Saturday 6 May 1989


The following article is an overview of the career of Finnish trumpet player, composer, and conductor Ossi Runne. The main source of information is an interview with Mr Runne, conducted by Bas Tukker in Helsinki, August 2015. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Ossi Runne's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2015

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

Born: April 23rd, 1927, Viipuri (Finland, modern-day Vyborg, Russia)
Died: November 5th, 2020, Helsinki (Finland)
Nationality: Finnish


One of the familiar faces in the Eurovision Song Contest for over two decades, Ossi Runne conducted no fewer than 22 Finnish festival entries. Only Noel Kelehan took part in more editions of the festival (25 times). Between 1966 and 1989, Runne only missed out in 1970, when Finland joined the Scandinavian boycott of the contest, and 1981, when he was replaced by Henrik Otto Donner.


Yrjö Osvald ‘Ossi’ Rundberg was born in 1927 in the town of Viipuri (Vyborg) on the Karelian Isthmus, which was part of Finland in the interwar period (1917-39). In the Finnicisation wave of the 1930s, his family decided to do away with their Swedish surname, adopting the Finnish-sounding ‘Runne’ instead. Ossi’s father ran a pastry shop. 

“But my father was also a keen amateur musician,” Ossi recalls. “Being quite a good accordionist, he was a member of several dance bands. My mum sang in choirs. In our house, there was a lot of music. My parents enjoyed cultural life in Viipuri. They were fond of music theatre and often went to see operettas. When my mother noticed how much I liked singing along to her and how quickly I picked up the melodies of the popular waltzes and foxtrots my father was playing, she sent me to the local music school.”

As a toddler (1928)

Between 1935 and 1939, young Ossi studied the violin at the Viipuri Music Academy with teacher Onni Suhonen. “Looking back, I was very lucky to meet Suhonen there. He was one of many educated people who had escaped from Saint Petersburg in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Some of the conservatoire teachers from Petrograd fled to nearby Viipuri and were employed at our music academy. Suhonen, who had studied the violin in Vienna, was one of them. He was a very good teacher with an approach which, in retrospect, was quite modern. Instead of demanding hard work and exercise, he presented everything in a happy, natural, and playful way. That was clever of him, because he motivated me to such an extent, that I was practicing his lessons voluntarily every day.”

On the 30th of November, 1939, the Soviet Union started its invasion of Finland by bombing Vyborg. Runne: “That morning, I was just packing my school bag. Suddenly, there was an alarm. We had been practicing what to do in case of an attack and ran to our shelter, which was some streets away from our house. After some time, I saw three Russian bombers flying over the town and dropping their ammunition. After half an hour, we thought everything was over. I had just one thing on my mind: going to school! However, when we went back to our house, all that was left was rubble. Everything was razed to the ground. There was nothing we could take with us from the ruins. I lost my violin, but also – and that made me even sadder – my new ice skates!"

"We were unlucky that our house had been hit, because this first bombardment was not that extensive yet. Most of the town had been left unharmed. Later that day, in a radio broadcast, it was announced that all women and children were to be evacuated. Whilst my father and older brother went away to serve in the army, my mother and I took refuge in the country house of relatives, some hundred kilometres away from Viipuri. Little did we know that our town was forever lost to Finland. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, I have been back to Viipuri several times, but nothing reminds me of what the town was like when I grew up. The old historic centre has gone. It is so depressing. Usually, armies come and go, yet the civilians stay – but that is not the case of Viipuri. Not a single Finn is left…”

Ossi Runne (seated, second from left) in the Ossi Aalto Orchestra, 1946

In March 1940, the Winter War was over. Vyborg and the Karelian Isthmus had to be given up by Finland to the Soviets. Owning no more than the clothes they were wearing, the Runne family settled in Helsinki. Young Ossi had just finished elementary school, but what to do now? There was no money for further education. 

“My uncle Urho was a musician in the Military Band of the Dragoon Guards. Somehow, I thought to myself, "Why could I not follow in his footsteps?" In the military band, everything – food, clothing, school – would be free. After having discussed it in the family, my uncle managed to arrange an audition with Artturi Rope, conductor of the Finnish Guards’ Band. He gave me a test, which, to my mind, was extremely easy; I had to sing along to him at the piano and there was a rhythmical exercise. After that, I was immediately accepted into the band.”

13-year-old Ossi became a member of the band’s students’ class, consisting of 16 boys. Simultaneously, he was allowed to continue his violin studies at the Sibelius Academy of Music. “Unfortunately, my violin teacher was a very strict and old-fashioned German. I did not like him at all. After a year or two, I gave up the violin. For the band, of course I had to find another instrument. After trying my hand at the oboe for some time, I picked the trumpet – well, in fact, Rope picked it for me! In spite of that, I soon took a liking to my new instrument. I studied the trumpet at the academy for 12 (!) years with Uno Koivu as my main teacher. I was always one step ahead of my fellow students of the military band thanks to the excellent theoretical background I had been given at the Viipuri Academy. Within months, with a couple of other boys of the military music school, I found myself playing the signal horn at military funerals."

The young trumpet player (1948)

"In September 1940, our group also performed in public at an athletics’ competition between Finland, Sweden, and Germany in Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium. After one year, I was allowed as a member into the military band proper. We played at military parades and funerals; though it was not just military music we played, but also Wagner, Schubert, and even Tchaikovsky’s operas. The education within the army was at least as important as those at the academy. Artturi Rope even gave me and the other students of the band some conducting lessons – very useful, in hindsight! Having become a member of the army band at such a young age, I can hardly say that becoming a professional musician was a conscious choice, but… I would not have wanted it any other way.”

Almost immediately after the Finnish-Soviet armistice in September 1944, Ossi Runne was immersed in Helsinki’s popular music scene. With accordionist Matti Viljanen, pianist Jaakko Salo and two others, he formed a quintet which specialized in dance music.

“During the war, the situation in Finland was strange. On the one hand, we were not occupied and therefore American films were shown in our movie theatres. From these films, we knew of the orchestras of Harry James and Glenn Miller. On BBC radio, we could legally listen to the popular English tunes; for us youngsters, this was interesting. On the other hand, while there was still a war on, the government explicitly forbade people to dance. Understandably, upon war’s end, everybody wanted to have a good time after years of restraint. In Helsinki, little and big bands sprang up by the score, performing in dance halls all around town. Around that same time, some civil musician came to see which musicians from the military band could be of use for playing dance music – and I was one of those who he wanted. At that point, I knew nothing about that new type of music. I did not even know who Louis Armstrong was. From the very first time we were practicing these novel arrangements, however, I liked them. I obtained a sheet music booklet with some of Armstrong’s phrasings. By copying them, little by little, I learned to play trumpet in this style.”

On a tour in Lapland with singer Henry Theel (1948)

With his sight-reading skills and staunch theoretical background, Ossi Runne became much sought-after as a trumpeter in Helsinki’s music scene. In 1945, he was involved in a studio recording of dance music for the first time. That same year, he joined the dance orchestra of Ossi Aalto, leaving the Guards Band once and for all. 

Explaining his choice, Runne says, “It dawned to me pretty soon that I would be able to make a good living by playing in dance bands. As a musician of the military band, I made three marks a day, while one night of playing in a dance hall could earn up to one hundred marks! Ossi Aalto had the best dance orchestra in Finland and was always looking for the best musicians to work for him. He wanted me to play lead trumpet right from the start. I had never done that before, but I was eager to learn and by listening to some other fellow and copying his style exactly, I managed. We toured everywhere in Finland – and even in Sweden."

