Saturday 3 May 1997


The following article is an overview of the career of Icelandic-Polish violinist, composer, and arranger Szymon Kuran. A reconstruction of his life was made by Bas Tukker through interviewing several people who knew him personally and privately, in 2012. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Szymon Kuran's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2012-13

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

Born: December 16th, 1955, Szeligi (Poland)
Died: August 7th, 2005, Reykjavík (Iceland)
Nationality: Polish (1955-1991) / Icelandic (1991-2005)


Classical violinist Szymon Kuran was the unlikely person to conduct the upbeat disco track ‘Minn hinsti dans’, the Icelandic Eurovision entry in 1997, performed by Paul Oscar. Kuran, who also co-wrote the score to Iceland’s participation in the contest in 1993 in collaboration with Jon Kjell Seljeseth, penned the string arrangement to Paul Oscar’s song himself.


Szymon Kuran, born in Szeligi, a village close to Warsaw, grew up in a working-class family in the Polish capital, his father Tadeusz being a factory worker and his mother earning some extra money as a seamstress. Tadeusz Kuran, who seems to have been quite sensitive to music, harboured a secret dream of becoming a violin builder, in fact making all the parts needed to make one. It was his son who, much later, gave these to a violin builder who finished the job; Szymon used this instrument as his main violin during the last years of his life. Thanks to his father, who had taught him the first lessons, young Szymon was allowed to take violin lessons with private teachers from the age of eight onwards, most notably composer and violinist Witold Krotkiewski. 

His exceptional talent at playing the violin coming to the fore, Szymon was allowed to study at the Frederic Chopin Secondary School of Music in Warsaw, graduating in 1975, continuing his studies at the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk (Danzig). It is here that Zbigniew Dubik, also a violin student, first met Szymon. 

“Szymon was a couple of years older than me; hence, we were not in the same year. However, we lived in the same dormitory and I got to know him as an extraverted and active student. In his free time, he adored playing jazz music in groups at the institute and in bars. There is this misconception amongst people from the West who think that playing jazz under communist rule was tantamount to rebelling against the system, but, in Poland, this was not the case. You weren't allowed to express yourself politically and travelling abroad was almost impossible, but those were the only restrictions. Musically speaking, we were allowed all freedom imaginable. Later onwards, Szymon and I played together in the Polish Chamber Philharmonic, an orchestra for young musicians. Because of all his activities, Szymon was popular amongst his fellow-students.”

At a jazz gig in Gdańsk (Poland), January 1983

With the violin as his main instrument and having taken courses in composition and the obligatory theory subjects as well, Szymon Kuran graduated from the Moniuszko Academy in 1980. After spending one year (1980-81) in the newly established Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Sopot, an orchestra for young music professionals and the brainchild of conductor Wojciech Rajski, Szymon Kuran became the concertmaster of the Polish Baltic Philharmonic in Gdańsk, a position he held for two years (1981-83). Subsequently, receiving a scholarship from the Polish state, Kuran was allowed one year of additional studies of the violin and composition at the National Centre for Orchestral Studies of the Goldsmiths’ College (University of London) in England. 

In response to an advertisement, Szymon Kuran came to Reykjavík to audition for second concertmaster in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in 1984 and was chosen for the job. Guðrún Sigurðardóttir, an Icelandic cello player who later became Kuran’s wife, comments, “There were no political reasons Szymon didn't want to go back to Poland. For artists, however, life in Poland was a struggle and Szymon, being a creative musician, was simply looking for an opportunity to work and he found it in Reykjavík. His exceptional talent was immediately recognized at the audition with the orchestra.” 

Szymon Kuran stayed with the Iceland Symphonic for 16 years, playing the solo violin in several performances, most notably the Icelandic premieres of Andrzej Panufnik’s Violin Concerto (in 1993) and Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto (in 1996); he also performed the former of these two concerts with the Norðurland Symphonic in Akureyri. Later onwards, he worked as the concertmaster of the Norðurland Symphony Orchestra as well as the Orchestra of the Icelandic Opera for some time.

Zbigniew Dubik, the violinist who studied with Kuran in Gdańsk and came to Iceland to play in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra 4 years after Kuran’s arrival, saw Kuran at work from close by. “Szymon was the person who told the orchestra’s management about me and I am eternally grateful to him for that. He was an important member of the orchestra and was highly esteemed by the other players. On many occasions, when our first concertmaster was unavailable, Szymon replaced him. Frustrated about being passed over for first concertmaster year after year, he took a leave of a couple of months, but when the manager sent him a letter requesting to come back, he highly appreciated this and decided to take his place in the orchestra again.”

Icelandic jazz combo Súld recording their first album 'Bukoliki' in Studio Stef, from left to right - Szymon Kuran, Stefán Ingólfsson, (seated) Lárus Halldór Grímsson, and Steíngrimur Guðmundsson (January 1988)

It was not long before Szymon Kuran engaged in music projects in Iceland in other genres as well, most notably jazz music. Towards the end of the 1980s, he founded the jazz formation Súld, which performed at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in Canada, whilst he formed the Kuran Swing Quartet in 1989, with which he also played in Iceland and abroad. With the quartet, he released an album, ‘Kuran Swing’, in 1992. Later onwards, Kuran occasionally performed with the Icelandic jazz formation South River Band. 

Composer and friend Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson about Kuran’s love for jazz, “Szymon was much more passionate about jazz than I could ever be, because it was part of his identity. He had been playing jazz music zealously since his days as a student in Poland. Súld was an excellent jazz band, which mainly played Szymon’s compositions. The project had been his brainchild in the first place. They were really on the verge of breakthrough, receiving some big offers from record companies, but one way or another it never really materialized. Szymon regretted this immensely.”

As a session player, Szymon Kuran was much in demand from the 1980s onwards, playing on countless recordings for pop and film music. In particular, he worked extensively with the renowned Icelandic film composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, for whom he recorded the violin parts in no fewer than ten soundtracks between 1991 and 2005, Children Of Nature, The Secret Weapon, Wildside, Foreign Fields, Angels Of The Universe, Falcons, Horse Story, Nu, In The Cut, and - released in 2006, one year after Kuran's passing - When Children Play In The Sky

“I first met him in 1990 at a small concert venue in Reykjavík," Hilmarsson recalls, "where he gave this wonderful impromptu solo performance in gypsy style. I was blown away by what I heard… people can try to fake this style of playing, but they lack the emotion, but Szymon’s performance was only emotion! Here was a classical musician who knew how to play other types of music as well – and really feel it. Until I met Szymon, I had had problems in the violin parts of my soundtracks. Having played the violin myself as a youngster for some time, I always had precise ideas in my head about how the violin parts should be performed, but it rarely came across. From the moment Szymon and I started talking about music, however, he responded so well, exactly understanding which feelings I wanted to express in my music. After his work on Children Of Nature, with which I won the Felix Award in Berlin, there was no question I would ever allow any other violinist to play what I had written than only Szymon. He made my music come alive!”

On their Canadian tour, right after a performance in Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall, Súld with one guest artist; from left to right - Steíngrimur Guðmundsson, Lárus Halldór Grímsson, Maarten van der Valk, Szymon Kuran, and Stefán Ingólfsson (1988)

“To make that point even more clear,” Hilmarsson continues, “when I was working on the film Hin helgu vé in 1993, Szymon was abroad and unavailable to record my music. Therefore, I decided to rewrite all violin parts for a viola… I just couldn't bear the thought of having another violin player than Szymon. Another unforgettable memory was the recording of the soundtrack of In The Cut in 2003. Director Jane Campion, producer Laurie Parker and I were in the Salurinn in Kópavogur to supervise the recording of the music to that film. For one piece, Szymon played the lead violin and once again succeeded in bringing across exactly the feelings that I wanted to convey. At the end of the session, Jane, Laurie, and I, but Szymon as well, were reduced to tears. It was not unnatural for Szymon to weep when he really got into a piece of music. When it came to music, he was just pure love and pure heart.” 

