Luíz Duarte

Born: October 8th, 1949, Lisbon (Portugal)
Died: June 6th, 2021, Montemor-o-Novo (Portugal)
Nationality: Portuguese

Eurovision record
Portuguese multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, arranger, and producer Luíz Duarte Rocha Marques da Silva was involved in the Eurovision Song Contest on two occasions, arranging and conducting his country’s festival entries ‘Bem bom’ for Doce in Harrogate (1982) and ‘Conquistador’ for Da Vinci in Lausanne (1989). Apart from his two stints in the international final, Duarte took part in the Portuguese Eurovision pre-selections on many more occasions as a singer, composer, arranger, and conductor.

Luíz Duarte during rehearsals in the 1989 Festival RTP da Canção in Évora

Biography
Although Luíz Duarte’s father, who earned a living as an accountant, was fond of American jazz, neither of his parents ever gave proof of musical talent. Nevertheless, Luíz recalls feeling attracted to the idea of being a musician from a very early age. “It’s something that I cannot rationally describe. I was four years old – and when people who visited my parents asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said that I was going to be a musician. As a child, I used everything imaginable to make music. Whether it was a spoon, a box, or anything else, I wanted to get a sound from it to create a show. Most likely, the idea must have been given to me by one of my uncles. He was a cello player in the National Radio Symphony Orchestra. My grandmother also told me once that another distant relative, who emigrated to South Africa just after World War II, was a pianist, but I never met him. Somehow, their musical ability was passed onto me. Fortunately, my parents never discouraged me in pursuing my dreams.”

Quite the opposite; in 1959, when Luíz was ten years of age, his mother took him to the music school of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, where he first received a rhythmic initiation course based on the teachings of Carl Orff. Subsequently, for eight years, working with Professor Victor Marques Dinis, he studied the so-called viola da gamba, a six-stringed instrument closely resembling the cello. Apart from the gamba, Luíz learned to play recorder as his side instrument, while also being taught music theory.

“Until 1967, my horizon was mostly classical. Yes, the viola da gamba was my own choice… if the possibility of studying the modern cello had been available, I would probably have chosen that, because unconsciously I wanted to follow in my uncle’s footsteps, but the gamba came close enough! In my years at the Gulbenkian Foundation, I had the privilege of working with the great Belgian pedagogue Edgar Willems. While I and other students were practicing our instruments with our regular teachers, he would quietly observe us. One way or another, he always managed to give a piece of priceless advice to improve our technique. He was an amazing person. I was destined to play the viola da gamba in a chamber orchestra – or, with a little luck and some extra study, I could make it to be a concert musician perhaps… but all of that changed when jazz came into my life!”

“As a music student, I regularly visited the Hot Clube de Portugal, which was essentially Lisbon’s only real jazz club. Top performers from abroad, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Wayne Shorter, and many others, came to Lisbon to play and sing their music in the ‘Hot’. It was a fascinating place to be. Also helped by my friendship with Luiz Vilas Boas, the founder of the Hot Clube and the Louisiana Jazz Club in Cascais, I was soon given the opportunity to join in as a player in jam sessions and shows. Given that the cello isn’t a jazz instrument, I switched to the double-bass. To me, it wasn’t really difficult to learn to play it, as the technique required isn’t that different from the cello. I also regularly performed as a blues and jazz singer. From my early childhood onwards, I’ve always liked singing. When I was just twelve years old, I had already been invited to sing on Portuguese television. Around that same time, I recorded the vocals for the theme tune of a Portuguese film, ‘Nove rapazes e um cão’. People had always told me how they liked listening to my voice. Later, when singing in English in the Hot Clube, the comment I often heard was that I sounded like a real American vocalist.”

Luíz Duarte’s first single release as a singer, ‘Terra 77 – My Room’ (1969)

“One night, while playing the double-bass in a nightclub, Thilo Krasmann was in the audience. Thilo was an arranger and bandleader, and he was always on the lookout for new talent. Without my knowing, the following week, he came to the Hot Clube specifically to watch me again – and not long after that, he approached me and offered me his place in his band. Thilo found himself overburdened with his work for TV and in the recording studio, which is why he was looking for a replacement. I was honoured to be asked. Without a doubt, Thilo’s quintet was the best entertainment band in Portugal, with Paulo de Carvalho on drums, Jorginho on keys, Victor Santos as a tenor saxophonist, and José Luis Simões playing the guitar. When I asked him when he wanted me to start, it turned out he hoped I would join next day! Now, Thilo’s first instrument was the electric bass, which I had never played before. He got me an amplifier and a bass guitar – and before I knew it I was playing popular tunes from all over the globe on the bass, performing in the famous nightclub Galeria 48. It was just like snapping your fingers! Little did I know at the time that the electric bass was going to be my main instrument for the remainder of my life. Suddenly, I was working in popular music. Thilo did it – he was the one who dragged me into it!”