"Life was very different from what I had been used to in the Guards Band. Usually, we worked until late at night. I did not always like that, but I liked to play; and that is what we did, day in, day out. From Sweden, new arrangements from America slowly flowed in. We learnt about bebop – Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. It was so different from everything I had heard before! We tried out some phrases and harmonies and, after a while, it went pretty well, but we soon realized that our audiences were not looking for such complicated music. They simply wanted us to play the popular dance tunes.”

The Toivo Kärki band, with the bandleader himself standing at the vibraphone to Ossi Runne's left (1949)

Runne stayed with Ossi Aalto for four years (1945-49). During this period, he also occasionally joined up with other, smaller dance bands, such as the Rytmi-Pojat, with which he toured the Åland Islands. In the following years, Runne played in the dance orchestras of Toivo Kärki (1949-51), Olle Lindström (1951), Erkki Aho (1951-53), and Al Stefano (1954). Why did he change bands so often in those years? 

“Well, I wanted to learn. The Aalto orchestra was a big band in which I played lead trumpet. Toivo Kärki asked me when he went on tour with just five musicians and a singer, Henry Theel. I wanted to experience what it would be like to be the only trumpet player in the band – after all, in such a set-up, a totally different approach was needed. Erkki Aho had a ten-man-band which played at Restaurant Kaivohuone in Helsinki. We played typical background music… international variety numbers. I joined Al Stefano for just five months. Stefano (John Steffensen in real life - BT) was a Danish drummer who had specialized in Latin American music. For our performances, we dressed up as Mexicans, but the music we played was pretty advanced. We did an international tour, performing in Copenhagen and The Hague.”

Meanwhile, Ossi Runne had become a household name for Finnish radio listeners overnight. At the request of Scandia Records, he recorded a cover version of Eddie Calvert’s ‘The Song Of The Golden Trumpet’ (or in Finnish, ‘Kultaisen trumpetin laulu’), which became a huge hit in Finland in 1954.

Performing with the Erkki Aho Band at Restaurant Kaivohuone in Helsinki (1952)

“I had been involved in all kinds of different recording sessions for several years, but ‘Kultaisen trumpetin laulu’ was my first solo recording. In the early 1950s, there was an English trumpeter called Eddie Calvert who was immensely popular in many countries with his solo instrumental recordings. One of them was ‘The Song of the Golden Trumpet’. It was played very often in Finnish radio. People wanted to buy the record, but it was not available in Finland – they could not even find out who owned the British recording. Therefore, some guy at Scandia Records wondered if I could play it. He wanted the record to sound exactly like Eddie Calvert’s – and therefore Matti Viljanen copied the arrangement of the English original, while I adopted Calvert’s unusual style."

"Two weeks later, it was available in the shops and it sold quite well. This one record meant a lot to me. All symphony orchestras in Finland occasionally had light music concerts and I became their favourite choice for such guest performances. This required building up a new repertoire very quickly, because nobody in Finland had ever made an attempt at this genre before. I recorded several more singles and performed in countless concerts in the 1950s and 1960s. With the arrival of The Beatles and other guitar bands in the 60s, my style of playing was increasingly perceived as outdated, though I kept on doing some gigs here and there for many more years.”

In 1955, Ossi Runne made a surprising career move. Leaving for Stockholm, he became the conductor of the 17-man-strong China Theatre orchestra. “In fact, Ekhardt Lundin, the theatre’s manager, was looking for a trumpet player and called a booking office in Helsinki, which recommended me. To check if I had what it took, Lundin came down to Finland to see me play in the Erkki Aho Band. After that evening, it turned out he was so impressed that he wanted me as a conductor! Why? I do not have a clue, but to me it was another opportunity to try my hand at something new. Although I had had some training as a conductor in the military band, I was lacking experience, so I realised this would be tough."

Conducting the China Theatre Orchestra in Helsingborg, Sweden, during a concert tour (June 1955)

"After my 5 months with Al Stefano, I moved to Stockholm. The China Theatre was a fine and famous venue right in the heart of town. I stayed there for just a year, but this proved to be a very important part of my learning curve. It was extremely hard work. Every month, we had one programme with, let us say, 16 numbers. There would be a ballet and some famous singer or solo musician, perhaps a comedian. We always received the arrangements very late – usually just one day before we had to play them. With just one day between the last rendition of the old show and the premiere of the new month’s programme, I had to work like hell with the guys in the orchestra to study the music. It was here that I really learned how to be a conductor. Moreover, in Stockholm I met the virtuoso Mexican trumpeter Rafael Méndez, who played as a guest soloist in our theatre. I admired him a lot – his style was beautifully melodious and very fast. He allowed me to use some of his solos for my own trumpet performances in Finland, which was very generous of him.”

Though Ekhardt Lundin desperately wanted him to stay on, Ossi Runne decided to come back to Finland. “As a music professional, staying in Sweden would have been an attractive option, but I had a young lady in Helsinki. Kaarina and I got married in 1956. Back in Finland, I founded my own band, with three trumpet players, a trombonist, a saxophone player, and full rhythm section. I took care of writing most of the arrangements myself. Olavi Virta became our singer. He had a fantastic voice and really could sing anything, ranging from Sinatra and Fred Astaire’s repertoire to tangos, Italian film songs, and Finnish folk music. Following the taste of the Finnish audiences at that time, he mainly performed tangos and Italian songs during his years with my orchestra. I also made several records with Olavi, most of which we recorded in the Triola studios in Stockholm. When Olavi left the band in 1962, we replaced him by a young and talented girl called… Marion Rung!”

While leading his own orchestra in countless performances across Finland, Runne simultaneously worked as a conductor and producer at Fazer Records. Fazer was one of the most powerful record companies in Finland at that time. Runne stayed with Fazer for 8 years (1957-65). How did he get into the recording industry? 

At work in Fazer's recording studios (early 1960s)

“Shortly upon my return from Sweden, I went to see my old friend and former bandleader Toivo Kärki. Toivo was now the owner of Fazer. I told him I was interested to learn about recording and bluntly asked if he had some job for me. He was surprised that I wanted such a job, even though I was so much in demand as a trumpet soloist and bandleader. I explained him that, being a married man now, I was looking for a more regular life. He decided to give me a chance as his assistant. He helped me a lot in creating my own arrangements, but, increasingly, he wanted me to conduct the arrangements he had written himself. He preferred staying at home, writing orchestrations. When he had finished one, he asked me to take it to the studio. It was my job to find the session musicians required to record it. Toivo used to give me some instructions on what he wanted of the recording, the most important one always being, “Make sure that every word of the Finnish lyrics can be heard. Urge the musicians not to play too loud.” Toivo gave me so much responsibility, that he even disdained listening to the recording when it was done. “When it is out, I will hear it on the radio,” he used to say!”

In his Fazer years, Ossi Runne worked with the likes of Anneli Sari, Marion Rung, and Tamara Lund. For Lund, he also composed and produced a song which became a minor hit, ‘Strip tease’ (1965). Runne’s spell with Fazer coincided with some of the most profound changes in the popular music industry. 