As a session player, Szymon Kuran often gathered a group of string players for recordings with pop artists. As such, he accompanied the likes of Halla Margrét, Paul Oscar, the Millionaires, Casino, and many more. For producers such as Jón Ólafsson and Jon Kjell Seljeseth, he was the first violinist to call when a violin solo was needed. In 1999, his contribution to Sigur Rós’ breakthrough album ‘Ágætis byrjun’ was of pivotal importance. Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson worked closely with Sigur Rós. 

“Szymon more or less conducted the string accompaniment for that album. None of the boys in the band had any skills in writing scores and their notation programme was slightly primitive. They came out with a very crude template of the orchestral accompaniment, leaving much to the initiative of the players. Szymon did a wonderful job on this. The engineer of the album, Ken Thomas, an extremely experienced guy who had come over from England to do the recording, was very much impressed by Szymon’s abilities.”

Apart from working as a session player, Szymon Kuran was also regularly asked to write arrangements for studio projects, amongst others for the renowned Icelandic folk band Rio Trio. In 1995, Kuran penned part of the scores for Paul Oscar’s cover album ‘Palli’, while producer Jon Kjell Seljeseth sometimes called upon his help when a string arrangement was required. Moreover, he wrote the orchestration to Gunnar Þórðarson’s first classical composition, ‘Nocturne’, which was released in 1987. 

Second concertmaster of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra (c. 1990)

Throughout his career, Szymon Kuran engaged in composing classical music. During his student days in Gdańsk, he wrote several works, including a Sinfonia Concertante dedicated to the memory of Dimitri Shostakovich (1977), and a Nocturne for Piano (1978), for which he was awarded with the first prize in composition and arrangement at the International Festival of Sacral Music 1978 in Warsaw. Later onwards, amongst other works, he added a 'Post Mortem for Strings' (1981) and a 'Square for Violin, Flute, Clarinet, and Cello' (1984) to his oeuvre. In 1991, Kuran finished ‘In The Light Of Eternity’, a most unusual mass in jazz style, on which he had been working for over 15 years. Many of Kuran’s classical works were premiered by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. 

In 1999 and 2003, he also wrote two ballets, but Szymon Kuran’s main work is without a doubt his 'Requiem for Children’s Voice, Solo Violin, Flute, Guitar, Three Choirs, a String Orchestra, and Percussion', dedicated to the memory of Brynhildur Sigurðardóttir, which he finished after 6 years of composing in 2000. The Icelandic premiere of Kuran’s requiem took place in Reykjavík’s Basilica of Christ the King, the main Roman Catholic church in Iceland, April 2001. Five years later, one year after Kuran’s passing away, the piece was first performed in Poland in the All Saints’ Church in Warsaw. 

When asked about Kuran's classical compositions, Zbignieuw Dubik, one of the Polish violinists of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, comments, “Szymon was fascinated by Polish contemporary music by Henryk Górecki and Karol Szymanowski. I can feel some resemblance to those two composers, though Szymon developed a unique style of his own: a very lyrical form of contemporary music. He was at his best when he could write music to poetry. The music he created to it was usually deep and reflective.”

Szymon Kuran, who was awarded with the so-called Borgarlistmaður, the Artist of the Year Prize of the City of Reykjavík in 1994, also worked as a private violin teacher in Iceland. In the last years of his life, he suffered from severe depressions, which barely allowed him to continue his professional activities. Szymon Kuran passed away in August 2005 at the age 49.

In 2003, in Reykjavík’s Kaffileikhusid, Kuran played the violin in a guest performance with an Icelandic gypsy formation called the South River Band; from left to right: Helgi Þór Ingason, Ólafur Baldvin Sigurðsson, Szymon Kuran, Kormákur Bragason, Ólafur Þórðarson, Jón Árnason, Gunnar Reynir Þorsteinsson, and Grétar Ingi Grétarsson


Given Szymon Kuran’s background as a classically trained violinist who was one of the most highly regarded members of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, it must have come as a surprise to him as well that he found himself conducting the rebellious disco entry ‘Minn hinsti dans’, Iceland’s participation to the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin. Nonetheless, on closer examination, Szymon Kuran’s involvement in the festival runs deeper than just this one entry.

Kuran led the string section during the studio recording of several songs which participated in the Icelandic final, including Halla Margrét’s ‘Hægt og hljótt’, arranged by Jon Kjell Seljeseth and Hjálmar Ragnarsson, which earned the right to represent the Nordic island in the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest held in Brussels. In 1993, Seljeseth invited Kuran to arrange the strings to his composition ‘Þá veistu svarið’, performed by Inga, which was the Icelandic entry in the 1993 festival. Seljeseth wrote the rest of the orchestration and was the conductor of the song in the contest’s final held in Millstreet, but, as Jon Kjell Seljeseth himself reveals, his original idea was to ask Szymon Kuran to take the conducting honours.

“I just wanted to come along as the songwriter, relaxing a bit without all the stress of rehearsals and giving the chance to a professional conductor. As Szymon was involved in writing the arrangement, he seemed like a good choice. He was such a likeable guy and, moreover, much better equipped than I to write for strings. As a producer, I invited him to play in string sessions in the studio whenever I had the opportunity. He had some conducting experience as well, certainly more than me or guys like Gunnar Þórðarson and Jón Ólafsson, who had previously conducted for Iceland in the contest."

"Before letting Szymon know, I happened to have a chat with RÚV’s chief Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, who I told about my intentions. The fact was that the budget for that year’s Eurovision project was one of the lowest in Iceland’s history as a participant in the contest. As a composer, I received part of that budget. I told Hrafn it was so small, that I would have to put some of my own money in to cover the expenses. Then, quite logically, he suggested that I should do the conducting myself, thereby avoiding having to pay for Szymon’s ticket to Millstreet and, on top of that, for his salary for the conducting job. I decided to take Hrafn’s advice, although I came to regret it, because it would have been so nice to go out there together with Szymon! I never told him about my initial plans, not even after the contest.”

Iceland's soloist Inga on the Eurovision stage in Millstreet (1993)

To understand how Szymon Kuran became the conductor of Paul Oscar’s eccentric disco track ‘Minn hinsti dans’ in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, it is necessary to retrace the history of the song itself. Quite contrary to the live rendition in Dublin, the studio track of the song does not include any orchestral elements. Singer Paul Oscar (Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson) composed and produced ‘Minn hinsti dans’ in collaboration with Trausti Haraldsson. 

“Trausti and I did the studio arrangement all by ourselves," Paul Oscar comments. "We programmed the whole thing up in Trausti’s tiny studio in Akureyri, where he lived at that time. When Trausti and I were ready, I was worried that something was missing… at that point, I called on the help of Jóhann Jóhannsson, a genius composer with whom I regularly worked at that time. I wondered if he could add some flavour to what we had done. Jóhann made some suggestions, but these simply didn't work out properly. Due to an approaching deadline, there was no question of even considering adding orchestral elements to the track… we simply lacked time. Therefore, the single version of ‘Minn hinsti dans’ is just the rhythm track which Trausti and I recorded up in Akureyri.”

In an internal vote, ‘Minn hinsti dans’ was chosen by RÚV, the Icelandic broadcaster, to represent Iceland in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest. 