“By that time, I knew my way around in contemporary pop music. Some bands from America and Britain were an inspiration to me. I was a particular fan of Earth, Wind & Fire as well as the Beatles, Chicago Transit Authority, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. As a singer, I took my inspiration from Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra. Of course, I also loved listening to the great jazz orchestras and big bands from America, ranging from Nelson Riddle to Quincy Jones. I never took to music which, harmonically speaking, was simple and unrefined. That’s the main reason why, apart from one stint with guitarist Carlos Paredes, I never got involved in traditional Portuguese fado music. I don’t want to take anything away from the cultural importance of fado, but the genre has never managed to fulfil my musical and spiritual needs.”

Apart from playing in the Galeria 48, Luíz and his four colleagues were also regularly invited to perform as backing group for entertainment shows on Portuguese television, including ‘TV Clube’, ‘Zip-Zip’, and ‘Curto Círcuito’. One thing led to another and, in 1969, he was contracted by the Portuguese branch of the Philips record company, recording his first solo single as a singer, ‘Terra 77/My Room’, and representing his country at the Singing Europe Festival in the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen. In the summer of 1969, with delegation leader Thilo Krasmann and fellow singers João Ferreira Rosa and Fernando Guerra, Duarte travelled to the Netherlands.

In the Hot Clube de Portugal, from left: Luíz Duarte, Thilo Krasmann, Vítor Mamede, and Art Blakey with a girlfriend. On the far right, Pedro Osório (with beard) and Fernando Tordo can be detected (1971)

Thilo was connected to Philips as an arranger. When Philips received the invitation to send a team of three singers to the Netherlands, Thilo put my name on the list. He accompanied us to conduct the orchestra. For me, it was a big opportunity to test myself as a singer. Being in Holland was marvellous. It was my first experience of working with a big orchestra, which I thought was really impressive. I became even more interested in orchestration as a result. Vaguely, from my childhood onwards, I had always dreamt of writing arrangements and conducting orchestras, and suddenly, in Scheveningen, the dream was looking more concrete than ever, changing shape to become an ambition. This trip to Holland was memorable for another reason too. A few months after the festival, I had to report at the Portuguese army to fulfil my military service. With colonial wars being fought in Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Angola, I was thinking of escaping the country. I didn’t want to put my life at risk in a war I didn’t believe in; it was fought to defend the interests of small minority of Portuguese colonialists. If it weren’t for Thilo Krasmann, I would have stayed behind in the Netherlands. Before we left, he had had to sign a document testifying that he took full responsibility for our behaviour abroad. He would have been punished by the authorities if either Fernando Guerra or I hadn’t come back. I didn’t want to get my friend in trouble, so I decided to come back after all.”

For three-and-a-half years (1969-73), Luíz Duarte served in the Portuguese army, but he was fortunate to be given an administrative job in Lisbon. In that period, he was able to engage extensively in musical activities on the side, releasing several more solo singles, working as a session player, and playing in several jazz and light-entertainment ensembles. “With one of those bands, I played in a club in Lisbon called Porão da Nau. The group included Victor Santos, Pedro Osório, Carlos Carvalho, António Vilas Boas, and myself. To our amazement, we were joined by Tyree Glenn Jr., a great tenor sax player from America, whose father had been the trombonist in Count Basie’s orchestra. Working with this guy was like living a dream. The episode lasted little longer than six months, but what an experience it was for all of us to be on stage with such a brilliant musician!”

“Apart from this, I also worked as a residential musician for the Teatro ABC Orchestra in Lisbon, accompanying revue performances, an important part of my learning curve. A personal highlight came in 1972 when, thanks to the suggestion of my friend Fernando Tordo, I was invited to play the double-bass in the world premiere of ‘Partita’, a work by the famous Polish avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki. On the occasion, Penderecki himself conducted the Chamber Orchestra of the Gulbenkian Foundation. It was a big honour, as I was the only Portuguese musician to be invited to join the instrumental soloists he had brought to Portugal with him. His approach to music was very complicated and experimental, but this made the experience all the more interesting.”

