Wilkinson at Eurovision
ISRAEL'S WIN OF THE 23rd Eurovision Song Contest at the Palais des Congres on Saturday 22nd April 1978 was the greatest upset for the form books virtually since the launching of the contest in 1956.
If a group song was to win, it was. felt that the strongest contenters were Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg and possibly Britain could win. Very few people thought the Israeli entry was popular. It was thought that as the song was in Hebrew it was very unlikely to win.
Looking back now on the week of rehearsals it would seem that a contribuutory factor to the Israeli win was the disorganisation of the French television service, which never during the course of the week began rehearsals on time. And when they vdid take place they were constantly interrupted while French sound technicians tried to sort our such things as dead microphones, wrong positioning of a grand piano which not only squeaked in rehearsals but also in the live broadcast. Many of the performers were disconcerted by the chaos, while the Israelis seemed commposed and relaxed throughout.
The first rehearsal on Tuesday afterrnoon started two hours later than scheduled. To the astonishment of the Irish conductor Noel Kelehan when he went up on stage, there was no floor manager working on the stage to give him his cue to start the orchestra, so that he had to wait until his cue was given to him by the cameraman.
The scheduling of the rehearsals this year meant that only half the countries rehearsed on Tuesday, the other half on Wednesday and a similar pattern was arranged for Thursday and Friday. The normal practice has been up to now,
that all the countries rehearse each day from Tuesday through till Friday. This helps the artists to polish tip their act and the television director to organise himself. Not having rehearsals every day wasn't that much a draw-back, but having them start two hours late was very disrupting.
On Thursday, when most of the Irish newspaper men covering the event arriived, the rehearsals began over two hours late. This must have been hard on the artists but it wasn't half as bad as the total confusion to be seen at the first dress rehearsal which was held on
Friday night. This turned out to be chaotic with all kinds of audio and teleevisual technical faults emerging, and all kinds of other organisational cock-ups developing.
The second dress rehearsal on the Saturday afternoon was also a shambles. Terry Wogan of the BBC said this was the way the French prepare for a live television show, they wing it hoping it will be alright on the night.
Terry, and many others of the BBC delegation felt that Ireland had a real chance of winning, with Wilkinson's most formidable challenge coming from the Belgian singer, Jean .Vallee, singing his own song.
Wilkinson's "live" performance was electric. The audience reaction was tremendous, rivalled only by that for the French singer, Joel Prevost, for Jean Vallee. It seemed certain that the conntest would be between those three. But it was not to be.
There was total confusion when Israel won, for they were not prepared at all to win. The singer Izhar and group Alpha Beta were rushed upstairs to the photographic studio where one photoographer was knocked out by another competing for position.
The 24th Eurovision Song Contest will be staged in Jerusalem, Israeli television will now have to look at the possibility of colourising their teleevision service which is at present black and white, and there is no doubt that the contest itself will be surrounded by controversy.
The Israeli singer, Izhar Cohen and his group, Alpha Beta, began a Euroopean tour on the Monday after the conntest. The group was formed specially to sing at Eurovision and also to take part in a series of concert performances sched uled to open in Israel as part of the celebrations for the 30th anniverrsary of independence.
Meanwhile, Co 1m Wilkinson's career continues its relentless progress towards seemingly inevitable success. Only a few weeks before the contest he signed a recording contract with Tim Rice's company, Heartache Records, and his singles and albums will be released interrnationally by the Ro bert Stigwood Record label, RSO. Robert Stigwood is one of the most successful businesses in the world of international pop at the moment, it is he who is responsible for the current hit singles of the "Bee Gees" in America and it is his company who had also funded and produced Saturday Nigh t Fever and are at present at work on Grease a new John Travolta film, co-starring Olivia Newton John and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Wilkinson's career started thirty four years ago in Mangertori Road, Drimnagh, where he was born. His father was a musician from the Falls Road in Belfast and his mother was a singer from Crossmalina, Co. Mayo. By the age of ten Colm was able to play the mandolin, by twelve he had graduaated to the banjo and then at fourteen he graduated to the guitar. He has always been into rhythm and blues and negro soul singing. His most favoured singers have been Eddie Cochran and Ray Charles. He left school at 16 and started work with a variety of bands. In 1970 he went into cabaret but his "break" came when Noel Pearson cast him as Judas in the Dublin production of Jesus Christ Superstar. From that he was offered the same part in the London production of the show in the West End. This led to him singing in the part of ''Che'' in the "Evita" album of their new musical Evita.
A career of songwriter-cum-singer opened up for him with "There was a Dream". His contribution to the Fianna Fail General Election campaign with "Your Kind of Country" cannot have hurt either.
We will be hearing more of, and from, Mr. Wilkinson.