“When it was clear that RÚV wanted me to go to Eurovision for Iceland,” Paul Oscar continues, “I decided that it would be cool to mix the two elements together; our own programmed beats and baseline and the orchestra in Dublin. After all, there was the possibility to work with a fully-fledged orchestra and I thought it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to work with it. By using an orchestra, you will achieve a bigger, more glamorous sound, while also creating a sense of excitement you only get from a performance which is live."

Paul Oscar backstage at Eurovision 1997 in Dublin

"I wanted Szymon Kuran for the job, because I had worked with him on several occasions since my first disco solo album in 1993. Back then, composer Johann Jóhannsson and I wanted to create strings in the style of the disco group Chic and first tried fake strings recreated by a synthesizer. Unhappy with the outcome, we wanted the real thing. Jon Kjell Seljeseth advised us to talk to Szymon. He wrote some of the arrangements and played them with three of his colleagues from the Iceland Symphonic. The outcome satisfied us all and I worked with Szymon on several other recording projects in the following years.”

“Szymon was willing to accept this Eurovision challenge, the main challenge for him personally being that he had to conduct a live orchestra to pre-recorded backing tracks, something I believe he had never done before. I made it clear from the beginning that I didn't just want him to write the orchestration, but also to conduct it in the international final in Dublin. It was obvious from day one that Szymon liked this prospect. Being the kind of person willing to give everything a try, he was really open to all kinds of music and experiences; that is one thing – the next is to actually pull it off… and, in Ireland, he pulled it off with an amazing ease. With Szymon conducting, we never worried for a second about the orchestra. I was extremely satisfied with the outcome.”

Did Szymon Kuran enjoy himself amidst the Eurovision extravaganza in Dublin? When asked, Paul Oscar guesses, “I believe he did, yes! I cannot be sure, because even in Ireland Szymon and I never really socialised. Our relationship was strictly professional, but, at the same time he was so friendly and the communication was very slick. That was one of the reasons I liked working with him. He was quite shy, but when he had the opportunity to play his violin, he was extremely open! In the course of the week of rehearsals, he attended quite some parties and he always took his violin with him. He would just jump on stage and improvise with other artists. I remember he played along some songs with a band which played at the party of the Irish delegation… simply by ear. The atmosphere in our Icelandic group was good; we were a truly happy crew. Though we didn't get many votes, I think we managed to rock the boat they way I had intended to; Szymon was a key factor in bringing it about!”

“Szymon was a truly gifted artist,” Paul Oscar concludes. “It was painful to see this awful disease of manic depression slowly but surely eating him up in the following years. I worked with him on two more album projects in 1998 and 1999, for which Szymon led a string group of sixteen players and did a wonderful job. When, in 2001, I was in need of some strings for a recording project I did with the harpist of the Iceland Symphonic, she told me Szymon was too ill to do the job. Therefore, sadly, we had to go for another arranger. I have excellent memories of working with Szymon Kuran… he had an open heart, a heart full of art.” 

Paul Oscar and two of his backing artists on the Eurovision stage in Dublin

Quite surprisingly, as it turns out, the 20th place of ‘Minn hinsti dans’ in Dublin was not the last chapter in the Eurovision book of Szymon Kuran. In 2004-05, Kuran harboured plans to participate in the Icelandic Eurovision pre-selection with a song of his own. To get the piece ready, he turned to his friend, arranger and producer Jon Kjell Seljeseth

Seljeseth, digging in his memory, told us in 2012, “Actually, I had forgotten all about this. The computer folder, in which I found the demo recently, is labelled ‘Szymon Kuran 2004’. Szymon requested me to help him making a demo of a song he planned to submit to the Icelandic heats. He had resolved he finally wanted to come up with a Eurovision song himself! We put together a recording, of which the purpose was to serve as a scratch track for recording the vocals. What happened next? I have no idea if Szymon really submitted the song.”

Some further investigation now proves that he did. As it turns out, vocals were added to the first demo by Esther Talia Casey, the daughter of a friend, while her husband Ólafur Egill Egilsson came up with some guitar lines. The couple recorded a second demo, with provisional English lyrics to suit the melody, ‘Love Is A Fool’. 

“Szymon requested me to sing the demo for him," Esther herself recalls. "We recorded it in the studio of our neighbour, a guitarist. Szymon was very humble about the project and I think he was just doing it for fun… but I cannot be sure.” 

Kuran himself sent this new demo version to Icelandic television, but his creation was rejected. In the summer of 2005, he passed away. Thanks to Jon Kjell Seljeseth, Esther Talia Casey, and Ólafur Egill Egilsson, who allowed us to publish the demos, we can now listen to both versions of ‘Love Is A Fool’.


Icelandic classical composer Hjálmar H. Ragnarsson states, “Szymon was a very delicate and sensitive person, who looked quite withdrawn, but had big ambitions within him to make his mark as a creative musician. In the last years of his life, his production as a composer of classical works was impressive. The quality of it was outstanding… and very Polish with lots of slow strings, giving the music a melancholic feel. One of the best things about Szymon was that he did not have any of these inhibitions that many classical musicians have towards working on pop and other light entertainment genres. He was much in demand with producers, because he was such an excellent session player.” (2012)

Film composer, art director, and personal friend Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson comments, “Szymon Kuran is the most fascinating musician I have met in my whole life. Music was his main drive and when he was caught by a piece of music he interpreted, he would just ‘live’ it. At the same time, he was a man of many interests, making him an excellent collocutor in a wide range of subjects. To my mind, he felt quite at home in Iceland and if he ever felt nostalgia, it was rather for England, where he had spent a year on a scholarship, than for Poland. I know he wished he had started earlier writing classical music. He deserves to be remembered as one of the most remarkable performers Iceland has ever seen. With his playing and his compositions, he enriched our musical culture to no end. As a human being, Szymon was the best… I have never met an equal. I miss him every day!” (2012)

Icelandic pop producer Gunnar Þórðarson worked with Szymon Kuran on several recording projects in the 1980s and 1990s. “In 1987, Szymon was kind enough to accept my request to arrange the first-ever classical piece I wrote, ‘Nocturne’. He accomplished it beautifully. I also called upon him to arrange some strings for one Rio Trio album which I produced. Szymon was able to work in all styles of music and he liked doing many different things. By character quite withdrawn, he made the impression of being happy to keep in the background.” (2012)

Icelandic pop musician and producer Jón Ólafsson called on Kuran's help for his studio projects regularly. “Szymon Kuran played the violin on a lot of albums for which I did the production. He was a very sensitive person and put lots of emotion into his violin play… big emotions, in a way that usually only gypsies are capable of. In 2002, when I produced a concert with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of the thirty-fifth birthday of the Beatles’ album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’, Szymon did the Indian violin solo on George Harrison’s composition ‘Within you without you’. That was great stuff… he could improvise like no other and played different styles without any problem.” (2012)

Kuran’s former spouse, cellist Guðrún Theodora Sigurðardóttir, about Szymon’s relationship with his motherland: “Szymon did not have particularly good memories of his life in Poland and he did not harbour plans to move back there. He consciously changed nationality in the 1990s. However, it was a feature of his character to always long for things that were gone. He used to give this feeling a Polish name, żał or ‘grief’. It is the Polish word that can be used for everything you miss in your life... this form of melancholy really was his essence!” (2012)

Polish violinist Zbigniew Dubik got to know Szymon Kuran during his student days at the Gdańsk conservatory and later joined him as a player at the Iceland Symphony Orchestra: “It was Szymon who brought me to Iceland… in ’88, he suggested I should take the audition for the symphony orchestra and made sure I received an invitation to travel to Iceland. Szymon was extremely helpful during my first, difficult months in Reykjavík. He supported me spiritually by regularly inviting me over to his place to have dinner and a chat; on top of that, he helped me overcoming the language barrier by filling out bills and translating some inevitable government documents for me. On a personal level, he was most generous and thoughtful… he was the kind of person to surprise you with a present when you least expected it, just because he thought highly of you. Both as a violinist and a composer, he deserves to be remembered as the artist of renaissance, simply because he was so multi-talented and worked in many different genres at such a high level.” (2012) 