In his years in the army, Duarte also made work of his ambition to learn arranging. “In the early 1970s, I started out by taking a few piano lessons. Around the same time, I worked in the orchestra of the Estoril Casino in the evening hours. The conductor there was Ferrer Trindade. During the six months with his orchestra, we became close friends. He was much older than me and a seasoned arranger and conductor. He invited me over to his house. Seated at the piano, he taught me the basics of harmony and arranging. From there, I went on studying practically all by myself, testing my orchestrations in the bands I played in. Whenever I had doubts, I turned to Ferrer or some other friend. In particular Thilo Krasmann, Correia Martins, or Jorge Machado were important figures for me. Jorge was an excellent session pianist and arranger. Like the other three, he had been around for much longer than me. Those four musicians were real friends and always available for advice or a helping hand.”

Luíz (left) as part of a theatre orchestra with Mike Sergeant (middle) and Victor Santos (c. 1973)

Meanwhile, Duarte’s main passion remained firmly with jazz music. For Portuguese television, he did three recordings in a quartet with Pedro Osório at the piano, the famous English saxophonist Ronnie Scott, and Scott’s drummer Tony Abercrombie. In 1971, when American drummer and bandleader Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers came to Portugal to perform at the Cascais Jazz Festival, he invited Duarte to join his group.

“With my friends, I went to Cascais to watch Blakey perform. After the festival, we all went to a club in Lisbon. That night, we organised a jam session with Blakey and his group. There, out of the blue, Blakey asked me, “Hey, what are your plans for the next couple of years?” As it happened, he was looking for young musicians for his Jazz Messengers... and he invited me and Vítor Mamede, one of my best friends and a great drummer, to join him in New York. To us, it was a dream to be offered the opportunity, but we couldn’t leave the country because we were in the middle of performing our military service. It was so frustrating! We were offered the moon, but we weren’t allowed on the Sputnik to get there – it was that type of situation.”

In 1974, one year after the end of Duarte’s military service, the Carnation Revolution put an end to the authoritarian Estado Novo and its fraught colonial wars in Africa. Portugal became a democracy. “The impact of the revolution on our lives was huge,” Duarte comments. “The world for music professionals improved 200 %. State censorship of song lyrics was abolished immediately. Travel restrictions were also lifted. One year after the revolution, I decided I wanted to try my luck abroad. Using my contacts with British jazz musicians, I moved to England to play in Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. I met Ron Carter; I saw Lee Konitz perform – it was fascinating to be so close to those fantastic musicians. I had a powerful friend in Ronnie Scott, who found me a place to live with a friendly family just outside of London. Thanks to him and others, I didn’t really have to worry about how to make a living. I tried really hard to win myself a reputation in London’s jazz circles, but after one year I felt I couldn’t be sure about my professional future there. Also given that there was an issue with my family in Portugal, I reached the conclusion to come back. Perhaps I should have been more adventurous and tried harder in London, but I felt the opportunities to make it in England were not sufficient for me.”

Luíz playing the bass guitar (1975)

Back in Portugal, Luíz was immediately much in demand as a session player and backing singer, working with all of the country’s most experienced arrangers and pop singers. As an artist in his own right, he recorded several more singles and, as a member of the Quarteto 1111, he took part in the Festival RTP da Canção, enjoying chart success with ‘O que custar’ in 1977. That same year, he made his debut as a record arranger as well.

“As a session musician, I practically spent all my days and nights in the studio, even having my meals there in between the different recordings. I wasn’t married at the time, you see! In 1979, I signed a deal obliging me to write one arrangement per week for Thilo Krasmann and his Tal & Qual Orchestra. Thilo just had to conduct the orchestra in the studio. At a certain point, however, he said to me, “You wrote the part, so you know the parts better than anyone else, so you may now just as well conduct it yourself,” and then he simply ceded his place to me. Again, Thilo was being extremely generous. He didn’t have to do that, you see! In doing so, he offered me the opportunity to gain experience in that area.”

Rapidly winning a reputation as a studio arranger and conductor in his own right over the following years, Luíz Duarte worked with the likes of Fernando Tordo, Carlos Mendes, and Carlos Paião. He also became much sought-after as an arranger for recordings in the disco and soul genres. Simultaneously, Duarte had the opportunity to make his mark as a band leader and conductor in various television programmes at Portugal’s state broadcaster RTP. In 1979, succeeding Thilo Krasmann, he became the musical director of a 32-piece orchestra for Joaquím Letria’s weekly talk show ‘Tal & Qual’ for one season.

