Europe Shine A Light has just taken place in the Netherlands. The two-hour show was a non-competitive alternative to what would have been the Eurovision 2020 Grand Final tonight if the event had not been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans were rewarded with many highlights and touching moments…
Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light came live from Hilversum, the Netherlands’ ‘media city’. It was organised by the EBU, produced by Dutch public broadcasters AVROTROS, NOS and NPO and hosted by Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley (the Netherlands 1998 and 2007) and Jan Smit.
The idea for the show came about when the Eurovision Song Contest was cancelled for this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The EBU decided to substitute the cancelled show with a non-competitive special that would include special live performances and highlights from Eurovision stars as well putting in the spotlight the entries that had been selected for Eurovision 2020.
The show’s format typically consisted of short interviews and messages from past contestants, followed by a live performance, before messages from the 2020 entrants and snippets of their songs were shown grouped together in sections of 8-9 songs at a time. There were also frequent updates on online content, called Nikkie Tutorials, presented by additional presenter Nikkie de Jager.
Guest performers included Eurovision winners Johnny Logan (Ireland 1980 and 1987), Måns Zelmerlow (Sweden 2015), Gali Atari (Israel 1979), Marija Serifovic (Serbia 2007), Netta (Israel 2018) and last year’s winner for the Netherlands, Duncan Laurence. There was also Michael Schulte (Germany 2018, 4th place) and Isle DeLange (the Netherlands 2014, runner-up) performing a duet rendition of the 1982 Eurovision winner for Germany, Ein bißchen Frieden.
Other highlights included a short interview with current Junior Eurovision winner Viki Gabor from Poland and further links to this year’s Italian entrant Antonio Diodato and BBC presenter Graham Norton. There was also a special feature with links to different landmarks around Europe, including the Parthenon and the Eiffel Tower, to the music of the Rotterdam Philharmonic.
This was part of the conceptual thread for the show, i.e. the former Eurovision winner Love Shine A Light by Katrina and The Waves (UK, 1997), which is also reflected in the title of the program. One would imagine that the song’s positive energy of hope and togetherness was deemed suitable at a time when many people around the world are struggling with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A main highlight of the show was in fact the finale, when 40 out of the 41 contestants for what would have been Eurovision 2020 carried out an online sing-along of the song. The rendition finished with Katrina herself singing to her 1997 entry.
The big news of the night was the official confirmation of Rotterdam as the host city for Eurovision 2021.
Tonight’s show was coming from Studio 21 in Hilversum’s Media Park. The city is located in the Dutch province of North Holland and is often called the Netherlands’ ‘media city’ as many television and radio networks are based in it.
This was actually the second time that Hilversum was hosting a Eurovision event as it had also held the 3rd Eurovision Song Contest back in 1958. A snippet of Domenico Modugno singing that year’s Italian entry, Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu (Volare), from the venue was shown right at the beginning of the show. The song remains one of the most successful Eurovision entries ever despite finishing in third place in 1958.
Chantal Janzen is a Dutch actress, singer and TV presenter. She has appeared in many Dutch TV series as well as in Dutch musical productions such as Beauty and The Beast and Wicked. She has also presented numerous talent shows such as the Dutch versions of Idols, The Voice of Holland, Dancing With The Stars, Holland’s Got Talent and Germany’s The Voice Kids.
Edsilia Rombley is very well known to Eurovision fans. The Dutch singer represented the Netherlands twice in Eurovision, getting fourth place with her first attempt, Hemel En Aarde (Heaven And Earth) in 1998 but failing to proceed past the semi-final stage with 2007’s On Top Of The World. Alongside pursuing her singing career, Edsilia’s TV presenting work includes hosting the first season of Dutch talent show Beste Zangers (Best Singers) in 2009.
Jan Smit is a Dutch singer, TV presenter and actor. His main type of music is a Dutch genre called Volendam music. As a presenter, he was the second person to succeed Edsilia Rombley as a presenter of Beste Zangers in 2012 and has been the permanent presenter of the talent show ever since. Smit is also involved in philanthropic projects such as S.O.S. Children’s Villages. Quite appropriately it would seem, he has also been a member of the board for the football club FC Volendam.since 1999.
Nikkie de Jager is a Dutch makeup artist and beauty vlogger. Her YouTube channel Nikkie Tutorials has had over 13 million subscribers and in excess of 1.2 billion video views. Her role tonight was to host the show’s online content, including footage from the ongoing, weekly Home Concerts online program.
- Johnny Logan opened the performances of the night, singing his 1980 winner What’s Another Year from Dublin. During the performance, there were links to fans watching the show and singing to the song in their living rooms from all over Europe. The presenters also joined in singing. Evidently, the choice of the opening was a light-hearted nod to fans who, due to the inevitable cancellation of Eurovision 2020, will have to wait yet another year for their favourite show to be back on their TV screens.