In Warsaw, 2006, posthumously, Szymon Kuran’s ‘Requiem’ was first performed in his native Poland


Country – Iceland
Song title – “Þá veistu svarið”
Rendition – Inga
Lyrics – Friðrik Sturlúson
Composition – Jon Kjell Seljeseth
Studio arrangement – Jon Kjell Seljeseth / Szymon Kuran
Live orchestration – Jon Kjell Seljeseth / Szymon Kuran
Conductor – Jon Kjell Seljeseth
Score – 13th place (42 votes)

Country – Iceland
Song title – “Minn hinsti dans”
Rendition – Paul Oscar (Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson)
Lyrics – Paul Oscar
Composition – Trausti Haraldsson / Paul Oscar
Studio arrangement – Trausti Haraldsson / Paul Oscar
Live orchestration – Szymon Kuran
Conductor – Szymon Kuran
Score – 20th place (18 votes)

  • In the course of 2012, Bas Tukker talked to several people who worked with Szymon Kuran over the years, most notably his ex-wife Guðrún Theodora Sigurðardóttir, as well as with: Zbigniew Dubik, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Jon Kjell Seljeseth, Hjálmar H. Ragnarsson, Jón Ólafsson, and Gunnar Þórðarson
  • Bas Tukker interviewed Páll Oskar Hjálmtysson (Paul Oscar) about his experiences of working with Szymon Kuran, amongst others on the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest project (August 2012)
  • A book about Iceland’s involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest - Gylfi Garðarsson, “Gleðibankabókin”, ed. NótuÚtgáfan: ed. Reykjavík 2011
  • Many thanks to Jon Kjell Seljeseth, Esther Talia Casey, and Ólafur Egill Egilsson for allowing us to publish both demo versions of ‘Love Is A Fool’
  • Thanks to Kasia Lasota for helping me to understand the Polish concept (and orthography!) of żał
  • Photos courtesy of Guðrún Theodora Sigurðardóttir, the Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra, and Ferry van der Zant


Born: June 21st, 1948, Sunderland, England (United Kingdom)
Nationality: British

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


After having studied English and music at the University of Nottingham, Don Airey successfully took a diploma in the piano at the Royal Manchester College of Music. In 1974, he moved to London, where he played in several bands: Hammer, Rainbow, and the jazz ensemble Colosseum II. In the recording studio or on stage, he played as a keyboardist with the likes of Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Jethro Tull, Ozzy Osborne, Judas Priest, and ELO. Since 2001, when he joined Deep Purple, he has toured the world with this band.


Besides playing as a session musician on the single recording of ‘Love Shine A Light’, Don Airey arranged and conducted the live version for Katrina & The Waves. With a landslide, this band won the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, representing the United Kingdom.


Country – United Kingdom
Song title – "Love Shine A Light"
Rendition  Katrina & The Waves (KATW = Katrina Leskanich / Vince de la Cruz / Alex Cooper / Phil Nichol)
Lyrics – Kimberley Rew
Composition – Kimberley Rew
Studio arrangement – Mike Nocito
Live orchestration – Don Airey 
Conductor – Don Airey
Score – 1st place (227 votes)


The following article is an overview of the career of French multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and conductor Régis Dupré. The main source of information are two interviews with Mr Dupré, both conducted by Bas Tukker (Paris, May 2011 & January 2023). The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Régis Dupré's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2011 & 2023

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

Born: January 15th, 1950, Paris (France)
Nationality: French


Régis Dupré was the conductor of three Eurovision entries, the first one being ‘Croire’, with which Lara Fabian represented Luxembourg in the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, finishing fourth. Later, Dupré returned to lead the orchestra for two French entries, ‘White and Black Blues’, which tied for second place in 1990, and ‘Sentiments songes’ in 1997. These songs were performed by Joëlle Ursull and Fanny Biascamano respectively.


Born and raised in the heart of Paris, Régis Dupré was the son of an antique dealer. However, both of his grandfathers were avid amateur musicians. 

“One was a drummer-accompanist of accordion players,” Régis explains, “while the other played the violin and the trombone in various classical orchestras. This was in the period between the two world wars. As you can imagine, due also to my father’s profession, I grew up in an artistic environment. I must have been five years old when I first tried my hand at music; I was fascinated by the sound of percussion and tried to replicate those sounds I had heard on the radio by using a footstool as a makeshift drumkit. The music I listened to was hardly ever French variété – and in our house, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or any other pop music were hardly ever heard… not even French yé-yé. My brother, who was six years older than me, adored jazz in all its colours, ranging from Lionel Hampton to bebop. Of course, I was influenced by his tastes. As a child, I liked the American crooners like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, but my favourites were The Platters! All in all, I think it is fair to say that I wasn’t really influenced by any musical genre which developed in the 1960s.”

“When I was still in primary school, I had some piano lessons, but certainly not for longer than a year. I lacked the motivation to study. Some years later, as an early adolescent, gathered about the campfire with some friends who played the guitar, I had my first go at this instrument myself. Also, accompanying my father at antique fairs in and around Paris, I regularly found myself at old pianos which were up for sale, trying to get some little melody out of it. Seeing how much I loved playing music, my dear father then bought me an old upright piano at an auction. Some years later, I also taught myself to play the transverse flute. That’s my way of learning things – by myself. I’m an autodidact if ever there was one! As a teenager, I played in all kinds of amateur bands. The first was with Marc Bozonnet, who later accompanied Johnny Hallyday and Hugues Aufray on stage as a guitarist. As a duo, simply called Marc & Régis, we started performing here and there. One time, when we were on holiday in the spa town of Vic-sur-Cère, we even got to play in the local casino as the support act for Joe Dassin!”

“Meanwhile, at school, things weren’t going so well. I dropped out when I was 16. My parents wanted me to learn a profession – and because drawing had always been a passion, I chose to study graphic arts. Meanwhile, I continued performing with Marc Bozonnet, but also with a new friend who I met at art school, Marc Fosset. Fosset went on to become a professional musician as well, playing with Stéphane Grappelli for over 20 years! Teaming up with Marc, I played gypsy-style jazz in bistros and bars across Paris. Slowly but steadily, my guitar playing improved; and the money was quite good. I was invited to play in bars and in various groups here and there. Accepting that music was my passion and my life, I quit art school in 1968. In the following years, I played at gala nights accompanying Nancy Holloway, Michel Mallory, and many others; there also was a holiday park on the French Riviera where I spent some summers playing for the guests. It was all part of my learning curve.”

Régis (far left) playing the guitar in Jacques Hélian's orchestra (1972)

“Now, generally speaking, I don’t like finding myself in chaotic situations. I’ve always been an orderly person. In most of the gigs I was doing, the musicians in the band played by ear. Usually, there was just a pianist, a bass player, a percussionist, and myself at the guitar; and, even with so few musicians on the podium, most of the times the performance was a mess! There were no written-out scores and there was no harmony whatsoever in the way the band played. At a point, I got fed up with that. I took up a pencil and a piece of paper to write out the parts for the different instruments, which resulted in a much better performance, making all of us very happy. So you could say those were my first arrangements, just for rhythm section.”