“That was the big boom for me, conducting such a large orchestra in what was the most popular TV programme at the time. Joaquím Letria could be described as Portugal’s answer to Larry King… a fantastic journalist and host. Musicians, novelists, actors, and other celebrities from all over the world were guests on his show. The orchestra at my disposal was an extended big band with an excellent rhythm section. A cultured man, Letria is highly observant and generous. Once, he told the studio audience, “… and now, we’re going to listen to the Tal & Qual Orchestra in yet another orchestration of Luíz Duarte, who I would like to define as being the owner of a Hitchcockian character.” Even today, I believe nobody has ever defined my personality better than he did on that occasion. Character-wise, I don’t like taking centre-stage, preferring to be helpful and do the best I can behind the scenes. My name doesn’t need to be mentioned. If I can make music with good professionals, working together for the best possible result, that’s the best form of satisfaction for me.”

Playing in a television orchestra with his good friend Armindo Neves

In the 1980s, Luíz Duarte continued working extensively for television, undertaking projects both as a musician and musical director at the independent production company Edipim for two years (1982-84) and MD’ing several more chat shows such as ‘O nosso século’ (1988) and Joaquím Letria’s ‘Já está’ (1989). Meanwhile, extending his field of professional activities even further, Duarte led the orchestra at the Ádoque Theatre as well as the Portuguese staging of the musical comedy ‘Annie’ at the Maria Matos Theatre in Lisbon (1981-82). In addition, once more teaming up with Thilo Krasmann, he co-wrote the orchestrations to José Fonseca e Costa’s cinema film ‘Kilas, o mau da fita’ (1980).

In the course of the 1980s, as a studio arranger, Luíz Duarte wrote scores for Simone de Oliveira and Tonicha, while also arranging and producing ‘Cantor latino’, the last studio album by Tony de Matos. Duarte’s most enduring involvement, however, was with singer-songwriter Paco Bandeira, penning the arrangements to six of his albums and accompanying him as musical director on his international tours in a partnership that lasted eleven years (1985-96).

“Counting the years I played with him as a bass player, it was even longer… I started playing in his band in the late 1970s! When Pedro Osório, the arranger Paco worked with previously, was no longer available, I had got to know him pretty well – and he trusted me to take over Pedro’s job and do it well. Even if Paco could be difficult to work with at times, he was an inspirational person to work with. His lyrics were tremendous and the melody lines interesting. The one song that sticks out for me is ‘Ouguela’, which recalls the Spanish Civil War. It was pure joy writing an arrangement to that melody. When writing the scores to Paco’s songs, I tried to add a little bit of jazz in the harmonies, but not too much… I was certainly influencing the sound, but in a subtle way. As Paco was extremely popular in Brazil and with Portuguese communities abroad, I travelled practically all over the world with him; Europe, North and South America, Africa, and even Australia. On a professional and personal level, I noticed how Paco always put complete trust in me. Whenever there was a problem with one of the musicians in the band, he counted on me to come up with the best solution.”

On stage with Vítor Mamede (drums) and Thilo Krasmann (keyboards) (c. 1988)

When asked if he prefers working in the studio or on stage, Duarte reflects; “I believe I can take pleasure from both. Working in the studio involves more precision; whatever you’re going to record is meant to be forever. This appeals to the deepest sense of professionalism in any musician. I’m no exception, and I always gave the best of myself; I wanted to make sure that any output that had my name on the cover was of the highest possible level. On the other hand, doing a show for a live audience is more fun. Whenever working live, whether it was in the theatre or elsewhere, I liked to change some small details in the music for each new performance. In fact, I like to think that I never played the same song twice.”

In the 1990s, apart from being Paco Bandeira’s musical director, Luíz Duarte composed the music to several RTP soap operas, including ‘Filhos do vento’ and ‘Vidas de sal’. In 1992, he also took up music teaching as a side activity, working as a music teacher at various schools in Lisbon as well as with individual students privately. Four years later, following a conflict between the RTP and Portuguese musicians over payment for radio and television commissions, which involved a year-long musicians’ strike, Duarte took the radical step of withdrawing from Lisbon altogether. With his family, he moved to the Algarve.