“To be fair, Toivo Kärki underestimated these developments. Up to that point, no musician in Finland had had a keener eye for the taste of Finnish audiences. While touring with his own band, he used to ask people what they wanted them to play. He deserves credit for making tango a popular genre in Finland – and it has remained popular to this day. With the arrival of rock-‘n’-roll, however, he failed to predict that Finland would fall for it. I tried to convince him that this could be the sound of the new age, but he would have nothing of it. “Young guys in Finland could never play in the style of Bill Haley,” he used to say. He was right that most of the schoolboys who tried to play rock, were, technically speaking, not very good musicians. They lacked the background to write melodies themselves. They usually took some old folk songs and tried to play them with a rock approach. One of the few rock recordings on the Fazer label was ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, which I had re-arranged for Pekka Loukiala, a kid who had won some rock contest in Helsinki. Other companies signed far more rock and beat artists than we did and, of course, they overtook us. It was not the end of Fazer, but a big mistake nevertheless.”

Quincy Jones answering questions on the occasion of a radio concert in YLE studios, with Ossi Runne being an attentive listener (early 1960s)

In 1965, Runne was contacted by Finland’s national broadcaster Yleisradio (YLE) to become the conductor and music coordinator of the television entertainment and theatre department. Prior to that, he had already done some freelance work for television, including playing a minor role as a trumpet player in the costume comedy Lumilinna (official title in English, The Cold Old Days), recorded on location in the dead of winter at the Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna. The programme won the Rose d’Or at the annual festival for broadcasting and programming in Montreux in 1965. Disbanding his orchestra and giving up his work at Fazer, Runne joined YLE once and for all in January 1966. He spent the remainder of his working life, no fewer than twenty-four years (1966-90), as a conductor with the Finnish broadcaster.

“At the outset, I was not quite sure what working at YLE would be like. Well, it turned out the TV job was almost the same as what I had done at the record company. Forming orchestras, writing arrangements, bringing the studios in order for a recording, and making the time tables. My function was a new one. Television had only existed for some years in Finland and they found they needed someone responsible for the music department. There was no standing light entertainment orchestra at YLE, such as in many other countries in Europe at that time. For each show or music programme, I formed a band of musicians from the freelance circuit in Helsinki. One of these broadcasts was, of course, the Finnish selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, but there were many more. Sometimes, a programme needed a band of just 5 or 6 men, but, occasionally, we also brought in the entire YLE Radio Symphony Orchestra for award shows and things like that. In case a conductor was needed, I would be the automatic choice.”

During his time with YLE, Runne composed the music to at least a dozen televised theatre pieces and dramas, including Paha kulkee (1967) and Rippipuvut (1980). For one broadcast, he even wrote a ballet, Legenda (1968). Representing Finnish television, Ossi Runne not only conducted 22 Finnish Eurovision entries, but also twice participated in the Knokke Cup in Belgium, with Anneli Sari (1970) and Victor Klimenko & Marion Rung (1971). Did his YLE job change much in the course of those 25 years? 

On the set of TV film ‘Kasakka’ with director Riita Degerholm (centre) and actor/singer Viktor Klimenko (1971)

“It depends how you look at it. In the 1980s, we were still making live music programmes with orchestras, but, at the same time, music itself had changed a lot. More and more often, younger artists brought their own electronic instruments to the studio. They did not need any orchestral backing for a television performance. Nowadays, things have gone even further and orchestras do not have a place in entertainment any longer. Musicians of younger generations write their music in their own, modern style. Given that fact, big bands and orchestras are redundant. I do not feel nostalgic about that, though, having said that, I was happy to serve YLE in my time. It was nice working in the background on some fine programmes.”

Beside his work for YLE, Ossi Runne continued to write songs – music and lyrics – occasionally. Pop tunes of his were recorded by, amongst others, Anneli Sari, Pasi Kaunisto, Eila Pellinen, and Tapio Rautavaara. Meanwhile, he also found the time and energy to keep up his trumpet playing skills. 

“My working day at YLE started at 9 am. Every day, before going to work, I got out of bed early to practice for one hour on the trumpet. I wanted to avoid losing my ability at that instrument, which I had built up so acrimoniously in the 1940s and 1950s. I continued practicing until well after my pension. Working at YLE allowed me enough time to occasionally accept an invitation to do a trumpet concert here or there, though, over time, they usually wanted me as a conductor instead. On average, I did some 5 concerts a year as a freelancer, mainly with brass and wind bands. In the 1970s, I also was the conductor of the Pori Big Band for some years, a Glenn Miller style dance orchestra. When a concert was nearing, I would go to Pori for one weekend to oversee rehearsals.”

In the YLE Studios (c. 1979)

For concerts with semi-professional and amateur bands, Runne composed a jazz piece for flugelhorn in the style of Duke Ellington, ‘Song without words’. He also wrote many arrangements for wind bands. Moreover, he taught the trumpet for over ten years at the Oulynkylä Pop & Jazz Conservatoire in Helsinki. Finally, in 1990, he decided to quit YLE and professional music. 

“There was still enough work to do at Finnish television, but I thought the time was right to stop. I was sick and tired of it all. I knew the music business from top to bottom, had seen everything; now it was time to let someone else have a go.” 

Runne was succeeded in his function as conductor at YLE TV by Olli Ahvenlahti. In a nice gesture of gratitude, the broadcaster dedicated a special televised concert to Runne in 1994 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his career as an artist, in which the trumpet maestro himself performed as well. Moreover, in 1996, Runne was awarded by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation for his merits in the light music sector, being one of the first non-classical musicians decorated by the prestigious foundation which promotes arts, science, and literature in Finland.

Performing his composition ‘Serenade to Viipuri’, stood on the Tower of Saint-Olav in his hometown of Vyborg (1991)

In 1991, Runne composed a ‘Serenade to Viipuri’, a solo work for trumpet which he performed himself, stood on the Tower of Saint-Olav in his hometown of Vyborg – an emotional moment. Though severing most of his ties in the music business after 1990, Runne continued to work with the renowned Karelia Brass Orchestra, a fifty-five piece military band. In the end, he stayed with the concert band for seventeen years (1986-2003). 

“Working with Karelia was one of the nicest experiences of my working life, At the outset I was wondering how I could find the time to conduct such a band. It was born before the war in Viipuri, mostly consisting of musicians from the national railways and the army. Soon after their evacuation to Helsinki in 1940, the band was given a second life. It still exists nowadays, though, of course, members are not from Viipuri any longer. For me, as a child of Viipuri, it was special to be the conductor of this orchestra. The band consists of a mix of amateurs and professional level players, the last group being mostly retired musicians from symphony orchestras. Because of this difference in ability amongst musicians, it was not always easy to find a balance, but we always managed to get a good result. Our repertoire consisted mostly of Finnish folk music and international pop standards, though we occasionally tried our hand at opera potpourris as well.”

In 2003, Ossi Runne published his memoirs, ‘Trumpetilla ja tahtipuikolla’ (= With a trumpet and a baton), edited by Pertti Luhtala. He passed away in 2020, aged 93. Mr Runne was survived by his wife Kaarina, one daughter, and two grandchildren.

Home in Helsinki (2015)


Between Finland’s first Eurovision Song Contest participation in 1961 and 1965, Finland’s entries were conducted by George de Godzinsky. When Runne was appointed as a conductor at YLE Television, he took over the Eurovision job from De Godzinsky.