“Going into the 1970s, I continued to do odd jobs as a musician here and there; restaurants, nightclubs, hotels… everywhere. Because I had to play in so many different styles, you could say this was the period of my formal education. I learnt my profession on the road. In 1973, I played in a trio on the ocean liner ‘France’ which crossed the Atlantic from Le Havre to New York. Believe it or not, one of the other artists booked by the ferry line was Dizzy Gillespie. He was a hugely likeable guy, but I didn’t get to perform with him – and honestly speaking I’m not so sure if I would have managed!”

“At the same time, I slowly started getting booked as a guitarist for recording sessions in Paris’ record studios as well. It gave me the opportunity to work under some of the best studio arrangers. In those days, they usually recorded their arrangements in one session, with rhythm section and string and brass players all gathered in the same studio. Something else which proved very important, were the conversations I had with some of my colleagues in the studio, asking them to explain certain musical choices they had made. My eyes and ears were wide open; I was a sponge, absorbing absolutely everything that was going on around me. This was a world I wanted to know more about. I bought myself some arranging textbooks and studied as much as I could if I ever wanted to get the opportunity to write arrangements for full orchestra myself. I saw some great French arrangers at work, but I would say my main inspiration always was the American style of arranging – the big bands accompanying Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., but also film soundtracks and the orchestrations of the famous musicals from the 1950s and 1960s.”

“In 1975, I met a guy called Toni Carlson. Toni was a black artist playing African entertainment music in disco style. He was part of the entourage of Nancy Holloway. On stage, he called himself Maâni. One day, we sat down to have a chat, just the two of us – and I played him some little melodies I had written. He simply said, “Well, I quite like that… and you know, I have just signed a record deal for a single release with Polydor. I would like you to take care of the arrangements for me.” What an opportunity! It was the first time I had the chance to work as a studio arranger – and this was also because Polydor’s artistic director didn’t object to me taking the commission. He didn’t know me at all, so that was very generous of him. He was called Michel Elmosnino – and Michel and I became great friends. The song (entitled ‘So so so di bi una’ – BT) wasn’t a commercial success, but I had a foot in the door!”

Dupré with Dizzy Gillespie - New York, 1973

“In the following years, I did the arrangements for lots of disco recordings. Many of them were done with just rhythm instruments, but the first one which also included strings and brass was the single ‘King Kong’ with the Century Orchestra. The flipside was a melody I wrote myself, ‘Gorilla, King of the Jungle’. That’s actually one of the very few compositions of my own which have been recorded. I built a reputation as an arranger – so I was booked as an arranger and this left me little time to write music myself.”

“There was more to what I did than just disco in those years. Sharing the workload with Guy Matteoni, I co-wrote the arrangements to Marie Myriam’s second album. Marie was married to Michel Elmosnino, who invited me to work on the project. An interesting group I also got to work with was La Bande à Basile. With them, each song had its own flavour – ranging from Broadway-style big bands, South-American folk, to plain French chanson. This meant that I got to write orchestrations in all those styles, which was very interesting and educational at the same time.”

In 1979, French pianist Richard Clayderman, who had won international fame with the gentle melody of ‘Ballade pour Adeline’ three years before, went on a world tour for the first time. Régis Dupré was commissioned to be the arranger and conductor for his live concerts.

“I had known Richard Clayderman for some years,” Dupré explains. “His real name was Philippe Pagès and he was a session pianist. He played the synthesiser on many of my earliest arrangements, including the track with Maâni which started my career as an arranger. Philippe and I were buddies! In 1978, we were both in the orchestra accompanying Thierry Le Luron (comedian and chansonnier – BT) on his tour across France. Now, ‘Ballade pour Adeline’ was a composition by Paul de Senneville and Olivier Toussaint, who were also his producers. When the ‘concept’ Richard Clayderman caught on with audiences in many parts of the world, they suggested to him to go on tour and perform his melodies on stage – and he wanted me as his musical director."

Régis played the bass guitar in the Parisian cabaret Paradis Latin for some time; here, he can be seen having a chat with composer Frédéric Botton (1936-2008) in between two performances (1977)

“On the first tour, we performed in South Africa and various Latin American countries. Clayderman and I travelled alone; and at each venue, there was an orchestra which was booked to do the local concert with him. However, when we embarked on the second tour, which took us to Japan, we took a rhythm section of French musicians with us. Clayderman picked a group of our friends from the Thierry Le Luron orchestra. My job was to write the arrangements for the local orchestras and rehearse and finally conduct the concert."

"We didn’t only play the charts which Hervé Roy and Gérard Salesses arranged for Clayderman’s studio albums. It would have been boring to have a two-hour concert with all arrangements being in the same style. More variation was required, with arrangements in different musical genres, jazz, funk, even classical reprises. Don’t forget that I had to adapt the orchestrations to the orchestra available in a particular concert. Sometimes, we worked with just strings, but, on other occasions, there was a full symphony orchestra available. I also copied the parts for the different instruments for each concert, a huge job!”

"Usually I arrived at a concert venue a couple of days before the show to rehearse with the local orchestra, but also to build up a good working relationship with the musicians in it. Especially classical musicians tended to have reservations about playing light entertainment music, because they felt it was below their standards. I tried to show them that, in order to play this type of music well, perhaps even more energy was required than for a classical repertoire. Usually, musicians with a jazz feel find it easier to play classical music than the other way around; somehow, classical musicians often lack the groove and the rhythmic feel to play entertainment music. I cannot say it was an easy job and some of the orchestras I had to work with were awful, but it was fascinating to always try to win the confidence and respect of a group of musicians you had never previously worked with. What was more, I had always dreamt of performing on stage for large audiences. With Richard Clayderman, this dream of being an homme de spectacle came true!”

“Not only musically, but also psychologically, it was very interesting to work with orchestras from across the world. As a conductor, you have to adapt to different mindsets, different languages, and different cultures. It’s an illusion to think that it is possible to approach musicians from China in the same way as Mexicans; the respective ways of thinking could hardly be further apart. A conductor has to take things like that into account; there’s more to it than knowing your scores well.”

Conducting a studio session in Studio Grande Armée, Paris (1978)

“In the concert, I usually played keyboards behind Richard while conducting the orchestra simultaneously. Without being immodest I can say that I had the confidence to stand up in front of an orchestra virtually from the beginning. I was thrown in the big pond and I loved being in the water! Classical musicians tend to test the conductor in rehearsals. After all, who was this little French upstart to think that he could conduct them? There’s one thing which helped me a lot. As an adolescent, I took several miming courses. I couldn’t think of a better way to develop your physical abilities as well as your confidence and equilibrium than by playing mime. It has helped me all my life. As a conductor, I was an autodidact, although of course I had some background which I had picked up in the recording studio; but it takes some guts to stand up in front of 60 musicians and say, “Merci, but could you play this part a little differently please?” It could be challenging at times, but it was a job I loved doing. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to do this work.”

“In the end I toured with Richard Clayderman for 14 consecutive years. Usually I was away from home 250 days each year, in which I saw airports, hotels, concert venues… and little else. I once made a list of countries where I performed with Clayderman; as it turned out, the number I reached was 38! There was Latin America and the Far East, but also Australia, New Zealand, the USA, South Africa, and many European countries. Name me a famous concert venue, and I performed in it! The Carnegie Hall in New York, Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall in London… and many, many more. One of the most impressive locations for a concert was the Roman theatre in Caesarea in Israel. It was magic performing in the open air with the Mediterranean Sea at your feet.” 

“In 1993, my involvement with Clayderman stopped. Let’s not go into detail about this, but I don’t think it’s all that surprising that, after all those years of working closely together, both he and I were keen to move on and discover new horizons. This meant I had to reinvent myself. In those 14 years, I had hardly done any studio work, simply because there was no time. The few weeks per year in which I was home in Paris were usually spent writing arrangements for the next concert tour. There was a new generation of studio musicians who had never worked with me and who didn’t even know my name.”

