet which direction to take.”

In between all the concerts, Piet finished his secondary education… and taught himself to play the piano. "At my parents’ home, there was no piano, but I found out one of my friends’ father owned one – so I went there and started experimenting, which is what I have done my whole life: instead of finding a teacher, I tried to find a way of my own. As soon as possible, I bought a piano of my own and collected the relevant music books to study. Incredibly perhaps, by the end of the 1960s, having earned my money as a musician for six years, I was still unable to read notes, but by studying hard I acquainted myself with the basics of music theory.”

Rehearsing for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest in a hotel room in Madrid, from left to right: conductor Frans de Kok, Piet Souer, and Lenny Kuhr

Still in Eindhoven, Piet met a young local chansonnière, Lenny Kuhr. “That must have been in 1967 or 1968. She was a singer-songwriter who accompanied herself at the guitar. We met at some party and, right from the start, there was a click. We both took our guitars and it simply worked. As she put it, my Spanish guitar sang along with her – and she liked the vibrato in my playing. From then, we continued playing together. Lenny tried to accomplish her nationwide breakthrough by performing in Amsterdam and on several radio shows, and I was there with her. This was a style of music which was completely different from the rock and beat which I had become used to; and I thought it was a really interesting new world to discover.”

In 1969, Lenny Kuhr was invited to take part in the Netherlands’ Eurovision pre-selections. Piet backed her up playing the guitar, “… and we won first prize and went on to win the Eurovision Song Contest in Madrid with ‘De troubadour’, but the key-moment for me was the recording session of the song in Hilversum. The arranger was Bert Paige, a legendary figure in the recording business. I remember him as an amiable guy; a huge man who conducted the studio orchestra smoking a cigar. Harmonically, he was a genius. As I saw him at work with the orchestra, I immediately knew I wanted to be what he was; an arranger. Following our Eurovision victory, Lenny recorded several albums with Bert Paige and another good arranger, Ruud Bos. During the sessions, I followed every move they made. Studio musicians taught me useful tricks – and I absorbed everything. Having said that, it was still a long way before I could stand up in front of that orchestra myself.”

Following Lenny Kuhr’s Eurovision victory, Lenny and Piet travelled across Europe and beyond to play their winning song – from Scandinavia to Israel, even to as far away as Japan. In early 1970, thanks to the efforts of Lenny’s producer Nico Knapper, they were invited to join Georges Brassens on a two-month-tour, performing at forty venues across France and Switzerland. 

“Touring with a giant as Brassens was a positive experience. I got to write my first little rhythm arrangements, for Lenny, myself, and our bass player. After a while, though, I was slightly unhappy to have to play the same melody lines over and over. How could I get closer to my goal to become an arranger? When I asked Bert Paige, he said, “You cannot learn how to be an arranger, you have to hear how to do it.” Well, I knew I heard it; and I was working on my theoretical knowledge by ploughing my way through different textbooks. At that point, I felt it would be a good idea to go to conservatory, but I was turned down in an audition – probably because the professors thought this young guy who was so immersed in popular music could not be moulded into their classical framework.”

With Lenny Kuhr, c. 1972

“It wasn't a big disappointment to me. I kept on studying and working on my own projects. In Eindhoven, I wrote the arrangements for a gospel group, which gave me a good opportunity to experiment with harmonies, whilst setting up a new little band with two friends, Triple Track. We were inspired by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I composed most of the material myself. As we wanted to try to have our songs recorded in Hilversum, I put together demos using a tape recorder, a Philips Pro 12. Putting a microphone between my knees, I created the bass drum by beating a fist on my knee; and the snare by using my open hand on the other knee. Having created the base of the sound, I recorded the piano, guitars and bass parts – and sent such demos to producers in Hilversum, hoping we would be invited for a session.”

One of Piet’s homemade demos found its way to the desk of Hans van Hemert, a successful young producer at Phonogram. Although not being particularly impressed by the group Triple Track itself, he was fascinated by the way Souer had put together the demo. After a while, he decided to make a phone call to Eindhoven. 

“Hans had just had a conflict with his arranger Harry van Hoof; and was looking for someone to replace him; something I knew nothing about at that time. Calling me, Hans bluntly asked me what I wanted to achieve in life. After I had told him about my ambitions as an arranger, he said, “Well, that is all very nice. Now, listen, this Monday, we are recording the orchestra to a Willeke Alberti single. I want you to write the full arrangement and strings.”

“Well, this was my dream come true and I would have been a fool to say no, but, my goodness – strings! I knew what a violin looked like, but I had no idea how to write for it. I immediately bought myself a new textbook – one about string instruments, and wrote a score to Hans’ song for Willeke. Because I did not know about copyists yet, I wrote out the individual parts for all players myself. My wife drove me from Eindhoven to Hilversum, while I was in the backseat frantically working on the final parts. I couldn't have been more nervous when I walked into the studio in Hilversum, where the finest string players of the Metropole Orchestra were waiting to record my arrangement. All I knew about conducting was based on what I had learnt from watching guys such as Bert Paige. Because I had once seen a conductor ticking on a music stand with his baton to ask for his musicians’ attention, I did the same… but since I didn't have a baton, I used a pencil instead. At that point, everyone in the studio started laughing, because what I did was a total breach of convention! But after they had played the score a first time, all violinists took their bow, ticking it on their stands; as I learnt, it was their way of expressing praise for an arrangement. This was the best start imaginable for me as an arranger.”

Piet Souer’s debut as a record arranger, the 1973 Willeke Alberti single release ‘Zal ik gaan dansen?’