“But we did not have to fight over it,” Runne laughs. “George was the conductor of the light music section of the symphony orchestra. He was a fine musician and conductor in the Viennese tradition. He specialized in operettas. I had worked with him in the past as a musician in recording sessions. He was a sort of role model for me. Though he wrote his fair share of light entertainment music, he never really liked to play jazz or other modern genres. Frankly, he was glad to get away from Eurovision. No, I did not ask for his advice on the contest; I knew it would not be that difficult a job. I was looking forward to it. It would be nice to get some exposure”.

What was even nicer; Runne got to conduct his own creation at the 1966 Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg. After all, it was his composition ‘Playboy’ which won that year’s Finnish national selection. As Runne explains, there is no story behind this – just plain coincidence.

Ann-Christine Nyström after winning the Finnish Eurovision pre-selection in 1966

“After I joined the broadcasting service in 1966, I never again tried my hand at the contest as a composer. As an YLE employee, I was not allowed to participate. The fact was, however, that I had already submitted ‘Playboy’ to YLE’s Eurovision selection committee in November 1965, weeks before I had been asked to become their conductor. It was a novel situation, but, no, I did not consider leaving the conducting job in Luxembourg to someone else. After all, everybody at YLE knew there had not been any favouritism involved when my song won the Finnish pre-selection in Helsinki, so there was not really an issue.”

What had given him the idea to write ‘Playboy’, a buoyant, upbeat song in the teenage style typical of the early and mid-1960s? “While I worked at the Fazer record company as a conductor and producer, I started writing songs. Most of the times, I wrote the lyrics first. Usually things got underway with an idea; perhaps just one word or a catchphrase. I would make some notes in a scrapbook. Often, I put it away for some weeks or even months, before I took a look at it again to try to write the remaining lyrics. Last came the music, for which I sat down at my piano. For example, there was this beautiful actress and singer Tamara Lund. The catchword that I wanted to use to build a song around for her was ‘Strip tease’. This became the title of my song for her, which she recorded and did enjoy some chart success."

"As for ‘Playboy’, I must have written it around that same time. I wanted to compose a Eurovision song, aimed at an international audience. The basic idea had been in my scrapbook for quite a long time, before I finally wrote the music to it. Because the lyrics were so simple – just a young girl singing about a Casanova character –, the music had to match that. Shortly after having finished it, I spoke to some fellow of the Scandia record company. I was wondering if he knew someone suitable to sing such a little song; a young, happy girl. He came up with Ann-Christine Nyström. Scandia chose Esko Linnavalli to write the orchestration to the song and he did a good job at it.”

About to board the aeroplane to Luxembourg - Ossi Runne with Ann-Christine Nyström

In Luxembourg, ‘Playboy’ finished in 10th position with 18 entries competing. “I did not feel disappointed in any way,” Runne says about the result. “I did not expect to win. Of course, I felt excited about going to Eurovision. After all, it was the first time I went there and I did not really know what to expect. What I needed to get used to most? Well, the strict timetables! The schedule for rehearsals was fixed. Every country was allotted an equal amount of time."

"Sometimes, big artists wanted to bend the rules to allow them more rehearsing time. In 1966, Domenico Modugno (who participated for Italy that year with ‘Dio come ti amo’ and finished last without obtaining any points - BT) tried to do that, but he was not given even one extra minute. Accidentally, I found myself sitting next to him backstage while the votes were coming in. As his song was ignored by jury after jury, he got more and more desperate. "Non è possibile, non è possibile!" were the words he repeated time after time. He was a great songwriter, but his song in Luxembourg was simply overdramatic. He wanted to bring across a profound emotion, but it was too much. People would laugh at it.”

As the conductor of the television branch of national broadcaster YLE, Ossi Runne was the main responsible for the annual programme to select the Finnish Eurovision entry. The first part of the job was to choose suitable songs to compete in the Finnish heats. 

Taking part in Eurovision for the second time, conducting the orchestra for Fredi in Vienna's Hofburg (1967)

“We usually received some 300 songs a year from professional composers and amateur songwriters all over the country. I was in an YLE committee which had to pick the best songs. In the 1960s, we usually chose just six or eight items. It was a time-consuming business to go through this big pile of sheet music, though many of the songs submitted were so bad that we could take our decision in a matter of seconds. I am sure we must have done injustice to some composers. After all, we had to judge their ideas by just playing the music at the piano. Perhaps, we let some brilliant song slip through our hands! Later onwards, songwriters usually sent audio tapes, which made life somewhat easier for us.”

“Once we had our bunch of songs for the Finnish final, proper orchestrations had to be written to each of them. Sometimes, the record companies of the artists involved chose their own arrangers. It was up to me to pick an arranger for the remaining songs. In such cases, I used to give the arranger some directions; my ideas of what the song should sound like. I preferred not to write any scores for the Eurovision Song Contest myself, simply to avoid any suspicion of bias, though I had to jump in at short notice a couple of times when an arranger fell ill or found he did not have the time to do it. I remember having to write the orchestration to some Katri Helena song because her company’s arranger was not available at that time."

"Once all arrangements were in, the next step was to form a band. Since YLE did not have an entertainment orchestra of its own, I brought together a group of experienced freelance players for each music programme. The orchestra of a Eurovision selection show consisted of some twenty to twenty-five musicians, depending on the arrangements we had to play. I rehearsed all songs with the band and conducted the live show broadcast from Helsinki. After the winning song had been picked, the arranger had the opportunity to expand his orchestration. After all, in the international Eurovision finals, the orchestras were about double the size of the band I had worked with for the heats in Helsinki.”

Finland's Eurovision delegation in a bar in Vienna, 1967, with to Ossi Runne's right soloist Fredi and composer Lasse Mårtenson; on the far left is Osmo Ruuskanen, producer of record company Fazer. The other gentleman in the photo might be lyricist Alvi Vuorinen

In 1967, the Finnish national final was won by a melodious ballad penned by Lasse Mårtenson: ‘Varjoon-suojaan’. It was interpreted by Fredi (pseudonym of Matti Siitonen). In the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, Fredi finished 12th. 

“That week in Austria was very nice,” Runne recalls. “As always when I went to a Eurovision Song Contest, my wife accompanied me. Since there were only a couple of rehearsals, we had plenty opportunity to go sightseeing. Visiting all these wonderful palaces in Vienna was thoroughly enjoyable. As for Fredi, I remember walking out on stage with him before the start of our first rehearsal. There was some publisher sitting in the first row hiding his face in his hands when he saw us. We truly must have looked an odd couple; this huge, 150 kilogram singer accompanied by his short conductor. We were the music equivalent of Laurel and Hardy, so to speak!”

The 1968 Eurovision Song Contest took place in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Finland took part with a composition by Esko Linnavalli, ‘Kun kello käy’, sung by Kristina Hautala. Was Runne more nervous about the contest, now that it was held at such a high-profile venue? 