“It was a ridiculous idea on the part of the RTP. They claimed that musicians benefited from performing on TV because it was free publicity for their work. With a group of musicians, we decided simply not to work for RTP any longer, in the hope of changing their mind – but this never happened. That was the main reason why my wife Isabel do Valle, who is a singer and music teacher, and I decided to leave Lisbon. We moved to the Algarve region, in the south of the country. Together, we made the suggestion to Albufeira’s City Council to create a municipal choir. At that time, there was no choir in Albufeira. Commissioned by the town hall, we formed two choirs, one for children and one for adults. I was offered the position of resident choral conductor. Some years later, I also took up teaching music at two schools in Albufeira.”

Luíz with his wife, singer Isabel do Valle, as the duo Du’Arte (early 1990s)

“I cannot say I was a natural-born teacher, but the job wasn’t that difficult. By that time, I had gained quite some life experience, which is helpful when working with youngsters. As the population in Albufeira is so cosmopolitan, I sometimes had to teach in four different languages simultaneously, which could be challenging at times! Still, it was rewarding work. Some of my students from the Algarve became friends who I have remained in touch with until this day. After the lessons, at the end of the afternoon, I used to rehearse with my choral ensembles, which I led for seventeen consecutive years. In 2005, I created an operetta for the children’s choir entitled ‘Albufeira… 3,000 Years of History’, recounting the history of the region in music. With that same choir, I also produced a CD with Disney repertoire done in Portuguese and in English. My two daughters, Ana Teresa and Ana Isabel, took part in it too. Ana Isabel was only six years old at the time! I was planning to release this work on a CD as well, but due to the collapse of the Portuguese economy in the following years nothing came of it.”

In 2012, due to severe cuts in local authority budgets, Luíz Duarte lost all his professional activities in Albufeira. Subsequently, moving north again, he conducted the choir of the city hall in Évora for four years before finishing his professional career as a teacher at a music school in Lisbon (2015-16). Upon retirement, he settled down with his wife and daughters in the town of Montemor-o-Novo in the Alentejo region.

When asked if he looks back on his life in music with satisfaction, Duarte reflects, “Oh yes! I don’t think there are many musicians who had such a varied and complete career as I had. It was worth it! The only regret I have is that I couldn’t accept Art Blakey’s invitation to come to New York and join his Jazz Messengers in 1971. What could my life have been like? We’ll never know. If I had another life, it would be dedicated completely to jazz. I still love jazz most of all. Quoting Miles Davis, “To me, music means everything!” If I had the opportunity to do my life over again, both personally and professionally, I would hardly change a thing!”

On stage with his choir in Évora (2015)

Luíz Duarte in the Eurovision Song Contest
As an interpreter, orchestral musician, composer, arranger, and conductor, spanning a period of twenty-one years, Luíz Duarte took part in no fewer than sixteen editions of the Festival RTP da Canção, Portugal’s Eurovision pre-selection. Undisputed highlights were his two involvements as a conductor in the international Eurovision finals of 1982 and 1989, but his first participation in the Festival RTP da Canção came much earlier, in 1973, when he sang ‘Minha senhora das dores’, a composition by Fernando Tordo with lyrics by José Carlos Ary dos Santos.

“Ary had six songs in the Festival da Canção that year,” Duarte recalls. “He submitted six lyrics and they were all accepted; not really surprising, given his talent as a poet and lyricist. Now, Ary was the focal point of a group of young artists from all kinds of different backgrounds – Fernando Tordo, Paulo de Carvalho, Paco Bandeira, Carlos do Carmo, and others. I was also part of this group which regularly gathered at Ary’s house to socialise and make music. Yes, Ary was a communist, but politics were never discussed. Whatever our exact political convictions, we were united in our loathing of Caetano’s fascist government and its colonial wars in Africa.”

“Ary’s best friend was Fernando Tordo, but Fernando couldn’t sing all titles himself. So Ary said, “Well, shall we invite our friends to sing some of the other songs?” Fernando agreed and, following this decision, I was given ‘Minha senhora das dores’ (in English: ‘My Lady of Pains’ – BT), a beautiful poem about the suffering women have to go through while giving childbirth. It’s a really amazing song and I was lucky to be given the opportunity to sing it. The recording was done in Madrid, because Tordo approached a Spanish friend of his, Pepe Nieto, to do the arrangement. Given that he was involved in so many songs, it was almost inevitable that Ary would win the festival – and this he did, with ‘Tourada’, one of the songs assigned to Fernando himself. Although I didn’t get many points, taking part in the festival with this song was a wonderful experience.”