The song for Willeke Alberti was called ‘Zal ik gaan dansen’ and was released in 1973. Though it did not hit the charts, Hans van Hemert was duly impressed and secured Piet a contract with Phonogram as a staff arranger in 1974. With his wife, Piet moved from Eindhoven to the so-called ‘Phonogram apartment block’ in Soest. In the following years, Piet worked with countless producers and artists, writing the arrangements to a sheer endless list of hits, including ‘I See A Star’ and ‘Ah! L’amore’ for Mouth & MacNeal (both in 1974), ‘Upside Down’ for Teach In, ‘Dr. Bernard’ for Bonnie St. Claire, and ‘Bakker de baksteen’ for Cornelis Vreeswijk (all three from 1976). Meanwhile, he also started making his mark as a songwriter, composing hit material such as ‘I’m The Grand Pretender’ for Cardinal Point (1973), ‘Te veel, te vaak’ for Liesbeth List (1974), and ‘Valentino’ for Champagne (1977).

“Champagne were a group formed by Martin Duiser,” Piet comments. “Martin was a producer with whom I worked extensively for some seven years. He was a huge ABBA fan and, honestly speaking, Champagne was a total ABBA rip-off. Having said that, the project was hugely successful; and not only in the Netherlands! Why I started composing besides my arranging work? Well, it did not start at that point – I had written songs from my adolescence onwards. There had always been this desire to create. Composing could be defined as the inspiration flowing from that desire. Inspiration can come from anywhere; from a book, for example, but perhaps from the way the sunlight enters a room as well. After having composed a melody and written the words, the next step is to decide which sound to give to one’s composition. That is where the craftsmanship of an arranger is needed. Arranging is more than just musical craftsmanship, though. Here, creativity is hugely important too. There are always multiple choices – to illustrate a given part of the melody with parallel high violins or instead by using two trumpets. Even in pop music, in which producers are usually looking for a recognisable sound, the possibilities are countless.”

Apart from his work as a composer and arranger, Piet Souer regularly took up his guitar for session work as well. Amongst many other credits, he played the guitar part in Ramses Shaffy’s evergreen ‘Laat me’ from 1978. Moreover, Souer recorded two solo easy-listening albums, ‘Strings By Candlelight’ (with Harry van Hoof, 1976) and ‘Romantic Feelings’ (1977). In 1978, he was the frontman of an instrumental band, Conquistador, which climbed to number three in the Dutch charts with ‘Argentina’, a title referring to that year’s FIFA World Cup which was held in that South American country. 

“I had been commissioned to write a theme melody for the World Cup broadcasts of Dutch national television. For the recording session, I played the guitar and most other instruments myself. I had envisioned forming a group without me to perform it on TV, but the director was adamant that I should be in the group. Though I wasn't really fond of being recognized by people in the street, in the end I gave in and it was a big hit. Cover versions were recorded by Jørgen Ingmann, Ricky King, and Francis Goya. As for ‘Strings By Candlelight’, that was something else. Producer Will Hoebee, who was blown away by my style of playing, toyed with the idea of creating a series of instrumental records with Harry van Hoof and me as CBS had done with Rogier van Otterloo. The album was recorded in the CTS Studios in London with the best English session musicians. It was a gold record and an album I am still quite proud of.”

Classical violinist Theo Olof handing out the 1979 Export Prize to the Luv' team - from left to right: Patty Brard, manager Pim ter Linde, Marga Scheide, Piet Souer, and José van de Wijdeven

In 1977, Piet embarked on a new adventure with Hans van Hemert. Using their pseudonyms Janschen & Janschens, they formed the girl group Luv’, for which they composed and produced all material together; besides, Piet took care of all arrangements. In the following years, Luv’ turned into a hit machine, heaping one international chart success on the other, most notably ‘You’re The Greatest Lover’ and ‘Trojan Horse’ (both in 1978). 

“Having heard some of the arrangements I had written for Champagne, Hans told me he thought they were great – and he shared with me his idea of putting together three attractive girls in a group, following the example of The Supremes. One of the girls, José van de Wijdeven, was a talented young singer from Brabant. When I moved away from Eindhoven, I had promised her to try my best to help her find fame. Luv’ was just the ideally suited project for her. The other two ladies, Marga Scheide and Patty Brard, were picked in an audition organised by Hans.”

“Most of the group's songs were Hans’ brainchildren. He simply was a genius at inventing painfully simple tunes, to which he added a disco beat; ‘You’re the greatest lover’ is a good example of this talent. It was my job to turn Hans’ demo with his ideas for a chorus into a real song with a suitable instrumentation and all. I also wrote some of the lyrics. Lastly, I penned all the orchestrations, in which I usually included a surprising element; bagpipes in ‘Trojan Horse’, for example. With Luv’, we travelled across Europe and beyond – to as far away as Mexico and Australia. I remember a gig for which a private plane took us to Bremen and Paris for performances on the same evening, flying on to Italy the next morning, and back to Rotterdam the same day. I was wrecked, but the girls’ energy seemed inexhaustible. The three voices matched wonderfully well together – that is perhaps the explanation of their success; well, apart from their looks, of course.”

As Luv’s successes petered out after 1979, partly due to infighting amongst the group members, the working relationship between Hans van Hemert and Piet Souer deteriorated as well. 

Piet Souer enjoyed international hit success as a songwriter and producer in 1980 with Doris D & The Pins and 'Shine Up'

“For quite some years, Hans and I had been a great team. In creative terms, we managed to bring out the best in the other. After a while, though, personal differences came to the fore. Hans usually claimed all the credits for our success; and so the good spirit between us evaporated. Don't get me wrong, Hans is the person who got me into the studio business and one of the most creative persons I have ever worked with – nobody has a keener eye for commercial success than he does. Perhaps, it was simply time for each of us to go our own way. I left Phonogram and embarked on my own freelance projects, the first one being Doris D & The Pins.”