The three protagonists of Finland’s delegation at the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest being interviewed by journalist Pertti Salohainen against the backdrop of London’s Royal Albert Hall, from left to right - performer Kristina Hautala, Ossi Runne, and YLE-commentator Aarno Walli

“No, it was all the same to me. My wife asked me many times if I did not feel nervous about performing for hundreds of millions of people. My answer was always the same, "To me, it does not matter if I am performing for one person or for millions – except that such a big audience feels as an extra honour." During my career, I never felt any stage fright. I honestly do not know what it feels like! The most important thing was that the orchestra played exactly what I wanted from them. In rehearsals, we prepared the song thoroughly. Everywhere I came, the Eurovision orchestras were fine and the music was usually not very complicated. After rehearsing, I simply knew nothing could go wrong. When I did a concert as a trumpet player, I went about in the same way. If I was not sure I would be able to play a piece of music exactly as I wanted, I did not perform it.”

In spite of a charming performance by Kristina Hautala, Finland picked up just one vote in the 1968 festival, tying for last place. As his country’s musical director, did Runne feel responsible when the Finnish entry did badly in the contest? 

“No, because my responsibility was different. My job was to make sure the music would be played the way the participating songwriters and singers wanted; and I did exactly what they wanted. On a personal note, of course, I could feel disappointed or negatively surprised, as was the case with Kristina Hautala. She was a nice girl and I liked Esko Linnavalli’s song. The intro of its arrangement is really quite sophisticated. I expected it to do better in the contest. My most vivid memory of the 1968 contest? Well, dressing rooms in the Royal Albert Hall were shared by two participants. Somehow, they put me in one room with Cliff Richard. Just before the concert was to begin, he was checking two pairs of shoes he had taken with him. He could not make up his mind about which to wear. He asked me for my opinion; and then put on the pair I suggested to him!”

Enthusiastically conducting the orchestra for Kristina Hautala during rehearsals in London's Royal Albert Hall (Eurovision 1968)

When the contest moved to Madrid in 1969, Finland was represented by a boy-girl duo, Jarkko & Laura. Their song, ‘Kuin silloin ennen’, was a composition of Runne’s old mentor in the recording business, Toivo Kärki. It did not do very well, finishing 12th. 

“That was not one of Toivo’s better songs," Runne thinks. "Perhaps it could have done better with more experienced artists performing it. I always felt it was one of my main duties to support the performing artists, keeping their spirits up and making them feel comfortable. I used to urge them to stay calm and relax; and to simply do the same as back in Helsinki, behaving as if it was just another performance. The problem with Jarkko & Laura, however, was that they were too amateurish. In Madrid, they simply were not able to control their nerves. It was kind of funny to see this duo competing in a contest amongst professional singers from all the other countries.”

After Finland skipped the 1970 festival along with the Scandinavian countries and Portugal, the country made its comeback in Dublin one year later, finishing in an 8th place with Markku Aro’s rendition of ‘Tie uuteen päivään’. Meanwhile, Ossi Runne was taking part for the fifth time. Slowly, he was becoming one of the ‘regulars’ in the Eurovision microcosm. 

Finland's performers in the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest, Markku Aro with the Koivisto Sisters

“I was one of the conductors who did the same job every year, such as Dolf van der Linden and Franck Pourcel, perhaps the greatest musician to have taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest. He was elegant as a conductor obviously very experienced in working with big orchestras. I always used to meet with Noel Kelehan. He was a nice fellow and a fine jazz pianist.”

Along with Ireland and the Netherlands, Finland used to send the conductor of the broadcaster’s choice to the contest. Most other participating nations gave the record companies the opportunity to pick the musical director of their preference. These would then usually commission the musician who had arranged the studio version of the song to conduct it in the Eurovision Song Contest. In general terms, which was the better option of the two, according to Ossi Runne? 

“A conductor of the broadcaster, definitely. That way, the record company and the musicians in the band were assured of a guy who was a professional. Over the years, I saw some gentlemen in front of the orchestra who were not up to it. In Dublin, there was this fellow from Norway (Arne Bendiksen - BT). He told the orchestra, “I will count to 4, but, after that, please do not look at me!” How could you expect someone who had never conducted before to properly rehearse a piece of music with an orchestra of 60 musicians? Therefore, a professional conductor was always the best solution.”

With arranger and composer Nacke Johansson in 1968

In 1972, Runne conducted the Eurovision orchestra in Edinburgh for yet another duo, Päivi Paunu and Kim Floor, who performed a song with some elements of Russian folk, ‘Muistathan’, a composition by Juha Flinck and Nacke Johansson. 

“Actually, I did not want to go to Edinburgh," Runne reveals. "I had caught a severe cold and was ill in bed, just days before we were due to take the plane to Scotland. I called Nacke Johansson, who had written the song’s arrangement, requesting him to step in for me, but he refused! Perhaps he lacked the confidence to do it. He was a very experienced arranger, but he was not used to doing that much conducting. “Find someone else,” he said, bluntly. In the end, I decided to do it myself after all. I did not go to the Eurovision Song Contest each year out of vanity; it was just part of my duties. If any composer or arranger had ever suggested to me that he wanted to conduct it himself or preferred someone else instead of me, I would gladly have ceded my place.”

In 1973, when the international festival final was held in Luxembourg once more, Finland obtained its best result ever – 6th place, a record which stood until 2006 – with Marion Rung and her song ‘Tom tom tom’. 

At the contest in Luxembourg with Marion Rung and songwriter Rauno Lehtinen (1973)

When asked for an explanation for the success of this entry, Runne says, “Well, for a start, Marion Rung is one of the best entertainment singers here in Finland. She can handle many different music genres, is very pretty, and always manages to put a smile on her face. ‘Tom Tom Tom’ was nothing special, but tailor-made for Eurovision by Rauno Lehtinen. He worked in the advertising industry, and this showed in his compositions (amongst which the ‘Let Kiss’, an international hit success he wrote for the Gudrun Jankis Orchestra - BT). When he wrote a melody, he was always looking for something which audiences would pick up easily."

"Moreover, Rauno made the wise decision to translate the song in English (between 1973 and 1976, countries were free to choose the language of their Eurovision entry - BT). He understood that the Finnish language always is a problem when going abroad. Nobody outside Finland understands one word of the lyrics, however beautifully written these might be. There were also other languages which suffered in Eurovision, but Finnish was certainly one of the worst.”

In the Eurovision Song Contest final in Brighton (1974), Finland’s entry was composed by Eero Koivistoinen and called ‘Keep Me Warm’. Its interpreter was Carita Holmström. Once again, the Finns finished near the bottom of the scoreboard. 

Congratulating Luxembourg's Anne-Marie David on her Eurovision win (1973)

“It was another song from Finland which deserved much better than it got,” Runne feels. “Carita played the piano live on stage, which was no problem for someone like her with a background in jazz music. Although she should have gotten more votes, it was obvious from the beginning that Sweden and ABBA would win. ‘Waterloo’ was a clever concept – everything: lyrics, clothes... the whole approach was very commercial. Even the conductor (Sven-Olof Walldoff - BT) was dressed up as Napoleon... it was good fun and functional, because it underlined the message of the song.”

Runne’s most vivid memory of Brighton, however, has to do with the first rehearsal with the orchestra of Ronnie Hazlehurst, the BBC’s musical director who made his first Eurovision appearance that year. “We were drawn to perform first, meaning that we were the first to start rehearsing as well. Right before I was to meet the orchestra, I was taken aside by Ronnie Hazlehurst. He whispered, “Now you go to the conductor’s platform and pretend not to speak any English at all.” I did not get it right away, but then he said, “It is simply a joke, Ossi, to fool the musicians!”"