Single release of ‘Minha senhora das dores’, Luíz Duarte’s debut as a singer in the Festival RTP da Canção (1973)

After playing the bass guitar in Thilo Krasmann’s orchestra which accompanied all entries in the 1976 edition of the Festival RTP da Canção, Duarte was back as a performer the following year, being part of the Quarteto 1111. The combo took its name from a disbanded rock group which used to comprise, among others, José Cid and Mike Sergeant. In 1975-78, apart from Duarte (bass), the band consisted of Armindo Neves (guitar), Rui dos Reis (keyboards), and Vítor Mamede (drums) – all of them up and coming session musicians. In 1975-76, the group worked in the theatre as the accompanying band for the musical ‘Godspell’. In 1977, they took part in the Festival da Canção with ‘O que custar’, written by Fernando Guerra, for which the group wrote the arrangement themselves. In that same competition, the quartet signed the orchestrations for three other entries as well.

Armindo Neves and I were the two group members with arranging ambitions,” Duarte explains. “In fact, this festival may very well have been our first opportunity to write our scores. The two of us did those festival arrangements together. “If you do the brass parts, I’ll take care of the strings,” it was that type of thing. Being good friends, we trusted one another completely. There was a healthy form of competition between us to come up with good ideas. In fact, we were looking at each other for inspiration. With ‘O que custar’, we enjoyed a discrete chart success. After touring in Portugal, we went to North America for a month-and-a-half, performing for the Portuguese communities in the USA and Canada. Given that Portugal had been an open-air prison until 1974, it was a sensational feeling to perform in concerts on the other side of the world.”

The Quarteto 1111 in 1977, seated from left to right; Rui dos Reis, Luíz Duarte, and Armindo Neves. Standing behind them: Vítor Mamede

As none of the four members of Quarteto 1111 were particularly interested in careers as performers, the group ceased activities not long after returning from America. In the following years, Luíz Duarte was ever more sought-after as an arranger. As such, he wrote the arrangements to six entries performed in the 1979, 1980, and 1981 editions of the Festival RTP da Canção, conducted by Thilo Krasmann, Jorge Machado, and José Calvário respectively. In 1982, he made his first appearance as a conductor in the Portuguese Eurovision pre-selection, leading the orchestra for his arrangements to ‘Vai mas vem’ by Fernanda and ‘Bem bom’ by the all-female pop quartet Doce. The latter, composed by António Pinho, Tozé Brito, and Pedro Brito, won the competition, thereby earning the right to represent Portugal at the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest.

“One day, Tozé Brito contacted me and told me about this song called ‘Bem bom’. Tozé and I are good friends. He explained that it had been selected to take part in the Festival da Canção – and he wanted me to do the arrangement and conduct the orchestra. He gave me the freedom to write the score the way I thought best, but he drew my attention to one important detail. He explained the song was supposed to have a strong pop sound, but that the rhythm ought to be done with a bombo, a traditional drum originating from the north of Portugal. In doing so, Tozé wanted to give the song a distinct Portuguese feel; so this wasn’t just a song written with an international audience in mind – it was also supposed to appeal to the Portuguese soul! Having said that, musically speaking ‘Bem bom’ was a very simple composition. In such a song, it doesn’t work to include complicated harmonies. Brito wrote a song which was meant to have instant appeal. The lyrics are naïve as well, dealing with a man and a woman spending a romantic night together until they decide to have breakfast at eight in the morning. In short, there was little for me to do as an arranger. I followed the pattern and kept it really very simple!”

On the single release of ‘Bem bom’, Dutch producer Jacques Zwart is credited as Duarte’s co-arranger. In 1982-83, Zwart produced two more singles for Doce. When reminded of Zwart’s name, Duarte explodes. “That fellow! He didn’t make the arrangement. The record version, the version for the Festival da Canção in Lisbon, and the Eurovision version were all done by me alone! Somehow, he had got in touch with Tozé Brito to co-produce Doce. As a producer, he surely did the job he was supposed to do, but he didn’t have any involvement with the music. One way or another, he managed to add his name to the record as my co-arranger. Nobody informed me of this. I only found out afterwards.”