Produced by Piet Souer, the newly formed girl group Doris D & The Pins found immediate success with their first single, ‘Shine Up’, which rose to number one in the Dutch charts in early 1981. In the following years, Piet Souer was incredibly successful as a songwriter and producer, working in Hilversum, but also internationally in London and Hamburg with the likes of Vicky Leandros and Middle of the Road. Songs of his charted in France (‘La sortie de secours’ by Sylvie Vartan, 1982) and the UK (‘Fantasy Island’ by Tight Fit, 1982); meanwhile, for the Dutch market, he penned breakthrough hit successes for Anita Meyer (‘Why Tell Me Why’, 1981 – number one in the Dutch charts) and Vanessa (‘Upside Down’, 1981). 

Moreover, still in the Netherlands, Souer wrote and produced albums and single releases for the likes of George Baker, Albert West, and Ciska Peters, while arranging the music to several concert series of the Metropole Orchestra with vocalist Lee Towers. Apart from his countless participations in the Eurovision Song Contest as a composer and arranger, Souer took part in the 1981 edition of the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, where his composition ‘Too Young to Know’ for Anita Meyer won a Most Outstanding Song Award. Nine years later, in 1990, Souer won first prize in the Holland Casino Scheveningen Song Festival with ‘Solo tú’, a melody co-composed with Peter van Asten for Chilean vocalist Luis Jara.

Meanwhile, Souer had made his mark as a composer in the world of television as well. In 1975-76, he wrote all music to the successful puppet series Suske & Wiske (a spin-off of the comic books marketed in the Anglo-Saxon countries as 'Spike & Suzy'); he also invented the tunes for several cartoon series, game shows, and entertainment programmes. 

A happy reunion with the Luv' ladies in 2007

“The guy who wrote the scenario for Suske & Wiske, Wim Povel, approached me through my record company Phonogram. As he liked the first sketches of songs which I created to his script, he decided I could do the entire series. Though I have never been a fan of puppetry, these programmes worked out really well and it was good fun to work on children’s music for once. After that first success, I was regularly commissioned by broadcasters to write for them. In the 1980s, advertisement agencies also crossed my path once and again, and I wrote some music for them – but with less success. In advertisement as in the television world, logically, producers usually turn to the composers who have already proven they can be successful in that particular corner of the business. That is why, after Suske & Wiske, I worked quite a lot for television and not so much in the advertising business.”

Crossing into the 1990s, Piet Souer remained in demand as an arranger and songwriter for the likes of Sandra Reemer, Rob de Nijs, Danny de Munk, Lee Towers, BZN, and Willeke Alberti; internationally, he worked on albums of Helen Shapiro, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Dana International. He wrote the orchestrations to hit successes by Gordon (‘Ik hou van jou’, 1992) and BZN (‘Banjo Man’, 1994). 

“Peter van Asten asked me to rearrange ‘Ik hou van jou’ for Gordon. Peter had co-written the song for Maribelle, who represented the Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest with it some years before. By the early 1990s, my collaboration with Martin Duiser had stopped; his role had more or less been taken over by Peter, who was involved with a lot of artists as a producer. We co-composed quite some material together, for which he did the production bit, whilst I took care of the arrangements. We got along well on a personal level, which explains why we had a lasting working relationship."

When asked about BZN, Souer comments, "Well, I wrote most of their arrangements back then, but I cannot say it was my favourite repertoire to work on, but I have yet to meet the first person in the business who would turn down anything which does not entirely match his personal tastes and preferences. Times had changed. Studio orchestras had been replaced to a major extent by computers. I have always been interested in these developments, most of which have made the life of a musician much easier, but they have changed the music business forever. Arrangers have become a rare quantity.”

In the recording studio with singer Tamara Tol, c. 2011

If anything, since the turn of the century, Piet Souer’s activities have become even more varied than before. In the recording studio, he worked with artists from the Netherlands and beyond, including Tamara Tol, Peggy March, and Ernst Daniël Smid; moreover, he recorded two CDs with musical singer Maaike Widdershoven and wrote the orchestrations to several Frans Bauer concert series. In 2004, Piet’s composition ‘Zwei alte Freunde’, recorded by Ute Freudenberg, charted in Germany. He composed music to several art documentaries, amongst others about Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh, and coordinated all live music on the set of Paul Verhoeven’s blockbuster film Black Book in 2006, working with star actress Carice van Houten. 

In 2011, he arranged and produced the music for Ivo Niehe’s theatre tour highlighting the memory of chansonnier Yves Montand which took them to Paris. Six years later, Souer once again proved his versatility by composing all music to Drs Down, a Singspiel-type musical, again in collaboration with Ivo Niehe, which turned into a major theatre success in the Netherlands.

“I do not necessarily have a predilection for musical as a genre, but, as always, I am open to being motivated by others – in this case, Ivo Niehe, who came up with this idea of turning into a stage show the story of a guy with Down syndrome who succeeded in obtaining a university degree. To my mind, the show, which includes two young Downers, has turned out really well. At the moment, we are exploring the possibilities of exploiting it internationally as well. Even after all these years, I still feel an immense yearning to create and to compose… in this case, by penning a musical."

"The project I'm working on at the moment (in 2017, BT) is an opera – classical music has always been in the back of my mind, from my earliest youth onwards. I have often described myself as a ‘melodist’, someone who creates melodies rather than beats. Operetta and opera are perhaps the corners of the world of music in which melodies are most fully appreciated. Besides, these are times in which music has become more about experiencing than about listening. In entertainment music, much more than in the past, audiences seem to feel the urge to clap, dance and sing along rather than simply sit down and listen closely. I wanted to get away from that and follow my heart to finally find the answer to that one question, "When will you write your masterpiece?" Apparently, that time has arrived now. Needless to say, I am immensely looking forward to hearing the result.”