"So I went on stage and said to the orchestra, “Hyvää päivää” (Finnish for, "How do you do" - BT) and then explained to them in Finnish what the song should sound like. They were numb and simply waited for me to count them in. After 7 or 8 bars, I heard the trombone player making a mistake, so I stopped the band and corrected him in Finnish. He looked bewildered, of course. When we had started again, the drummer happened to play some notes which were not in the arrangement. After I had told him what was wrong, again in Finnish, the orchestra was in a mood of uproar. Obviously, they had not understood one word of what I had been saying. At that point, the TV producer came into the auditorium, exclaiming, “What the hell is going on here?” It was only then that Hazlehurst, who had been waiting backstage, entered the hall, laughing out loud and saying, “Sorry boys, it was just a practical joke!” That is one of the reasons why I liked working with British orchestras so much. Everywhere I came, Madrid, Jerusalem, or London, the musicians were the same type of people, but the British always managed to combine their professionalism and versatility with a brilliant sense of humour.”

With Carita Holmström in Brighton (Eurovision 1974)

Finland surprised Europe in the 1975 contest in Stockholm by submitting a country song, ‘Old Man Fiddle’. Performed by the Pihasoittajat group, it managed a respectable 7th position. “I felt that song was a little out of place in the Eurovision Song Contest," Runne comments. “A good song, but not appropriate for such a competition. For the studio version, the group used their own instruments without any orchestral backing, but for the Eurovision Song Contest, they felt it would be foolish not to use the big orchestra which was available to them. That is why Otto Donner wrote a tiny string arrangement. To my mind, this song could have done without. After all, an orchestra does not suit every genre. French chansons with poetic lyrics, for example... it struck me many times listening to a troubadour with a guitar that the orchestral backup distracted from the simplicity of the song.”

Being the conductor of a Eurovision entry also involved being subservient to the intentions of the song and the artist – which do not necessarily reflect one’s own artistic ideals. In Ossi Runne’s case, this was more true than ever in 1976, when Finland entered a simple schlager sing-a-long with an equally evocative title: ‘Pump-Pump’, performed by Fredi (Matti Siitonen). “This song was visually well thought out; a huge singer with two pretty girls by his side. Of course it was not a personal favourite of mine, but my job was to do the best I could with the orchestra and keep the singers happy. All the rest was unimportant.” 

The amount of professional enthusiasm Runne put into this song can be deduced from his flamboyant style of conducting the orchestra in The Hague. “I wanted to convey the happy message of the song to the orchestra. During rehearsals, I always tried to bring about a good atmosphere between me and the orchestra right away. A happy feeling, no bad words. This is your job, this is my job, "Let’s make music." Though I cannot remember names, there were those fellows, other conductors, who behaved as bullies by shouting the musicians down, but that is a method which can only be counterproductive.”

Fredi & The Friends performing 'Pump-Pump' on the Eurovision stage in The Hague (1976)

In the last three contest editions of the 1970s, Finland was represented by female soloists, Monica Aspelund, Seija Simola, and Katri Helena. In spite of good songs and renditions, neither of them did particularly well with the international juries. “I liked these songs a lot – all three of them,” Runne recalls. “Especially Katri Helena’s stage performance on the night in Jerusalem was great; and ‘Katson sineen taivaan’ was a good song. I do not know why it was not a success. The 1979 contest in Jerusalem was a special event. There were soldiers everywhere. Our delegation had 2 or 3 soldiers assigned to us for the entire week. We were not used to such a situation, but it was a necessary measure, no doubt, and they looked after us well.”

As the Israeli broadcaster found itself unable to organise the contest for the second year in a row, the 1980 edition of the festival was given to The Hague again. Finland chose Vesa-Matti Loiri as its representative with the song ‘Huilumies’ (= A flute player) by Aarno Raninen. For the fourth time in Eurovision history, the Finns finished last on the scoreboard. 

“To tell you the truth, I knew in advance that this would go wrong, but I was not in a position to say anything about it. After all, it was the choice of the Finnish audience. Vesa-Matti Loiri is an actor and an excellent comedian too, but not a trained singer. He should have left Eurovision alone. Here in Finland, he was popular, but Europe did not know who he was. The idea of Vesa-Matti playing a couple of bars at the flute in the song was clever, but the song itself was not strong enough; one of the many occasions when we chose the wrong song for the contest.” 

At a cocktail party in Jerusalem, Runne flanked by the towering figure of songwriter of 'Katsoon sineen taivaan', Matti Siitonen, with Siitonen's wife Eva-Riitta to the left; on the far left and right are backing singers Kalle Fält and Vesa Enne (1979)

Finland often scored badly in Eurovision, but, according to Runne, was there ever a potential winner in a Finnish pre-selection which was ignored? “Well, one song springs to mind, but I was not involved in the contest yet back then. It was ‘Minne tuuli kuljettaa’ by Katri Helena (This song, composed by Toivo Kärki, came third in the 1965 Finnish Eurovision pre-selection - BT). It was a jenka, very fashionable at that time, an appealing idea that could have won the contest. It was a huge hit success in Finland.”

Having conducted all Finnish Eurovision entries since 1966, Ossi Runne was replaced as the musical director of the 1981 Finnish delegation by Henrik Otto Donner, in spite of the fact that Runne had been the conductor in the Finnish pre-selection, which was won by Riki Sorsa and ‘Reggae OK’. How come? 

“Initially, I was supposed to conduct that song in Dublin, but then the producer of the national final suggested it would be a good idea to have Otto Donner do the job instead, as Otto had arranged it and knew Riki Sorsa and his band well. I did not feel hurt; why would I? Instead, I went to Dublin as the head of our delegation. I also did the commentary for Finnish TV. It was a very different job. It took me days to get used to all these names of singers, song titles, and conductors. I did not want to make any pronunciation mistake. To avoid this, I wrote out everything I wanted to tell the viewers, word by word. To me, all of this was much more complicated than conducting a Eurovision entry, I can assure you!”

Finnish soloist Kojo on the Eurovision stage in Harrogate (1982)

In 1982, Finland’s Eurovision pre-selection in Helsinki was won by ‘Nuku pommiin’, a song promoting nuclear disarmament, composed by two of the musicians involved in ‘Reggae OK’ the previous year, Jim Pembroke and Otto Donner. The performer was a rock artist, Kojo. In the Eurovision Song Contest final held in Harrogate (England), the Finnish act did not manage to pick up a single point, finishing eighteenth and last. Though Donner was responsible for the orchestration again, it was left to Ossi Runne to conduct the BBC orchestra. 

“I cannot remember exactly why Otto did not conduct this song as well, but bear in mind that it was not Otto who had been pushing to conduct in 1981. It was an idea of the YLE production team. I had the utmost respect for Otto Donner’s jazz and avant-garde compositions and he was a nice fellow, but, politically, I could not have disagreed more with him. After having become co-owner of a record company, Love Records, Otto did his utmost to release as much communist propaganda as he could. That was the background of ‘Nuku pommiin’ as well. It was not correct to submit a song dealing with Finnish national politics for the Eurovision Song Contest. Musically speaking, perhaps the time was right to try with rock music, but Kojo was not good enough as a singer to impress the international juries either. I was not a happy man in Harrogate, because I was ashamed of our entry and expected a disastrous outcome – and I was right. All week, I told myself just to do my job and then go home.”