“Fortunately, virtually at the exact moment the work with Clayderman stopped, my old friend Georges Augier de Moussac phoned me. I had worked with Georges on two Eurovision projects (about which much more in the Eurovision part of this biography, below – BT) and he wondered if I was interested in working as the musical director of a TV entertainment show for France 2, C’est votre vie. Georges was commissioned to write the theme tune – and was then asked if he wanted to lead the combo as well, but he had to refuse because he wasn't available. It was very generous of him to pass the job onto me.”

Rehearsing with an orchestra in Japan on one of his many tours with Richard Clayderman (1981)

“In each edition of C’est votre vie, hosted by Frédéric Mitterrand (nephew of President François Mitterrand – BT), there was a main guest who was a grande vedette of French showbiz. In the show, there were surprise performances by artists he or she loved, and relatives and friends telling moving or funny anecdotes. It was the French version of This Is Your Life; and it was a wonderful programme to work on. I had a combo of seven musicians and three backing singers at my disposal. For each edition, I had to write all arrangements myself; and then rehearse them with the band. Unfortunately, due to a change in France 2’s management, ‘C’est votre vie’ ran for one season only, but this television commission led to much other work in that field.”

After one year of C’est votre vie (1993-94), Dupré composed jingles and the signature melodies to Spécial Sabatier and Pour la vie for private TV company TF1. Moreover, for Pour la vie, an entertainment show which ran for two seasons (1995-97), he also was the musical director. 

“But by then, the times were changing! It was gratifying to work on, but more so from a financial point of view than artistically. Whereas, for C’est votre vie, all music was performed live on stage, I now had to pre-record playback tapes in the studio which were used to back up artists performing in the show. The element of working live on stage with an audience listening to you and your fellow musicians was missing, and I thought it was sad. It was a time when live music was ever further marginalised on radio and television. Producers were keen to cut their budgets – and musicians and sound engineers were their first victims. The tide has never turned back; nowadays, you hardly ever see an orchestra in a TV show – at least, that’s the situation as it is in France nowadays.”

As his TV commissions fell away in the second half of the 1990s, Régis Dupré did more and more copyist work for fellow-arrangers in the light entertainment and film music business – first among them his good friend Hervé Roy.

Conducting the sessions in Sofia (October 2005) for the soundtrack of Bernard Stora's film Le Grand Charles, with a script centring around the life of Charles de Gaulle directed by Bernard Stora

“I knew Hervé long before the period we are discussing now. Towards the end of the 1970s, when Richard Clayderman was enjoying his first success, Hervé was one of the arrangers working on the scores of Clayderman’s studio albums. It was Hervé who wrote the original arrangement to ‘Ballade pour Adeline’! When I was chosen to be the musical director of Clayderman’s concert tour, I picked Hervé’s brain about orchestrating. I was a huge admirer of his scores. They were works of art, written in a way which was perfectly clear and very precise – contrary to many other arrangers, who tend to write too fast and make mistakes. Hervé didn’t teach me to be a conductor, but I don’t think I would have managed to write arrangements on the level that I did later on if I hadn’t been in touch with him. As a sort of mentor, he helped me on my way. Gradually, thanks to those long conversations, a friendship developed. It’s true that Hervé could be rigid and difficult at times; he simply couldn’t stand mediocrity. However, once you got to know him, he was great. To me, he always was as generous as could be.”

“From the second half of the 1980s onwards, I occasionally was a copyist for Hervé. All those years with Clayderman had taught me to write extremely fast. In the 1990s, the copying work I did for Hervé intensified, certainly after 1994 when he became the musical director for all of Charles Aznavour’s stage shows. Hervé usually wrote all arrangements himself, but in the latter stages of his eight years with Aznavour, he couldn’t always make the deadlines by himself – and then he would ask me to jump in. I was happy to take the work, first because I considered it an honour to write for Aznavour, who I’ve always greatly admired – and then, of course, there was my friendship with Hervé, which lasted for as long as he lived. The day he died in 2009 was one of the saddest in my life. I still think of him nearly every day.”

“Another arranger who I got to admire through my work as a copyist was a film composer called Bruno Fontaine. As a composer and arranger, he was more classically inclined than Hervé. Fontaine also was an excellent conductor, which couldn’t be said for some other film composers. When their music is recorded, many of them prefer to be in the control room to check on every detail of the sound while someone else does the conducting job for them. As such, I conducted many film scores, especially for Bruno Coulais. I got to know him when he was very young, in the 1970s, when I conducted some of the jingles he wrote for advertisements. Later, he turned to film composing – and when my work with Clayderman ended, Bruno got in touch with me again. Artistically, working with him was very rewarding, because he is an excellent composer. The guy won three Césars (French Grammies – BT) – and I would say he deserved them!”

“In fact, I also wrote the orchestrations to several films myself. Some film composers are used to working with computers only and aren’t able to write arrangements themselves – and of course I could do this for them, although it didn’t always prove easy to recreate computerised sounds with a full orchestra. Of course, being a film arranger is far more lucrative than just conducting a score, but I’ve always liked conducting, and especially those soundtracks which are usually recorded with large symphonic set-ups. I can assure you I enjoyed every minute of those sessions! However, over time, more and more film music was recorded in Eastern Europe rather than in France. Initially, a French crew was taken along; and I recorded quite a few soundtracks with a Bulgarian orchestra in Sofia, but after a while they decided a local conductor could do the job just as well as I could. My last film commission was in 2008; the work simply dried up.”

Performing with his jazz quintet Smooth & Groovy (c. 2010)

Apart from his film work, Régis Dupré also conducted some pop productions, most notably Emma Shapplin’s million selling crossover album ‘Carmine meo’, which included the hit ‘Spente le stelle’. In the 1990s and early 2000s, he also worked on studio productions with Francis Cabrel, Yves Duteil, Maurane, and Charlotte Rampling.

“But those commissions also became rarer and rarer as time went on. Pop productions recorded with an orchestra are an exception these days. In the 2010s, I continued working as a copyist, but at some point I quit. Around the time when my film work stopped, I formed a jazz group with a couple of friends, Smooth & Groovy. After all those years of working as an arranger and conductor, I was keen to retrace my steps as an instrumentalist – not as a pianist or guitarist, but as a flute player. With Tony Bonfils, a studio musician of my generation who was much in demand as a bass player, I reworked some pieces for our group. My daughter Candice was the lead singer.”

“Playing with my friends, I retraced the early days of my career, when I played as a musician in restaurants in Paris. As Smooth & Groovy, we performed for tourists during their boat trips on the Seine. In the summertime, we went down to a holiday resort owned by a friend in Southern France, where we enjoyed the weather while also performing for the other guests. This went on for three or four years, until the resort was closed down – and we decided to call it a day and disband our little group. Around that same time, I also performed Lady Velvet and Please Call Me Madame, two jazz groups founded by my daughter. Unfortunately, music has become a complicated occupation – the younger generations are finding it hard to make a living in music, whereas, back in my day, the studio business kept hoards of musicians busy.”

“Looking back on my career, I’m quite satisfied with what I’ve achieved, especially in the years I spent on the road with Richard Clayderman. I’ve always preferred working live on stage over the recording studio. Don’t get me wrong, the studio work I did was good, but it lacked the magic vibrations which happen on stage. I think of myself as an homme de spectacle – and those 14 years with Clayderman gave me the opportunity to travel the world and build an international career. There aren’t that many French artists who built a global career; Clayderman did it, and I got to accompany him in all those different countries. From my childhood onwards, conducting was a dream – and I got to conduct dozens of orchestras around the world. Yes, I guess you could say I lived my dream.”