- Måns Zelmerlow performed an acoustic, guitar version of Heroes, his 2015 winning entry for Sweden, through a live link from the front garden of his house in London, UK. During his performance, there was footage of medical staff, patients and members of the public dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Israel’s Gali Atari gave a special rendition of her 1979 Eurovision winner Halleluja shown walking around Jerusalem. She was accompanied by a children’s choir consisting of past Junior Eurovision participants singing along through video links.
- From Milan, this year’s selected entrant from Italy, Antonio Diodato, sang an acoustic version of Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu on his guitar. Diodato was also shown giving a rendition of his 2020 entry Fai Rumore in an empty Arena di Verona.
- Marija Šerifović from Serbia performed her 2007 entry Molitva, the first and, to date, only win for her country at Eurovision. Her and her musicians were shown performing in the deserted streets of Belgrade. Additional insert footage showed people trying to carry on with their everyday lives during the current pandemic. The overall result of the song with the footage was really affecting.
- From the Hamburg City Hall, Michael Schulte (Germany 2018, 4th place) and Isle DeLange (the Netherlands 2014, runner-up) joined together to perform a beautiful duet rendition of the 1982 Eurovision winner, Germany’s Ein Bißchen Frieden.
- After a live link with Netta herself from Tel Aviv and then footage of her opening of last year’s Eurovision in Israel with 2018 winning entry Toy, there followed a video of Netta giving an acoustic performance of her song Cuckoo from her bedroom. According to Netta, the song is very special to her.
- While most winners enjoy a year of holding the trophy, last year’s winner Duncan Laurence will have the benefit of being referred to as the ‘current Eurovision winner’ for yet another year. Tonight, he performed his song Someone Else on his piano. Despite the absence of an audience, the sub lit stage had something of the ambience of Duncan’s set up last year.
- The show’s finale saw 40 of the acts selected to compete in the now cancelled Eurovision 2020 jointly giving a sing-along to Love Shine A Light through video links. Hooverphonic from Belgium appeared to be missing.
The selected entries for Eurovision 2020
The show also acted as a tribute to the artists and songs that had been selected for Rotterdam 2020. Snippets of the promotional videos of the songs and short messages from the entrants were presented together in five groups of 8-9 countries spread throughout the show. These were as follows:
- Group 1: Israel, Norway, Russia, Georgia, France, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Lithuania, Sweden.
- Group 2: Latvia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Belarus, Finland, North Macedonia, Switzerland, Serbia.
- Group 3: Spain, Albania, Ireland, Slovenia, Austria, Bulgaria, San Marino, Iceland.
- Group 4: Greece, Czech Republic, Poland, Moldova, Cyprus, Romania, Croatia, Germany.
- Group 5: Malta, Estonia, Australia, Ukraine, Denmark, Italy, Armenia, the Netherlands.
Further references to the COVID-19 pandemic
- The program started with footage of empty streets from different countries around Europe.
- In the program’s intro, there was a shot of what would have been the Eurovision 2020’s venue, the Rotterdam Ahoy. The convention centre has instead been used as an emergency hospital.
- Reflecting the lyrics to Love Shine A Light, main landmarks all over Europe were especially lit, the symbolism being the light of hope being signalled from one country to the next. Landmarks shown included the Acropolis (Athens, Greece), the Little Mermaid (Copenhagen, Denmark), the Eurovision 2012 venue Baku Crystal Hall (Baku, Azerbaijan), the Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia), the Atomium (Brussels, Belgium), The London Eye (London, UK), the Eiffel Tower (Paris, France), the Kremlin (Moscow, Russia), the 2016 venue Globen Arena (Stockholm, Sweden), the Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, Germany), the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (Vilnius, Lithuania) and the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus and the Erasmus Bridge (Rotterdam, the Netherlands). The musical backdrop was an orchestral version of the UK 1997 winner Love Shine A Light by the Rotterdam Philharmonic.
- There was also a section where former Eurovision winners gave out special messages of hope. These included: Alexander Rybak (Norway 2009), Lenny Kuhr (the Netherlands, 1969), Sandra Kim (Belgium 1986), Anne-Marie David (Luxembourg 1973), Getty Kaspers from Teach-In (the Netherlands 1975), Ell & Nikki (Azerbaijan 2011), Sergey Lazarev (Russia 2016), Dana (Ireland 1970), Niamh Kavanagh (Ireland 1993), Helena Paparizou (Greece 2005), Carola (Sweden 1991) and Conchita Wurst (Austria 2014).
- Bjorn from ABBA (Sweden 1974, winner) also gave a touching message through a special video talking about how difficult he finds to believe the current situation when he thinks back to the days of the 1974 contest. He also talked about how important the Eurovision Song Contest is for Europe coming together.
- During a live link from London, BBC presenter Graham Norton also made an appearance, talking about how much he misses Eurovision taking place and also how British people are coping with the pandemic.