Runne must have breathed a sigh of relief when Finland went back to normal and selected a song in typical Eurovision style for the 1983 contest in Munich. With ‘Fantasiaa’, Ami Aspelund finished in a decent mid-table position. 

During the lengthy opening ceremony of the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest in Munich, flanked by Dutch singer Bernadette (in yellow), her backing group, and their conductor Piet Souer

“Of course, over time, the style of music in the Eurovision Song Contest was modernized slowly. The amount of smokings and evening dresses decreased over time, but one thing always remained the same – those big, big cocktail parties. I recall a huge banquet organized in 1978 by Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, but he was dwarfed by Ralph Siegel’s efforts in Munich. Siegel composed the winning song in the 1982 festival (Ein bißchen Frieden - BT) and… I suppose he wanted to know it! He had hired a theatre in downtown Munich, where he received some 700 guests, including all delegations of the contest. There was a stage show, and of course food and drinks; and he paid for everything. It must have cost him a fortune.”

In 1984 and 1985, Finland landed two consecutive 9th places in Eurovision with Kirka’s ‘Hengaillaan’ and ‘Eläköön elämä’ by Sonja Lumme respectively. In the Eurovision editions of the 1980s, increasingly, Ossi Runne had to work with songwriters and singers of a younger generation. Did that pose any problems? “No, not at all. As I had done previously, I took the time to really understand the song. Often, this involved meeting up with the arranger, simply to hear what his intentions were and to discuss the music score. I did not feel out of place amongst younger artists, no! Sonja Lumme, for example, was a person I really liked to work with. Her versatility enabled her to sing pop, musical, jazz; she always manages to get it right. ‘Eläköön elämä’ was by no means the best song in her repertoire, but she made the most of it.”

In the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest, held in Bergen (Norway), Finland was represented by Kari Kuivalainen and his song ‘Päivä kahden ihmisen (Never the end)’, a sensitive ballad which finished fifteenth. In the introduction of the Finnish entry, Norwegian host Åse Kleveland said, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to prepare a really warm applause for Ossi Runne, who is this year participating as a conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest for the 20th time,” whereas, in reality, it was ‘only’ his 19th appearance. Was he aware of Kleveland’s mistake at that time? 

With Sonja Lumme in Gothenburg (Eurovision 1985)

“Really? Ha-ha, no, I never realized that. You are the first to tell me. I have never been the kind of person to take notice of that sort of things. As for Kari Kuivalainen, he wrote his Eurovision song himself, but he should not have been performing it; leaving alone the question if it was a good song or not, it was simply too high-pitched for his voice.”

Ossi Runne’s 20th Eurovision conducting appearance came in 1987 in Brussels, where Finland took part with a ‘Sata salamaa’, a powerful pop tune written by Veli-Pekka Lehto and Petri Laaksonen, the songwriting duo which had been responsible for ‘Eläköön elämä’ as well. In spite of a spirited performance by Vicky Rosti, ‘Sata salamaa’ only came fifteenth. Runne could not understand why it left the European juries largely unimpressed. 

“Now, that was a strong entry and Vicky Rosti, being such a dynamic performer, gave it exactly the performance it needed. That girl really knows how to interpret a piece of pop music. In Brussels, all delegations were received by King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola in their palace gardens. The couple exchanged some words with all participants. Me and my wife – we were stunned whilst walking through their garden. It consisted of glass pavilions filled with hundreds of metres of just roses in all colours imaginable. We could not believe our eyes; such a lovely garden right in the middle of Brussels.”

Looking through a score during rehearsals of the 1987 Finnish Eurovision pre-selections

After 7 years, the Eurovision Song Contest returned to Dublin in 1988. Finland’s representatives were a sextet, Boulevard, who performed Pepe Willberg’s composition ‘Nauravat silmät muistetaan’. In an unfortunate twist of fate, the backing tape with pre-recorded rhythm elements faded out at the beginning of the first chorus. The situation visibly unnerved Boulevard’s lead singer Kyösti Laihi, whose vocal performance on the night was below par. Finland finished second-last. 

“Generally speaking, there was nothing wrong with having backing tracks in Eurovision," Runne comments. "I think it was necessary to allow them into the contest, because, with just an orchestra available, composers and arrangers who wanted to create songs in a modern style could not add the exact electronic sounds which they had devised in the studio. It is impossible to recreate that with a symphony orchestra. In Dublin, on the night, while the group was performing and I was in front of the orchestra, I noticed something was wrong immediately. Why could we not hear the backing tape? In rehearsals, there had been no indication that anything would go wrong. This was the only time of all my Eurovision participations that something went wrong with the music, but I would like to stress that it was not my mistake; the backing tracks were the responsibility of the production crew backstage.”

Ossi Runne conducted the Eurovision orchestra for the twenty-second and last time in Lausanne, 1989 – and he finished his festival ‘career’ on a high note with Matti Puurtinen’s composition ‘La dolce vita’, one of the most intelligent Eurovision songs in terms of circumventing the language barrier. This Finnish song with an Italian title and heavily influenced by Spanish traditional music was recognized as a breath of fresh air in the festival. Singer Anneli Saaristo was rewarded with a 7th place. 

Still unaware of the mayhem in Dublin ahead of him, discussing the orchestration of the 1988 Finnish entry ‘Nauravat silmät muistetaan’ with arranger Kassu Halonen (left)

Asked for his opinion of the song, Runne does not hesitate one second, “Without a doubt, this is the best of all 22 songs which I conducted in the Eurovision Song Contest. It was an excellent idea to have two high-class guitarists with Anneli Saaristo on stage. Of course, they played live… and the guys of the Swiss orchestra were immensely impressed. “These fellows must be from Spain,” they told each other. They just could not believe they were really Finnish. The guitars gave the song as a whole such a warm and international atmosphere. On the whole, it was testimony to the talent of composer Matti Puurtinen and his lyricist Turkka Mali. Perhaps a really good-looking singer would have brought us even more points, but Anneli is a good vocalist and her performance on the night was just fine.”

Reaching the pensionable age, Runne left his job at YLE’s television branch in 1990. He was succeeded by Olli Ahvenlahti, who took over as Finland’s conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest as well. That year, by way of saying goodbye to the event which had given him so much media exposure in Finland and abroad, Runne took care of the television commentary for the second and last time. Has he continued following the festival since his last participation?

“Sometimes, I watch some bits, but, honestly, I cannot bear watching the entire evening. First of all, there are too many participants. It is impossible to determine which song is the best with so many acts involved. Music-wise, I have lost interest. It seems gymnastics and looks have become more important than the music itself. Lordi are a good example of this, because I am convinced nobody voted for their song. Nowadays, when switching on the radio, I cannot help getting away from pop music as fast as I can. Contemporary pop is just unbearable to my ears. On the other hand, the European Broadcasting Union were right to give the contest a new image. That way, a new and younger audience was attracted – but this is not for me any longer!”

Runne in 2007 with Aarno Raninen, composer and arranger of the 1977 and 1980 Finnish Eurovision entries 'Lapponia' and 'Huilumies'


So far, we have not gathered any memories of other artists who worked with Ossi Runne.