Open-air performance (2014)


As an orchestrator and conductor, Régis Dupré took part in three editions of the Eurovision Song Contest. His first involvement was in 1988, when Luxembourg was represented by 18-year-old Belgian songstress Lara Fabian and ‘Croire’. The ballad was a composition by Jacques Cardona with lyrics by Alain Garcia. Yet, it was not through one of the two songwriters that Dupré was commissioned to conduct the Eurovision orchestra. 

“I was given a phone call by Georges Augier de Moussac, who told me he had written an arrangement for a young singer called Lara Fabian – and that this girl had been picked to represent Luxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest. I knew Georges Augier, but not very well. In the 1970s, he was Hugues Aufray’s bass player. Back then, we met several times through a mutual friend in the music business, Marc Bozonnet. We had a chat now and then, but that was it – and once I had been signed to tour the world with Richard Clayderman in 1979, I lost touch with him. When he called me, it really was out of the blue.”

“Now, you have to realise that Georges was a fine musician, but he didn’t have a theoretical background. For Lara Fabian, he made a studio arrangement working exclusively with computers and rhythm instruments. For the contest, he needed somebody to orchestrate and conduct the song – and that’s where I came in. The contest fell in between two Clayderman world tours, allowing me to accept the commission. I never asked why Georges called me when we hardly remembered each other, but the answer needn’t be that complicated. The producer of the song was Michel Elmosnino. In the 1970s, Michel gave me my first opportunity as a studio arranger, and we had become close friends. He was an important man in my professional life. I suspect Michel and his wife, Marie Myriam, suggested my name to Georges when news came through that Lara Fabian and ‘Croire’ were going to Eurovision.”

“Conducting the Eurovision orchestra was a childhood dream coming true. As a child, I remember watching the very first contest in 1956. We already had a TV set in the house back in those days! For France, Franck Pourcel was the conductor – and, even at that age, I was fascinated more by him than by the singers. There was an orchestra, musicians playing to the beat indicated by Pourcel. At that time, Pourcel was a vedette, a star… and then to represent your country in the Eurovision Song Contest; to me as a child this was the highest level any musician could ever attain. I was hooked!”

Lara Fabian surrounded by her Eurovision team at Studio Davout, Paris - from left to right: Alain Garcia (lyricist), Régis Dupré (orchestrator, conductor), Michel Elmosnino (producer), Georges Augier de Moussac (co-arranger), and Jacques Cardona (composer)

“Admittedly, now that I was invited to represent Luxembourg in the contest, business was more prosaic than I could have imagined as a child. There was not much time left; the orchestration had to be sent to Dublin and there were adaptations which had to be made. Georges wanted to use a rhythm track and then add string and brass to enrich the sound. From my viewpoint, we could have perfectly done the entire thing live, but that was not my call to make. We discussed the best way to approach the orchestration. Georges was very much open to taking my viewpoints into account. Following our conversation, I wrote the orchestration for the contest.”

“The week in Dublin was great. Marie Myriam and Michel Elmosnino joined us to support Lara Fabian at the contest. Georges Augier was there as well. I only met the songwriters when we boarded the plane. They were great guys, especially the composer, Jacques Cardona. He was very funny, cracking one joke after the other. We were in stitches all week. We couldn’t have had a better time together – really a band of friends. Lara Fabian was a bit shy and mainly stuck to herself. She had her parents with her to look after her. Although she was very young, it was obvious even then that she was a promising young talent. I wasn’t surprised when she had such a successful career later on.”

“Having worked with orchestras in many countries all over the world on the Clayderman tour in the previous years, I wasn’t too worried about the rehearsals in Ireland. What could go wrong, especially given that we had a rhythm track? I thought it would be little more than a routine job, but it turned out that I was wrong. At the first rehearsal, some of the musicians couldn’t keep up with the tempo of the backing track – and some others simply played out of tune. The sound was awful! At some point, I tapped my baton and told the orchestra in plain words that I was unhappy about the effort put into the rehearsal by them. My English is quite good, so I had no problem explaining to them exactly what I wanted. I was thinking, “Move your ass and try to play in tune this time,” but of course I chose my words more carefully. As a conductor, it’s no use making enemies in the orchestra. From that moment on, there was no problem. I would say the performance we got from the orchestra on the night was good enough – not perfect, but passable.”

“When we finished fourth in the voting, everyone was quite happy. Given the problems we had been having with the orchestra, Lara stayed remarkably calm and sang the song quite well – even more so when taking into account how young she was. All hopes of winning which we may have harboured on our way to Ireland evaporated into thin air when someone told us upon our arrival for the first rehearsal that Switzerland was represented by Céline Dion. At that moment, we knew we were done for! Céline hadn’t had her big breakthrough yet, but in France we already knew what she was capable of. She was une bête à concours – always a winner. In our delegation, we joked that we had better go home, because how on earth could we beat her? At that point, we hadn’t even heard her song, but there was no surprise whatsoever when she walked away with the trophy.”

Backstage in Dublin - Lara Fabian with Norway's conductor Arild Stav 

Two years later, Régis Dupré was back as a conductor in the contest – this time representing France, leading the orchestra for ‘White And Black Blues’, a song composed by Georges Augier de Moussac with lyrics by none other than Serge Gainsbourg. This entry was performed by Joëlle Ursull, the first black singer to represent France in the contest. At the festival, held in Zagreb (Yugoslavia), this French entry tied for second place with Ireland behind the victorious Italian Toto Cutugno. 

“As I learnt afterwards from Georges Augier, the songwriting process had been quite complicated. He had been invited by French television to write a melody for Joëlle Ursull. She was the production’s team choice for the contest – and given that neither she nor Georges were big names in showbiz, the production team were keen to have a well-known lyricist. Eurovision wasn’t very popular in France, and having a big name on board would lend the project some extra credibility. That’s why Georges approached Etienne Roda-Gil to add the lyrics to his melody. Roda wrote the words to all of Julien Clerc’s big hits in the 1970s. All of a sudden, though, Roda-Gil’s wife passed away – and he then gave back the commission. That’s when French TV decided to turn to Gainsbourg, who was even more famous than Roda. Gainsbourg had to be urged to be really quick to meet the submission deadline for the contest.”

Allegedly, Gainsbourg initially came up with a provocative poem entitled ‘Black Lolita Blues’, but Joëlle Ursull refused it, upon which he adapted the words – and the final version bore the title ‘White And Black Blues’.

“But I had nothing to do with any of that,” Dupré adds. “Exactly as in 1988, Georges wanted me to write the orchestration. After Dublin, I had stayed in touch with Georges. He was happy with the way I had handled the previous Eurovision project and was keen to team up once more. Again, also given that a Eurovision project cost me no more than just a week away from home, I was able to fit it into my agenda. Georges recorded the song in his studio – the main features in the music being the accordion and the percussion. In fact, the percussion gave the song its distinct character. That barrel drum sound which Georges had invented would have been very difficult to recreate live at the contest – perhaps if they had hired professional percussionists specialised in playing barrel drums, but there was never any talk of that. There could be no more than five people on stage with the singer, and one had to be an accordion player. Furthermore, the production team’s idea to have dancers on stage with Joëlle would not have been possible in such a set-up.”

“So, again, we worked with a backing track which included all the percussion of the studio version. Now it was up to me to come up with an orchestral sound which would fit the song. I chose not to get too much in the way of the original track. In the original, Georges dressed up the chorus with some synthetic sound effects which reminded me of pizzicato violins – and so I wrote a minimal orchestration of pizzicati. The string section in Zagreb had no trouble playing it, but unfortunately the sound engineering done by Yugoslavian television wasn’t really brilliant – meaning that the string plucking done by the orchestra could hardly be heard in the final sound mix. Only when listening very carefully, you could notice them far in the background.”