Piet in his recording studio in Blaricum, September 2017


Few musicians have taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest finals as an instrumentalist, composer, lyricist, arranger, as well as conductor, moreover spanning a period of twenty-seven years. Piet Souer was first involved in the competition in 1969, when he played the guitar on stage behind Lenny Kuhr for her winning Eurovision performance of ‘De troubadour’. 

“By the time Lenny was invited to take part in the Dutch Eurovision pre-selection," Piet comments, "I had been with her on stage for over a year and it was only logical that this tightly-knitted team of singer-songwriter and guitarist would do Eurovision together as well. Lenny won the selection, so I accompanied her to the international final in Madrid as well. I only have the best memories of the festival. The Dutch delegation was a happy group of people. One evening, we had dinner in town with Lulu and Maurice Gibb, the Bee Gee guy she was with at that time. The only moment of panic was when it turned out the orchestral score was not there, but our conductor Frans de Kok exuded such confidence that we were confident a solution of some sort would be found – and when, in the end, the sheet music was found at the airport customs, Lenny and I felt absolutely nothing could go wrong. The two of us went on stage without any nerves and the performance was flawless.”

The Eurovision Song Contest in Madrid took place on Piet’s twenty-first birthday, March 29th, 1969. “So whatever the number of points awarded to us, I had reason to celebrate! After coming off stage, I immediately went looking for the bar. That is where I spent the rest of the evening downing a couple of beers – as is typical for someone from the Netherlands’ southern provinces, I have always loved the good life! At one point, Warry van Kampen, our head of delegation, stormed into this backstage bar, sighing, “Piet, quick, come upstairs – we have won!” He had been looking for me everywhere. It had never really occurred to me that we could actually win the competition. That evening in Madrid changed my life. Before I knew it, I was touring Europe and Asia with Lenny – and one year after, our Eurovision win resulted in an invitation to join up with Georges Brassens for a tour across France and Switzerland.”

The winning Dutch team of the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest in Madrid, from left to right: Piet Souer (guitarist), Lenny Kuhr (vocalist), and Frans de Kok (conductor)

Five years after ‘Madrid’, Piet Souer’s career had taken a different direction. The guitarist had become staff arranger at Phonogram, one of the Netherlands’ biggest record companies. In 1974, Souer took part as a conductor in the San Remo Song Festival, and as an arranger and percussionist on stage in the Eurovision Song Contest – in both cases, accompanying Mouth & MacNeal, the duo of Sjoukje van ‘t Spijker and Willem Duyn. At the Italian song festival in San Remo, one month prior to the Eurovision Song Contest, they participated with the song ‘Ah! L’amore’. How on earth did the Dutch duo end up on the San Remo stage?

“Mouth & MacNeal had been in the charts in Italy before and were invited to take part in San Remo. The Italians were keen to learn from Hans van Hemert, who was duly invited over to Milan to record the song with me and the two singers. I took care of the arrangement. The sessions were quite problematic; Hans was suffering from high-fever and there was a bunch of Italians looking over our shoulder all the time. To add insult to injury, one of these locals dropped a glass of coke over the mixing console, which meant we had to stop working for that day and start from scratch the next morning. At the San Remo Festival, I conducted the orchestra for our entry, the first-time ever I conducted an orchestra on stage. To many Italians, our song came as a shock – it was far more modern than most other entries and observers with a conservative attitude did not like our approach at all. We were the revolutionaries, the frontrunners perhaps, who tried to bring pop music to San Remo; and it was at least a partial success, as we made it into the final.”

One month later, on April 6th, 1974, the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Brighton. Mouth & MacNeal had not had to defeat any opposition to win the ticket to represent the Netherlands. Instead, an expert jury chose the most suitable entry amongst three songs submitted by the duo’s production team. The jurors’ choice fell on ‘Ik zie een ster’, a happy upbeat track quite similar to earlier Mouth & MacNeal hits, most notably ‘How Do You Do’. Composed by Hans van Hemert, the song was arranged by Piet Souer. 

“When I first heard Hans’ demo of ‘Ik zie een ster’, I tried to put myself in his place – as any good arranger does. What kind of instrumentation would he like with such a melody? My first impulse was to use a little ancient organ; yes, why not? Hans thoroughly liked the idea, and we went to the organ museum in Utrecht to do the recording. Now that we had a gimmick, the rest of the work was quite easy. The marching tempo of the song required using a bass part reinforcing just that tempo. Adding the orchestral elements, the goal was to further emphasize that particular element; to that end, I used celli and trombones in the intro – and further on in the song piccolo and flute with a xylophone behind. As Harry van Hoof had taught me earlier, arranging orchestral music is all about ‘doubling, doubling, doubling’ – doubling or copying the part of one instrument onto the other, that is.”

A moment of relaxation on the balcony of seaside hotel The Grand in Brighton during the 1974 Eurovision week, from left to right: Hans van Hemert, an unknown member of the Netherlands’ delegation, Piet Souer, Harry van Hoof, and television producer Fred Oster

As a matter of fact, the same Harry van Hoof conducted the Eurovision orchestra for ‘I See A Star’, as the unsurprising title of the song’s English translation was, while Souer was on stage in the backing group miming the pre-recorded percussion part of the song. Did Piet regret not being in front of the orchestra himself, as he had been in San Remo? 

“Well, no, not at all. Of course, from a Netherlands point of view, the Eurovision Song Contest was much more high-profile than the San Remo Festival – and there was an unwritten rule to leave the Eurovision conducting job to the same conductor every year, and in the 1970s Harry was that person. Who was I anyway in 1974? I had been working as an arranger in Hilversum for perhaps a year only. Harry has always been quite a healthily vain guy, so he liked being up front. I say all this without taking away anything from his huge musical talent; he was one of the most sought-after arrangers of his days. My position was still in the shades. As in Madrid five years before, I had a lovely week. I remember sitting on the balcony of our hotel facing the seaside, chatting away with Willem Duys (long-year Eurovision commentator for Dutch broadcaster NOS, BT) about which self-tanning creams were best – there is something about showbiz and vanity, isn’t there?”