Celebrating their victory in the 1982 Festival da Canção, the girl band Doce with, seated in front of them (from left to right), lyricists Pedro Brito and António Pinho, composer Tozé Brito, and conductor Luíz Duarte

The 1982 Festival da Canção was by no means Doce’s debut. In the past two editions of the festival, they had also taken part. Moreover, in 1981, the quartet had a huge chart success with ‘Amanhã de manhã’, written for them by Tozé Brito and Mike Sergeant. The group consisted of Fátima Padinha, Teresa Miguel – who had both been in the Gemini quartet in the 1970s – Lena Coelho, and Laura Diogo. Luíz Duarte had not been involved with Doce prior to the 1982 Festival da Canção.

“Of those four girls, only Fátima and Lena were professional or semi-professional singers,” he explains. “The other two weren’t… and now, after all these years, I can admit that one of them almost couldn’t sing at all. When working live, she had to keep her voice very low in order not to ruin the performance. The concept of Doce was having four pretty girls together putting on an attractive show. Visually, their stage presentations were really strong. Their choreographies were at least as important a factor in their success as the songs they were singing. In fact, I would say they were mostly about choreography, with the music being slightly pushed into the background. Most of their songs were purely rhythmical in their approach. Eventually, when we went to the Eurovision Song Contest, we decided to add two backing singers to the group to create a more secure vocal presentation.”

When asked if he was surprised when ‘Bem bom’ won the Portuguese pre-selection, winning the ticket to the international festival final in Harrogate (England), Duarte reflects, “Let’s say I was half surprised. On the one hand, the song itself was simple and the vocals weren’t very strong. Yet, people really loved a likeable pop tune in a festival. They recognised it as a pop song rather than a typical festival entry. Somehow, they could identify with the ingenuity of the lyrics and the happy girl quartet. Personally, I went mad when we won in Portugal. From childhood onwards, I had dreamt of being a conductor – and in 1982, I had really only worked as an arranger and conductor for a limited time. I was out of my mind! Then, Tozé came to me and said, “Well, now you’ll have to write for an even bigger number of musicians, because you’re coming with us to England to conduct the orchestra of the BBC!” At that point, my excitement almost turned to hysteria. This was too good to be true… and I began feeling nervous as well. One thing was for sure, nobody was going to take my place on that podium in Harrogate. I was going to conduct in Eurovision!”

“Coming to Harrogate was a great experience. The town was small yet lovely. All participants were staying in a large, classic hotel, The Old Swan. There was ample opportunity to meet and hang out with competitors from other countries. We were staying there for a full week. One day, in between rehearsals, all delegations were invited to visit the Harrogate Flower Show, a huge open-air festival with beautifully arranged gardens full of flowers. I had never seen anything like it in my life.”

“The rehearsals with the orchestra were very easy, mainly due to one man, Ronnie Hazlehurst, the BBC’s musical director. Ronnie was there to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. At the first rehearsal, he introduced every conductor to the musicians of his orchestra, telling them which country they represented. For those conductors who didn’t speak English, he was extra alert to help them out if a language problem arose. We had taken the bombo drum with us from Portugal to give the song the same feel as in the Festival da Canção. Ronnie was about to explain his percussionist about the bombo, but I told him not to worry – and then I spoke to the guy about the way he was supposed to strike the skin of the drum. As a matter of fact, he didn’t need more than that one, short instruction. He played exactly the way I wanted him to at the first go.”

Doce backstage in Harrogate, from left to right; Teresa Miguel, Fátima Padinha, Lena Coelho, and Laura Diogo

“On a personal level, I got on very well with Ronnie Hazlehurst. He was an excellent chap. After one of the rehearsals, we were discussing the way the orchestra had played the arrangement. Then, suddenly, Ronnie said, “Well, I am getting thirsty. Let’s go and have a drink!” Yeah, of course, why not? That was the spirit in which he worked with his musicians as well. So, there I was, after rehearsals, sitting in a pub with Ronnie and some of his colleagues in the orchestra and chatting about all subjects imaginable. We stayed in that picturesque pub until late in the evening. I guess that was the part of our week in Harrogate which I enjoyed most. The afternoons were for rehearsals, but in the evenings you were free to hang out with all kinds of interesting people involved in the festival.”

In the draw made to determine the running order, Portugal had come out first. Duarte, only 32 years old at the time, could have been forgiven for feeling nervous. “Well, I was feeling nervous… extremely nervous! There I was, backstage, dressed as a musketeer. The girls were wearing musketeer outfits for their performance and Tozé Brito invited me to wear something in the same vein. He wanted me to be part of the group in some way – the leading musketeer, if you like. I didn’t object. “As long as I don’t have to wear a sword with the outfit, I’m fine,” I said. It was a good joke. But by the time I was about to come on, when one of the production crew’s assistants told me that I had to be in standby to get on stage, I could hardly stand on my legs! “Now start walking downstairs and then straight to the orchestra,” I was instructed. My legs were like tinkling bells! Then I was introduced by the host, took my musketeer’s hat off as a gesture to the audience, turned to the orchestra, put the hat down, and counted in the band. I guess those moments were the scariest in my entire life… but in the end, everything turned out fine. The performance we gave was good.”