Country – Finland
Song title – “Playboy”
Rendition – Ann-Christine Nyström
Lyrics – Ossi Runne
Composition – Ossi Runne
Studio arrangement – Esko Linnavalli
(studio orchestra conducted by Esko Linnavalli)
Live orchestration – Esko Linnavalli
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 10th place (7 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Varjoon-suojaan”
Rendition – Fredi (Matti Siitonen)
Lyrics – Alvi Vuorinen
Composition – Lasse Mårtenson
Studio arrangement – Nacke Johansson
(studio orchestra conducted by Nacke Johansson)
Live orchestration – Nacke Johansson
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 12th place (3 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Kun kello käy”
Rendition – Kristina Hautala
Lyrics – Juha Vainio
Composition – Esko Linnavalli
Studio arrangement – Esko Linnavalli
(studio orchestra conducted by Esko Linnavalli)
Live orchestration – Esko Linnavalli
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 16th place (1 vote)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Kuin silloin ennen”
Rendition – Jarkko Antikainen & Laura Ruotsalo
Lyrics – Juha Vainio
Composition – Toivo Kärki
Studio arrangement – Nacke Johansson
(Nacke Johansson Orchestra conducted by Toivo Kärki)
Live orchestration – Nacke Johansson
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 12th place (6 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Tie uuteen päivään”
Rendition – Markku Aro & Koivistolaiset / Koivisto Sisters 
(Anja & Anneli Koivisto)
Lyrics – Rauno Lehtinen
Composition – Rauno Lehtinen
Studio arrangement – Rauno Lehtinen
(studio orchestra conducted by Rauno Lehtinen)
Live orchestration – Rauno Lehtinen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 8th place (84 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Muistathan”
Rendition – Päivi Paunu & Kim Floor
Lyrics – Juha Flinck
Composition – Juha Flinck / Nacke Johansson
Studio arrangement – Nacke Johansson
(studio orchestra conducted by Nacke Johansson)
Live orchestration – Nacke Johansson
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 12th place (78 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Tom Tom Tom”
Rendition – Marion Rung
Finnish lyrics – Rauno Lehtinen
English lyrics – Bob Barratt
Composition – Rauno Lehtinen
Studio arrangement – Rauno Lehtinen
(studio orchestra conducted by Rauno Lehtinen)
Live orchestration – Rauno Lehtinen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 6th place (93 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Keep Me Warm (Älä mene pois)”
Rendition – Carita Holmström
Finnish lyrics – Hector (Heikki Haarma)
English lyrics – Frank Robson
Composition – Eero Koivistoinen
Studio arrangement – Eero Koivistoinen
(studio orchestra conducted by Eero Koivistoinen)
Live orchestration – Eero Koivistoinen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 13th place (4 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – "Old Man Fiddle (Viulu-ukko)"
Rendition – Pihasoittajat (Kim Kuusi / Henrik Bergendahl / Arja Karlsson / Hannu Karlsson / Harry Lindahl / Seppo Sillanpää)
Finnish lyrics – Hannu Karlsson
English lyrics – Arthur Ridgway Spencer
Composition – Kim Kuusi
Studio arrangement – Kim Kuusi
Live orchestration – Henrik Otto Donner
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 7th place (74 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Pump-Pump”
Rendition – Fredi & The Friends / Ystävät 
(= Matti Siitonen feat. Antti Hyvärinen / Titta Jokinen / Anneli Koivisto / Aimo Lehto / Irma Tapio)
Finnish lyrics – Veikko 'Vexi' Salmi
English lyrics – Pertti Reponen
Composition – Matti Siitonen
Studio arrangement – Antti Hyvärinen
Live orchestration – Antti Hyvärinen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 11th place (44 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Lapponia”
Rendition – Monica Aspelund
Lyrics – Monica Aspelund
Composition – Aarno Raninen
Studio arrangement – Aarno Raninen
(studio orchestra conducted by Aarno Raninen)
Live orchestration – Aarno Raninen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 10th place (50 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Anna rakkaudelle tilaisuus”
Rendition – Seija Simola
Lyrics – Reijo Karvonen / Seija Simola
Composition – Reijo Karvonen
Studio arrangement – Reijo Karvonen
Live orchestration – Reijo Karvonen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 18th place (2 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Katson sineen taivaan”
Rendition – Katri Helena
Lyrics – Veikki 'Vexi' Salmi
Composition – Matti Siitonen
Studio arrangement – Paul Fagerlund
Live orchestration – Paul Fagerlund
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 14th place (38 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Huilumies”
Rendition – Vesa-Matti Loiri
Lyrics – Veikko 'Vexi' Salmi
Composition – Aarno Raninen
Studio arrangement – Aarno Raninen
Live orchestration – Aarno Raninen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 19th place (6 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – "Nuku pommiin"
Rendition – Kojo (Timo Kojo)
Lyrics – Juhani 'Juice' Leskinen
Composition – Henrik Otto Donner / Jim Pembroke
Studio arrangement – Henrik Otto Donner
Live orchestration – Henrik Otto Donner
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 18th place (0 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Fantasiaa”
Rendition – Ami Aspelund
Lyrics – Kaisu Liuhala
Composition – Kari Kuusamo
Studio arrangement – Kari Kuusamo
Live orchestration – Kari Kuusamo
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 11th place (41 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Hengaillaan”
Rendition – Kirka (Kirill Babitzin)
Lyrics – Jussi Tuominen
Composition – Jukka Siikavire
Studio arrangement – Jukka Siikavire / Hannu Keinänen
Live orchestration – Jukka Siikavire / Hannu Keinänen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 9th place (46 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Eläköön elämä”
Rendition – Sonja Lumme
Lyrics – Veli-Pekka Lehto
Composition – Petri Laaksonen
Studio arrangement – Bruno Korpela
Live orchestration – Bruno Korpela
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 9th place (58 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Päivä kahden ihmisen (Never the End)”
Rendition – Kari Kuivalainen
Lyrics – Kari Kuivalainen
Composition – Kari Kuivalainen
Studio arrangement – Mika Siekkinen
Live orchestration – Mika Siekkinen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 15th place (22 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – "Sata salamaa"
Rendition – Vicky Rosti 
Lyrics – Veli-Pekka Lehto
Composition – Petri Laaksonen
Studio arrangement – Kassu Halonen
Live orchestration – Olli Ahvenlahti / Kassu Halonen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 15th place (32 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “Nauravat silmät muistetaan”
Rendition – Boulevard (Erkki Korhonen / Kyösti Laihi / Juha Lanu / Jari Nieminen / Jari Puhakka / Tommi Tepsa)
Lyrics – Kirsti Willberg
Composition – Pepe Willberg
Studio arrangement – Kristian Jernström / Kassu Halonen
Live orchestration – Kassu Halonen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 20th place (3 votes)

Country – Finland
Song title – “La dolce vita”
Rendition – Anneli Saaristo feat. Antti Jakoila & Bert Karlsson
Lyrics – Turkka Mali
Composition – Matti Puurtinen
Studio arrangement – Matti Puurtinen
Live orchestration – Matti Puurtinen
Conductor – Ossi Runne
Score – 7th place (76 votes)

  • Bas Tukker interviewed Ossi Runne in Helsinki, August 2015
  • Many thanks to Petri Kaivanto for the Aarno Raninen photo as well as an English synopsis of an earlier interview he did with Ossi Runne in 2010
  • Photos courtesy of Ossi Runne & Ferry van der Zant

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