Mouth & MacNeal might have had a chance to win the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, but they were out-gimmicked by ABBA and in the end had to settle for third place. Nonetheless, the song enjoyed considerable chart success in several European countries. In the following years, Piet Souer continued being involved in the festival as an arranger; in 1977, he orchestrated ‘Drop Drop Drop’, with which the Hans van Hemert-produced band Trinity finished second in the Belgian Eurovision selection programme behind Dream Express; two years later, in 1979, he wrote the charts to ‘Colorado’, the Netherlands’ entry to that year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem, performed by Xandra (Sandra Reemer) – and once again conducted by Harry van Hoof.

Sandra Reemer rehearsing her performance of 'Colorado' at the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem

It took until 1981 before Piet Souer first entered the Nationaal Songfestival, the Netherlands’ Eurovision pre-selections, as a songwriter. His song ‘Stap voor stap’, co-written by Martin Duiser and Karel Hille, was performed by Lucy Steymel & The Millionaires. In the following year, these same Millionaires took part in their own right, again with a song by Souer, Duiser, and Hille; ‘Fantasie eiland’. Though favourites to win the ticket to the international festival final in Harrogate, the group were pegged from victory by Bill van Dijk and ‘Jij en ik’, a song composed by Dick Bakker. According to Piet, the expert jury were to blame for the result.

“For some reason, these people were adamant to choose a quality song – whatever that might be. They didn't seem to have any idea of commercial value. To them, it was a plus that the lyrics of ‘Jij en ik’ were by Liselore Gerritsen, an artist and poet with literary pretensions. Besides, Rogier van Otterloo, the conductor of the Metropole Orchestra who was the musical director of the selection programme, had indicated that he preferred ‘Jij en ik’ over the other participating songs. To add insult to injury, the jury’s president, Pim Jacobs, was a close friend of Rogier’s; well, that's how we lost. But that is how the ball bounces sometimes in showbiz.”

Coincidentally, after the national final, the winning ‘Jij en ik’ was released on the Utopia label of Karel Hille; Hille passed the commission to produce and arrange the song onto none other than… Piet Souer. Working with Peter Schön, Piet completely re-arranged the song to give it more of an 1980s feel. Meanwhile, the English version of Piet’s own song, ‘Fantasy Island’, was recorded in a cover version by Tight Fit, a British dance group who managed a top five hit with it in the UK and Ireland. 

“We owed that success to Roba Music, our Hamburg editor. After the Eurovision heats in the Netherlands, he sent the Millionaires record to companies in London. That' s how the song landed on the desk of Tight Fit’s producers. The single version sold half a million copies. It confirmed to Martin and myself that we had been right to believe in this song. Of course, it is not a masterpiece in any way, but we had written it specifically for the Eurovision Song Contest – in other words, for an international audience. When Tight Fit turned the song into a UK hit, we proved we had succeeded in writing a song with an international appeal to it. I am convinced it could have done well in Eurovision, but we were simply unlucky; no hard feelings there. As for ‘Jij en ik’, as the producer and arranger of the song, I went to Brighton to oversee the rehearsals, but it came as no surprise to me that it finished near the bottom. With all due respect to Bill van Dijk who was the performer, this was a horrible composition.”

Bill van Dijk with his all-female backing group rehearsing his Eurovision performance in Harrogate (1982)

In 1983, Piet Souer and Martin Duiser had clearly set their minds on the Eurovision Song Contest. No fewer than four of ten songs in the Netherlands’ national final had been penned by them – whilst one more song was by Duiser alone. With song titles as ‘Rendez-vous’ and ‘Computer Games’, it was obvious the songwriting duo was again looking at conquering Europe rather than just the Netherlands. In the end, the selection was won by Bernadette Kraakman, a completely unknown vocalist, performing ‘Sing Me A Song’, a composition by Piet Souer and Martin Duiser. 

“Of course, with so many songs of ours in the competition," Piet laughs,"it didn't really come as a surprise when we won. Before the show, our editor Tony Berk even claimed we couldn't lose. In reality, it was not that easy, as Hans van Hemert had a song called ‘Een beetje van dit’ which came really close to winning. This was at a time when Hans and I had stopped working as a team, but there was no hostility between the two of us – rather a healthy form of competition.”

Following Piet's break-up with Hans van Hemert, Martin Duiser had become his new songwriting partner in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Together, they were responsible for a string of hits for Champagne, Anita Meyer, and many others. 

“The partnership with Martin was a completely different one compared to how I had worked with Hans. While Hans had usually been the one who came up with ideas for songs, I took over that role when working with Martin. He was more of a producer than a musician, but was really good at coming up with a solution for a song bridge when I was at a loss about how to finish a composition. Working that way, we were able to write lots of songs in a short spell of time."

Celebrating victory after the 1983 Dutch Eurovision pre-selection, Bernadette Kraakman flanked by her songwriters Martin Duiser and Piet Souer

"‘Sing Me A Song’ is a typical example of how I worked with Martin. At least eighty percent of the music is mine – and the lyrics are my work completely. It was a composition intended for Eurovision right from the start. Martin and I were looking for the winning formula. That is why I put in loads of platitudes in English and French to circumvent the problem of having to sing in Dutch. Do not get me wrong, I love Dutch as a vehicle to express one’s inner-soul – and some really great literature has been written in Dutch – but it isn't the language best-suited to be used in song. Internationally, having to sing in Dutch with all its throaty sounds is a liability.”