Picture taken from the official 1990 Eurovision Song Contest programme 

“Coming to Zagreb was nice, but the atmosphere in our delegation wasn’t the same as in Dublin in 1988. You could fairly say that we came to Eurovision with two different delegations. Joëlle and her black backing artists hardly mingled with us. They were a little band of their own. In fact, they weren’t unpleasant, but there was little rapport between them and us – perhaps aggravated by the fact that they came late for each and every rehearsal. Serge Gainsbourg wasn’t with us, but I hung out mainly with Georges Augier and Jean-Yves Bikialo. Jean-Yves was the accordionist and the only white musician with Joëlle on stage. They were friends and we had a good time together, doing some sightseeing as well.”

“As I remember it, one or two days before the concert, there was uproar among the conductors from the different delegations. They had heard the director of the programme had decided to abandon the traditional presentation of the conductor before each song. Apparently there was a risk that the show would last too long – and this was a way to cut away some time. Some of my colleagues were in uproar. They organised some sort of meeting and said, “Alright, if they don’t put a camera on us, we refuse to conduct!” There was a petition. I was more or less obliged to join them, but I certainly wasn’t the leader of the pack. Although I didn’t feel as strongly about the matter as some others, I agreed wholeheartedly. It was a strange idea to have a show with an orchestra and then ignore the conductors completely. Somehow, they got the organisation to reverse their plans, which meant we didn’t have to go on strike after all.”

“We came second, which was a great result. Especially Georges Augier was very happy. ‘White And Black Blues’ even was a hit in France that summer, which was really quite unexpected, given that our Eurovision entries usually didn’t even come close to any chart success in this country. It was the last I ever heard of Joëlle Ursull. I don’t know what happened to her after the contest.”

“On an artistic level, I was very satisfied when the Italian entry won the contest. Toto Cutugno and his backing group delivered such a powerful, convincing sound – and the song was great too. Still, we couldn’t help feeling a bit offended by the behaviour of the Italian jury. They were among the last countries to vote. They didn’t give any votes to their nearest rivals, which were Ireland and our song. I’m convinced they cheated on us, but what can you do?”

Joëlle Ursull on the Eurovision stage in Zagreb (1990)

Régis Dupré’s third and last participation in the Eurovision Song Contest came in 1997, when he orchestrated and conducted the French entry ‘Sentiments songes’ for a 17-year-old singer, Fanny Biascamano. This ballad was composed by Jean-Paul Dréau, a songwriter who had previously worked with Riccardo Cocciante and Michel Polnareff. As with Régis’ two previous Eurovision experiences, he penned the live orchestration to a studio arrangement by Georges Augier de Moussac. In that year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, Fanny finished in a decent seventh position. 

“I have no idea how the song was picked,” Dupré comments, “but when Georges Augier called me, I said yes and we were on our way again! As in my two previous Eurovisions, the decision to make a rhythm track had already been taken before I became involved. Writing the orchestration for a gentle ballad like this wasn’t that complicated. I wrote a score which featured the piano and the string section of the orchestra. The rehearsals in Dublin were flawless. It may have been the same orchestra as in 1988, but perhaps the old guard of musicians of those days had since been replaced? I also think this arrangement was a bit simpler to play this time. As a conductor, I had an easy job that week – and the string arrangement worked well for this song.”

“Admittedly, this was the least pleasant of my three Eurovision experiences. Somehow, our delegation was subdivided between two hotels. Fanny, her mother, and her backing musicians were booked in a different hotel than me. They were all very pleasant, but I had never met them before. All backing musicians were young guys picked by Fanny’s producer Jean-Jacques Souplet. Away from rehearsals, I only met them and Fanny on a night when we went to the theatre as a group to watch an Irish dance show which I thought was fantastic. For the remainder of the week, I was more or less left to my own devices. Jean-Paul Dréau didn’t bother to come to Dublin. Georges Augier only came over for the day of the broadcast. I caught myself feeling a little bit bored at times.”

“It was a pity that not more media attention was created around Fanny. This was very sad for her, because she had a good voice, her song wasn’t bad either. The result showed that the juries liked her. She came seventh, which was quite good given how many countries took part in the contest. I mean, a seventh place in the Eurovision Song Contest can be the springboard for a successful career or at least an album release, but nothing of the sort happened. In fact, she has hardly been heard of since.”

Fanny, France's Eurovision representative in 1997, at her press conference in Dublin

“Come to think of it, there is no pride in taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest  for France. In most European countries the contest is more popular than here. Not that many people take an interest in it. To me, doing Eurovision was a childhood dream, but my three participations didn’t change the path of my career. Sure, my parents were very proud of me. On all three occasions, they were glued to the television, and so were my other family members and friends, but that was about it. Even most of my colleagues hardly took notice."

"Still, I’m happy to have done those three Eurovisions – and I think back on them with pride. I’ve always loved performing live on a stage, and I had the time of my life with the hundreds of concerts I did with Richard Clayderman, but none of those concerts even came close to having the  audience of a Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision was quite special – it was a unique opportunity to perform in front of millions of people rather than hundreds or thousands. Doing Eurovision wasn’t a routine job. I’ve always been a perfectionist. When I stood up in front of the orchestra, I did my best to get the best possible performance from the musicians.”

“It’s sad that there is no longer an orchestra in the contest nowadays, but I’m afraid it was an inevitable development. Do you ever get to watch an entertainment show with an orchestra performing live on stage on television in your country? In France, there are hardly any – and this situation has remained more or less unchanged the last twenty years (this part of the interview took place in 2023 – BT). As for Eurovision, now and then, I still watch bits and pieces. The money which used to be spent on the orchestra is now invested in scenography. It’s exciting to watch those different sets, light effects, and stage props."

"Despite all of this I cannot bear watching the show for three hours on end. It’s too much – and I cannot enjoy a concert without live music. Nowadays, artists in the contest try to recreate the sound of the version of their song. The excitement of working live, of creating a new sound on that stage, for that one unique Eurovision performance, is no longer there. It may be a perfect show, but the human dimension is lost.”

Close-up, 2021 (photo taken by Hubert de Lartigue)


So far, we have not gathered comments of other artists about Régis Dupré.


Country – Luxembourg
Song title – "Croire"
Rendition – Lara Fabian 
Lyrics – Alain Garcia
Composition – Jacques Cardona
Studio arrangement – Georges Augier de Moussac 
Live orchestration – Régis Dupré
Conductor – Régis Dupré
Score – 4th place (90 votes)

Country – France
Song title - "White And Black Blues"
Rendition – Joëlle Ursull
Lyrics – Serge Gainsbourg
Composition – Georges Augier de Moussac
Studio arrangement – Georges Augier de Moussac 
Live orchestration – Régis Dupré
Conductor – Régis Dupré
Score – 2nd place (132 votes)

Country – France
Song title – "Sentiments songes"
Rendition – Fanny Biascamano
Lyrics – Jean-Paul Dréau
Composition – Jean-Paul Dréau
Studio arrangement – Georges Augier de Moussac 
Orchestration – Régis Dupré
Conductor – Régis Dupré
Score – 7th place (95 votes)

  • Bas Tukker did two interviews with Régis Dupré, the first in Paris in May 2011; and the second in January 2023
  • Serge Elhaïk did an interview with Régis as well for his magnificent and highly recommended book "Les arrangeurs de la chanson française", ed. Textuel: Paris 2018, pg. 755-769
  • Photos courtesy of Régis Dupré, Arild Stav, Bill Holland, Hubert de Lartigue, and Ferry van der Zant