Musical Birds: Eurovision’s First

This is a terrible project. Some would maybe even say this is torturous. They would probably be right. It is a long project, and especially, the first few entries will be produced only with a few groans uttered by myself during the writing process. This is supposed to be a comprehensive overview of all Eurovision Song Contest finalist entries, from 1956 to today. Starting, for every year with the worst entry and going through the table from the bottom. I’m by no means a musical expert, but what would be the fun in an expert opinion? So this is 1956’s worst entry.

Well, there’s a slight problem at this point for the Grand Prix de Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne 1956: We actually, have no clue what the worst song was. We don’t even know how the jury voted on the entries. The only thing that was published was the winner of the competition. I won’t tell you, who won, right now, but if you’re dying to know, Wikipedia will be your friend (here). I won’t fret too much though, and we’ll just continue our endeavour in 1957.

No, no, no, no. You thought you could escape 1956? You thought wrong. I will just go through them in order of the draw, saving the winner for the end.

So this is 1956’s first song: De Vogels van Holland, sung by Dutch singer Jetty Paerl. It is a Chanson, not in just the French sense of the word, but it fits the style. Jetty Pearl sings about the birds of Holland and it’s just a happy, mildly patriotic song about the birds of Holland. Fittingly enough, the instrumentation of the song starts with slight trills reminiscent of actual bird song, before Jetty Pearl praises the musical prowess of Dutch birds. I didn’t know birds would keep to the confines of international borders, but I’m no ornithologist.

My cursory research into dutch songbirds hasn’t brought any scientific paper to light that would have dared to compare songbirds on a national level, though I now feel slightly more informed about the breeding habits of three dune-dwelling, insect-eating songbirds of the Netherlands. Namely, this includes the meadow pipit, the European stonechat, and the northern wheatear – neither of which is endemic to the Netherlands, nor does the song of any one of these birds strike me as particularly beautiful. Remarkably Jetty Paerl offers us a hypothesis why the birds of Holland are so musically adept:

‘t is geen wonder want nergens zijn de plassen zo blauw
Als in Holland mijnheer
Als in Holland mevrouw
‘t is geen wonder want nergens is het gras zo vol dauw
Zijn de meisjes zo lief, zijn de meisjes zo trouw
En daarom zijn de vogels hier allemaal
Zo muzikaal

Jetty Pearl

Regardless of the doubtful nature of statements implying that lakes are not as blue, girls not as sweet and faithful anywhere other than in Holland, I can’t bring myself to believe that this would hold up to any scientific rigour. Granted, the point of the Grand Prix de Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne is entertainment, not scientific accuracy. Though I doubt that a song that couldn’t distract me from this weird rabbit hole of research into Dutch songbirds will find its way into my regular listening.

In fact, I’ve been procrastinating listening to it again for long enough to essentially forget what I’ve even written a month ago. I mean, there are worse songs to listen too. It’s neither musically nor lyrically interesting, but good enough to sway to and fro a bit.

I hope I’ll see you next time around when I review Switzerland’s Lys Assia with Das alte Karusell.

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