Preferring to let others write the arrangements to songs he had written himself whenever the opportunity presented itself, Souer asked experienced studio guitarist and session arranger Hans Hollestelle to write the orchestration to 'Sing Me A Song'. 

In normal circumstances, the national final as well as the presentation of the Dutch entry in the Eurovision Song Contest proper would have been conducted by Rogier van Otterloo, who had been the Metropole Orchestra’s chief-conductor since 1980, but in the early months of 1983, he suffered from a severe illness – the cancer he would eventually succumb to five years later – and he had himself replaced by Ruud Bos, who took care of conducting the orchestra in the pre-selection programme in The Hague. 

There, a conflict broke out between the orchestra and the production teams of the participating entries. The Metropole musicians were adamant that all songs should be played live in their entirety, without pre-recorded rhythm tracks – though these had been allowed in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1973. No solution was found, and in the end, the Metropole Orchestra refused to accompany any of the ten participants, who then performed with backing tracks only – reducing the role of the orchestra to playing at the opening and closing ceremony and during the interval entertainment. In other words, though Ruud Bos was the musical director of the programme, his involvement with the participating songs was negligible. Therefore, the unwritten rule in Dutch Eurovision history – the conductor of the national final will also conduct in the Eurovision Song Contest – did not automatically apply this time. At the insistence of Tony Berk, the NOS agreed to let Piet Souer conduct ‘Sing Me A Song’ himself at the international festival final in Munich; it is the only time ever a Dutch entry was conducted by one of the songwriters – rather than by the ‘neutral’ musical director of choice of the public broadcasting service NTS/NOS.

It is one of the few times during his career in which Souer was in the spotlight conducting a television orchestra. With years of experience as a conductor in studio sessions, though, leading the orchestra in Munich posed no particular problems for him.

The Netherlands’ team on stage during the opening ceremony of the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest in Munich, from left to right: Piet Souer, pianists Hans Vermeulen and Cees Stolk, backing singers Julya Lo’ko, Dianne Marchal, and Sandra Reemer, and finally (in yellow) Bernadette. To their right is the conductor of Finland’s entry, Ossi Runne, flanked by one of the Finnish backing singers

“As a matter of fact, in those early 1980s, I was taking lessons with a famous classical conductor, Jaap Spaanderman. I was interested in conducting – classical conducting, that is. If my career path had been in classical music, it is not unthinkable I would have been a conductor. A classical conductor has been trained to study scores of symphonies and concertos looking for the essence and creating an interpretation of his own. That is something completely different from counting in a band for a light-entertainment performance with perhaps one or two tempo changes at most. Frankly speaking, I could have become bored being the conductor of a band such as the Metropole Orchestra. In pop music, I have always been more interested in creating; composing and arranging. That explains for the fact why, apart from the contest in Munich, I have hardly ever pushed myself to be the conductor of my own work.”

What are Piet’s memories of the week of rehearsals in Munich? “Well, the organisation was extremely professional and, as always in a Eurovision Song Contest, the orchestra was excellent. German musicians are usually really good instrumentalists and moreover very docile. What I remember mostly about the days ahead of the contest is how annoyed Bernadette was when she discovered most journalists were more interested in Sandra Reemer, who was in our backing group, than in her. Sandra had taken part in the contest three times as a soloist and was treated as a star. It was obvious Bernadette felt ignored. In spite of that, she was a girl without any star pretensions – a typical product of this Calvinistic modesty which is so typically Dutch and so singularly obstructive when trying to build an international career. She sang extremely well, but lacked the charisma to be a star on and off stage. Having said that, it is something I only realised afterwards, because I was convinced we could win the contest; we had a good singer and an appealing and memorable melody. Besides, there is this well-known Eurovision phenomenon of being in a cocoon of one’s own delegation with people who keep on repeating how good they feel your song is. Every time someone told us we would probably win, we started believing more in our own chances.”

In the end, ‘Sing Me A Song’, performed by Bernadette and conducted by Piet Souer, finished seventh in a field of acts from twenty participating countries – not bad, but not nearly as good as expected.

“Yes, it's true; Martin Duiser, myself, the entire delegation – we were all disappointed at coming seventh. However, we realised there was nothing we could do about it, so we raised our glasses to celebrate the fun times we had had together; that is, all of us, except for Bernadette. She blamed Martin, me, and the others for not looking after her well enough after the voting. Apparently, she needed some sort of consolation which we were not able to give her at that particular moment. Instead of accepting one’s defeat, as we did and as we expected her to do as well, she chose the victim’s role.”

Bernadette Kraakman on the Eurovision stage in Munich

Strikingly, in the remainder of the 1980s, Piet Souer did not participate as a composer in any edition of the Dutch Eurovision pre-selection; in 1989, however, at the request of the song’s production team, he penned the orchestration to ‘Blijf zoals je bent’, the ballad with which Justine Pelmelay represented the Netherlands in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest, held in Lausanne. In the first half of the 1990s, Souer had three songs in the pre-selections: ‘Later’ by Angelina van Dijk in 1990; ‘Freedom freiheit liberté’ by Jeans Unlimited in 1990 (co-written by Peter van Asten); and ‘Wachten op water’ by Sigi in 1992. Moreover, he wrote the arrangements to several other entries, including ‘Waar blijft de tijd’ and ‘Medeleven’ for Ruth Jacott in 1993; and ‘Laat ons dansen’ for Willeke Alberti in 1994.

