The Eurovision Song Contest was originally planned to take place in Rotterdam this coming weekend, but of course the event has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis. Instead, on Saturday the 16th of May, the NPO, NOS and AVROTROS will be broadcasting a live show – ‘Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light’ – on the NPO1 channel, during which the 41 songs from the participating countries will be featured and popular artists from past Eurovision Song Contests will also be performing. The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra will be giving the show a touch of Rotterdam by performing an orchestral version of Love Shine A Light.

Although neither the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam Ahoy nor the festivities in the city will be going ahead, the ‘Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light’ live show on Saturday May 16 will nevertheless bring something of the song contest atmosphere into Dutch living rooms in a two-hour show presented by Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley and Jan Smit. Song contest participants from 41 countries will perform their original song entries and the 2019 winner, Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands, will be featured with his new song Someone Else. There will obviously also be a role for the 2020 Dutch candidate Jeangu Macrooy; all participants, including Jeangu, have recorded Katrina & The Waves’ Love Shine A Light, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra will also be performing a special orchestral version of the song.

The musicians of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (RPhO) have been confined to their homes since the outbreak of the corona crisis, but that has not stopped them from continuing to play. When the Netherlands had been in lockdown for only a few days, the orchestra launched a video in which 19 of its musicians separately played part of Beethoven’s 9th symphony from their homes. The individual fragments were edited in such a way that the music blended seamlessly into a whole. This video went viral, as did the orchestral version of the Avicii song Wake me Up, which the orchestra also performed with Jamai Loman. Adriaan Feyaerts, percussionist of the RPhO: ‘We set something of a trend with these projects, which have had a massive response on social media. Oprah Winfrey even featured the Beethoven fragment in her show and we were also highlighted in BBC World News’.

The video production with Jamai also prompted the Eurovision Song Contest organisation to contact the orchestra with a request to perform for the televised ‘Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light’ event. Mike Schäperclaus, from the Creations department of the RPhO: ‘We will be performing an orchestral version of Katrina & The Waves’ Love Shine A Light with all 96 orchestra members playing from their own homes. Since we will be playing with a large, classical orchestra, the performance will have a filmic character; grand and compelling, yet with a positive tone. After all, that is what we need in these times. It is marvellous to hear the merging of all the separate parts; all of a sudden you can hear an orchestra, which is sheer magic’.

Photo: RPhO

Mike Schäperclaus: ‘We are proud to be able to contribute to the show, and it is gratifying that there will still be such a strong link with Rotterdam. The collaboration chimes very well with our orchestra. It is through our Creations department that we realise those projects that fall outside of the regular concerts, and, in this situation in particular, we are conceiving many ideas for different ways of making music together. You can tell by the success of the videos that there is a clear need for art and music. We really are in this together, and there is little hierarchy within the organisation. The prevailing attitude is “come on, let’s make this work” and this is one way of showing that we remain committed to our public and to the city’.

Despite the online successes of the RPhO, percussionist Adriaan Feyaerts hopes to be able to play in front of a live audience in the near future: ‘The interaction with the public and the acoustics of the concert hall are always key to our performance. Cultural institutions will soon be allowed to open their doors again, albeit for a maximum of thirty people; this might make it tricky to perform with our nearly 100-piece orchestra, but having said that, we are obviously thinking about solutions. There will be opportunities to do other things. Chamber music, for example, may be one answer for percussionists, whereby we could also play newer musical pieces in a small setting’.

‘Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light’ will be broadcast by the NPO 1 channel on Saturday the 16th of May at 21:00 PM. The event will also be live-streamed on the Eurovision YouTube channel.

Headerfoto: EBU / Eurovisie Songfestival

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