Joaquim Luís Gomes

Born: November 19th, 1914, Santarém (Portugal)
Died: July 23rd, 2009, Lisbon (Portugal)
Nationality: Portuguese

Eurovision record
Joaquim Luís Gomes conducted the Portuguese entry to the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in the Royal Albert Hall in London. The song ‘Verão’, performed by Carlos Mendes, came 11th. Moreover, Gomes was responsible for many orchestrations to songs in the Portuguese preliminary contest and three entries to the Eurovision proper.

Hailing from Santarém in Central Portugal, where he was born in 1914, Joaquim Luís Gomes discovered his passion for music at a tender age. He started taking lessons with maestro Manuel Ganhão in his native town. Ganhão, having noticed Gomes’ enormous musical talent, in 1931 sent him to Lisbon to study composition at the National Conservatory. From 1932 onwards, Gomes played the clarinet in the Band of the Fifth Battalion of Riflemen in the Portuguese army. In 1940, he changed to the famous Band of the National Republican Guard, in which he was the harpist. During those years he was also involved in music shows broadcasted by national radio.

Gomes, however, decided to leave the army and turned to working as an arranger in the popular music industry. In this capacity, he worked with all great Portuguese musicians of his era, amongst whom Tony de Matos, Carlos do Carmo (ESC 1976), Maria Clara, Francisco José, and Maria de Lurdes Resende. The most famous artist whom he worked with, must have been fado singer par excellence Amália Rodrigues; among her songs that he wrote a score to, are ‘Grândola, vila morena’ and his own composition ‘Nostalgia’. Moreover, Gomes accompanied the esteemed singer-songwriter to be Fernando Tordo (ESC 1973) when he started his career in music.

Next to his work in the recording studio, Gomes took up conducting on stage as well. During the 1950s, he led the folk ensemble Orquestra Típica Scalabitana. He also conducted orchestras for emissions on radio and television. Apart from his involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest he also accompanied the Portuguese entrants in other song festivals in Brazil and Spain.

Although Gomes is best known for his work as an arranger, he was also a notable composer in his own right. He wrote music for theatre, motion pictures and TV documentaries. On the field of classical music, he distinguished himself with the piano concerto ‘Sonata em Mi Bemol’; other works of his include various symphonic pieces, as well as works for his two beloved instruments, the harp and the clarinet. His composition ‘Mar Português’ was inspired by the poem ‘Mensagem’ by Fernando Pessoa.

In 2005, Gomes was awarded the medal of honor of the SPA, the Portuguese Society of Composers, of which he had been a member since 1937. He died, aged 95, in the summer of 2009.

Joaquim Luís Gomes in the Eurovision Song Contest
In the 1960s, RTP, the Portuguese broadcaster each year changed conductor for its national Eurovision final, in those days referred to as the Grande Prémio TV da Canção. In 1968, it was Joaquim Luís Gomes’ turn: he conducted all ten entries, arranged by others and performed by Simone de Oliveira, Tonicha (both of whom sang two songs), Mirene Cardinalli, Nicolau Breyner, João Maria Tudela, Carlos Mendes, José Cid and António Calvário. In the end, Carlos Mendes won the competition with ‘Verão’, composed by Pedro Osório and arranged by Thilo Krassman, both of whom were to conduct the Eurovision orchestra on several occasions in later years. Gomes accompanied Mendes to the Eurovision Song Contest in the Royal Albert Hall, London, where Portugal landed an 11th position with a slightly more upbeat version of ‘Verão’ than in the Grande Prémio.

In other years, Gomes was involved in the Portuguese Eurovision preliminaries as an arranger for songs conducted by other maestros. In 1964, António Calvário’s song ‘Oração’, which was Portugal’s first entry to the song contest, was orchestrated by him. Three years later, he again arranged the winning entry in Portugal’s Grande Prémio, ‘O vento mudou’, sung by Eduardo Nascimento. Perhaps the most famous song that Gomes worked on as an orchestrator, was the folk tune ‘Desfolhada’, with which Simone de Oliveira went to the Eurovision Song Contest of 1969 in Madrid, gaining only one point, but this song became one of De Oliveira’s trademark tunes in Portugal.

In 1970, Portugal did not take part in the contest. Nevertheless, RTP organized a Grande Prémio. The winner was Sergio Borges with ‘Onde vais rio que eu canto’, again with an arrangement by Joaquim Luís Gomes. The score of another entry in that year’s competition, Maria da Glória’s ‘Folhas verdes’, was also penned by him. Gomes returned another three times to the competition as an arranger of non winning preliminary entries (in 1974, 1976, and for the last time in 1977). The 1974 effort ‘Cantiga ao vento’ was also conducted by him.

Although it is true that Gomes has a more impressive record as an arranger and conductor than as a composer, it is still surprising to find that he only ever wrote one song for the Portuguese selection himself: ‘Eu nunca direi adeus’, a ballad sung by Sérgio Borges, which came second behind Madaléna Iglesias and her ‘Ele e ela’ in 1966.

Other artists on Joaquim Luís Gomes
Fernando Tordo, Portuguese entrant in the 1973 and 1977 Eurovision Song Contests, remembers Joaquim Luís Gomes Gomes well. The first songs that he recorded had an arrangement by Gomes: “He asked me to play my songs for him, accompanying myself on the guitar. While I sung, he kept looking at me very intensely. Then he said: ‘The arrangement has already been made, the only thing that remains to be done now is to put it to paper’. To my mind, he is the master of all Portuguese arrangers. Besides, he was a man of enormous culture and sensibility. I remember his folk orchestra from the 1950s well; he was a musician who was much attached to traditional Portuguese music.” (2009)

Links & sources


Songs conducted
1968: Verão