In the 1990s, Souer’s regular songwriting partner was Peter van Asten, an experienced producer who worked with the likes of Gordon, Willeke Alberti, and the Dolly Dots. In 1996, Souer and Van Asten entered the Nationaal Songfestival with a co-composition called ‘De eerste keer’, a happily upbeat song performed by Maxine & Franklin Brown, a boy-girl duo brought together for the occasion. Though both singers were largely unknown to followers of Dutch pop music, they managed to win the ticket to the international festival in Oslo. What does Piet Souer remember about the songwriting process of ‘De eerste keer’?

“Peter van Asten once visited me and I played him a demo of a little melody I had written some time before. He was convinced it was a song tailor-made for Eurovision. Maxine and Franklin were two rather unknown solo artists for whom he was the producer. He was really keen to have them sing this song as a duo. Naively, though the lyrics were ready and the music was more or less finished as well, I allowed Peter to add one or two bars to the demo version, thus making him co-composer. In the course of my career, I made this same mistake quite a few times. I liked the concept of working together with others, making use of one another’s talent and creativity, but all too often I created a song and allowed others to sign their names under it, though their contribution had been minimal. Call me an idealist – because I was, and it cost me an enormous amount of money. As with ‘Sing Me A Song’ in 1983, I consciously left out guttural sounds from the lyrics, to avoid an international audience being turned off by the Dutch language.”

Onto the subject of the lyrics of ‘De eerste keer’, these are about a man and a woman meeting up again after many years, reviving a love-affair they had many years before. When asked if there was any autobiographical element in the lyrics, Piet laughs out loudly. 

Press conference after winning the 1996 Eurovision pre-selection in the Netherlands, from left to right: Piet Souer, Peter van Asten, Franklin Brown, and Maxine

“No, not at all! A lyricist has to be capable to put himself in someone else’s shoes. In my fantasy, I imagined watching a romantic film, and the words followed naturally. As it turned out, many people identified with the lyrics of ‘De eerste keer’; and of course it is an appealing thought to meet up with someone you fell in love with during your high school days, feeling the same vibes again years later. The combination of music and lyrics was dynamic, happy, and upbeat – ideally suited for Maxine and Franklin, so all credits to Peter van Asten for suggesting them. It was a good match and I was pretty convinced we would win the selection in the Netherlands. In the charts, it did extremely well too, climbing to third spot.”

Though Piet Souer had written the orchestration to ‘De eerste keer’ himself, the orchestra in the pre-selection and in the Eurovision final in Oslo was conducted by Dick Bakker, who had taken over from Harry van Hoof as the musical director for the Dutch broadcaster’s Eurovision hopefuls – the same Dick Bakker whose composition ‘Jij en ik’ had robbed Souer from victory in the 1982 Netherlands’ Eurovision pre-selection. 

“That was completely OK with me,” Piet comments. “Dick is a good guy and an able musician; I didn't worry for a moment about him being our conductor in Oslo. There was another problem; Peter and I were keen to arrive in Oslo on time to attend all rehearsals, especially the first orchestral rehearsal. Because the Norwegian orchestra did not have any saxophone players, I had had to rewrite the sax parts for the trombonists. I wanted to make sure the new arrangement would sound right. Unfortunately, those responsible for Eurovision at the NOS did not want to listen and instead preferred to include some of their own people in the delegation, though they didn't have any function in Oslo other than being very keen on a one-week holiday. The NOS’ proceedings were completely opposed to what a song festival should be about; the song. It was sheer idiocy. In the end, Peter and I had enough of arguing with them. We decided to pay for our own expenses and booked our own flight to Norway.”

In the international Eurovision final, Maxine and Franklin again managed to convince the jurors, picking up 78 points and finishing seventh amidst songs from twenty-three participating countries. 

Maxine & Franklin Brown performing 'De eerste keer' in rehearsals - Eurovision 1996, Oslo

“The Norwegian organisation was wonderful – at every reception, the delegations were treated to loads of salmon and champagne. On the downside, however, it was obvious the contest had lost some of its dignity and importance. Where there had been serious newspaper journalists in Munich, we were now met at press conferences by hordes of Eurovision fans with cheap photo cameras. Maxine and Franklin were extremely professional all week and gave a good performance. Their mistake was to believe that success was waiting for them at the horizon – individual success, that is. In Oslo, they organised separate press conferences to announce they had signed a record deal. If they had been more realistic, they should have continued working as a duo in the aftermath of their newly won popularity. I am sure they could have continued with considerable success for at least three or four more years. That could have been the launching pad for a solo career. What happened after was predictable: they both failed to realize a breakthrough, which is really unfortunate given their unmistakable talent. Peter van Asten and I tried to explain them all of this in 1996, but in vain.”

After ‘De eerste keer’ in 1996, Piet Souer participated one more time as a songwriter in the Eurovision pre-selections in the Netherlands; in 2000, he teamed up with Dick Plat, BZN’s synth player, to compose ‘Hit It Off’, performed by Dewi Lopulalan. In spite of the modern production, the song failed to make an impact and finished last, far behind winner Linda Wagenmakers. 

“I have never minded losing, but it was disappointing to lose out to a dress. ‘Hit It Off’ was rather funky and rhythmical – not a typical Souer song, I would say. I really believed in that song, because I felt it could have stood out as a modern Eurovision entry. Unfortunately, Dewi’s performance was slightly screamy and over the top. She failed to connect with the audience in the hall."

"I don't know if I would be interested to participate in Eurovision again. The programme has turned away from being a song festival into a show festival. That is why I have lost interest. I was always in it for the music. It was an important international podium and, moreover, a unique chance to have your compositions played by a grand orchestra. That is why, around that same time, I was so thrilled to accept the invitation to write orchestrations for ‘Una voce particolare’, a successful TV programme with classical singers; it was hugely inspirational and inspired me to write compositions in classical style as well. As for the Eurovision Song Contest, from a songwriting point of view, the commercial and artistic value has decreased enormously.”

Maxine and Franklin congratulating Ireland's Eimear Quinn on her Eurovision win at the afterparty in Oslo 


Producer, arranger and studio owner Jan Theelen, Piet’s senior by nine years, was one of the colleagues who helped Piet on his way at the start of his career as an arranger in the early 1970s. “I was a little older than Piet, but we were both part of a younger generation than the likes of Bert Paige, Jack Bulterman, and Ger van Leeuwen. This bunch of younger arrangers was keen to replace them – and we hung out together, having a good time, but we also spoke about music, about arranging. Whenever you could, you helped a friend. Piet asked me for advice; and as a colleague and friend I gave him just that. Musically speaking, Piet was an autodidact, but, at the very beginning, he had to find his way; build up some experience as well. The fact that he lacked a conservatory background really wasn’t a liability, because he had the talent required to make it. What you need is technique, what you need is a desire to experiment. Put a bass clarinet and three trombones together and see what happens. Some musicians really need one or two suggestions to help them on their way; and obviously, Piet belonged to this category.” (2010)

Songwriter and producer Hans van Hemert worked with Piet Souer in the 1970s on countless projects, amongst others ‘I See A Star’ for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest as well as co-writing the entire repertoire for girl group Luv’. “When I invited Piet and his Eindhoven band Triple Track for an audition, I was immediately struck by his fabulous guitar play and good singing. It wasn't difficult to see that he was an immensely talented musician. So instead of signing the group, I asked Piet to become my arranger. I was looking for a breath of fresh air in arrangements and I felt Piet deserved the opportunity to prove his worth – an opportunity he grabbed with both hands. I could not have hoped for a better songwriting partner than Piet. When I had an idea for a song, he instantly came up with wonderful ideas to translate these into arrangements. One of the best examples has to be ‘My Number One’ for Luv’, which is perhaps the closest we have ever come to reaching perfection. Everything – sound, playfulness, folk music elements – just turned out exactly as I wanted, and Piet deserves the credits for that. In view of the fact that Piet and I are both somewhat dominant characters, it was perhaps inevitable that we grew apart, but, after so many years, it is good to let bygones be bygones. Piet and I are friends again and enjoy having a glass of wine while digging up memories of the successes we had together.” (2017)


Country – Netherlands
Song title – “De troubadour”
Rendition – Lenny Kuhr (feat. Piet Souer, guitarist)
Lyrics – David Hartsema
Composition – Lenny Kuhr
Studio arrangement – Bert Paige
Live orchestration – Bert Paige / Frans de Kok
Conductor – Frans de Kok
Score – 1st place (18 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – "I See A Star (Ik zie een ster)"
Rendition – Mouth & MacNeal (Willem Duyn & Sjoukje van 't Spijker)
Dutch lyrics – Gerrit den Braber
  English lyrics – Hans van Hemert
Composition – Hans van Hemert
Studio arrangement – Piet Souer
Live orchestration – Piet Souer
Conductor – Harry van Hoof
Score – 3rd place (15 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – "Colorado"
Rendition – Xandra (Sandra Reemer / Mac Sell / Paul Vink / Ton op 't Hof / Ferdy Lancée / Okkie Huijsdens)
Lyrics – Gerard Cox
Composition – Ferdi Bolland / Rob Bolland
Studio arrangement – Piet Souer
(studio orchestra conducted by Harry van Hoof)
Live orchestration – Piet Souer
Conductor – Harry van Hoof
Score – 12th place (51 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – "Jij en ik"
Rendition – Bill van Dijk
Lyrics – Liselore Gerritsen
Composition – Dick Bakker
Studio arrangement – Dick Bakker / Piet Souer / Peter Schön
Live orchestration – Dick Bakker / Piet Souer / Peter Schön
Conductor – Rogier van Otterloo
Score – 16th place (8 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – "Sing Me A Song"
Rendition – Bernadette Kraakman
Lyrics – Piet Souer / Martin Duiser
Composition – Piet Souer / Martin Duiser
Studio arrangement – Hans Hollestelle / Piet Souer
Live orchestration – Hans Hollestelle
Conductor – Piet Souer
Score – 7th place (66 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – "Blijf zoals je bent"
Rendition – Justine Pelmelay 
Lyrics – Jan Kisjes / Cees Bergman / Geertjan Hessing / 
  Aart Mol / Erwin van Prehn / Elmer Veerhoff 
Composition – Jan Kisjes
Studio arrangement – Jan Kisjes
Live orchestration – Piet Souer
Conductor – Harry van Hoof
Score – 15th place (45 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – "De eerste keer"
Rendition – Maxine & Franklin Brown
Lyrics – Piet Souer
Composition – Piet Souer / Peter van Asten 
Studio arrangement – Piet Souer
Live orchestration – Piet Souer
Conductor – Dick Bakker
Score audio semi-final – 9th place (63 votes)
Score final – 7th place (78 votes)

  • Bas Tukker interviewed Piet Souer in Breda, July 6th, 2007 (previously published in Dutch: “En de dirigent is… Piet Souer: melodist en ondernemer”, in: EA-Nieuws, 2008-2009, no. 1, pg. 29-39)
  • Bas Tukker interviewed Piet Souer for a second time in Blaricum, September 29th, 2017
  • Many thanks to Jan Theelen and Hans van Hemert for their additional comments
  • Short (anonymous) newspaper article about Piet Souer: ‘In en om de studio’s’, in: De Telegraaf, April 11th, 1974
  • Newspaper interview with Piet Souer by Louis du Moulin: ‘Samenwerking met Van Hemert steeds minder van harte’, in: Het Vrije Volk, February 21st, 1981
  • Photos courtesy of Piet Souer, Frans de Kok, Harry van Hoof, and Ferry van der Zant