In the voting, ‘Bem bom’ was awarded with 32 jury votes, finishing in a modest thirteenth position in a field of eighteen competing songs. “I knew we weren’t going to win. When delegates from other countries spoke of our song in the days leading up the show, the comments were usually about the pretty girls, their costumes, and occasionally also about the peculiar rhythm. It was obvious the song itself was a little bit too simple to make an impact. It wasn’t one of the worst either… I was expecting a position in the middle of the scoreboard, and that’s exactly how it turned out. Afterwards, we didn’t feel too much disappointment – or, let me speak for myself, I wasn’t disappointed. We got just about what we deserved.”

Doce performing ‘Bem-bom’ on the Eurovision stage in Harrogate

The year after his experience in Harrogate, Luíz Duarte was again in the running in the Portuguese Eurovision pre-selection, this time competing with his own composition, the distinctly jazzy ‘No calor da noite’. As a matter of course, he wrote the arrangement and conducted the festival orchestra himself. Interpreted by the male-female duo Broa de Mel, the song finished third-last, far behind winner Armando Gama.

“That was the only time I took part in the festival as a composer. Being heavily involved in writing arrangements for many different artists, I hardly ever had the opportunity to think of writing my own music. For the Festival da Canção in 1983, I was approached by Mário Contumélias, a journalist who used to write lyrics for pop songs. He explained that he had this duo, Broa de Mel, who were looking for a song to enter the Eurovision selection. As he asked me, I immediately thought of a tune I had composed some time before. When I played it to him, he became interested and said that he would like to write lyrics to it. I agreed, provided that he stuck with the title I had invented for it, which translates to English as ‘In the Heat of the Night’, which he agreed was a good catchphrase. The lyrics he wrote were good, but I honestly wasn’t satisfied with the way the duo performed it. They lacked the feel required to sing jazz. I tried my best with them, they gave their best, but unfortunately they never got there.”

After an absence of five years, Duarte returned to the Portuguese pre-selection in 1988, this time as a vocalist as well as arranger for the romantic ballad ‘Quando a noite se faz certa’, composed by Nuno Nazareth Fernandes. Originally, though, he was not scheduled either to sing or even arrange it.

“Nuno asked Fernando Correia Martins to write the orchestration to his composition for the Festival da Canção. Now, Correia and I were very good friends. At some point, he phoned me, asking me if I could take this commission from his shoulders. He was overburdened with work and couldn’t make the deadline which had been set by the RTP for the submission of the final version. Yes, of course, no problem! So I wrote the arrangement, but a couple of days later, Nuno was on the phone. “Luíz, I have a problem! The guy who was supposed to sing it in the festival withdrew. I don’t know what to do. Would you perhaps be in the mood to step in?” Again, I said yes! It was a funny situation. That year, the festival was done with video clips and there was no live orchestra in play. There was a small combo of musicians surrounding me while I performed the song and played my bass guitar. I didn’t win, but that was fine… what annoyed me much more is that even now, over thirty years on, Correia is still erroneously mentioned in the annals of the RTP as the arranger of the song instead of me!”

Luíz Duarte (second from right) with the members of Da Vinci celebrating the first place of ‘Conquistador’ in the Portuguese Eurovision pre-selection in Évora (1989)

In 1989, the RTP returned to organising a public final with an orchestra. Five songs were admitted to the competition, each with a different arranger and conductor: Armindo Neves, Ramón Galarza, Fernando Correia Martins, Carlos Alberto Moniz, and Luíz Duarte. Duarte took responsibility for the group Da Vinci, who took part with ‘Conquistador’, an upbeat song celebrating the Portuguese sailors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries who were the first Europeans to explore the oceans. The tune was written by two members of the group, Pedro Luís Neves and Ricardo Landum.

“Ricardo was a guitarist who worked extensively as a session musician and songwriter,” Duarte explains. “I regularly worked with him. He had submitted ‘Conquistador’ to the Eurovision selection committee in Portugal and, to his excitement, the song made it to the last five. When he heard the news, he phoned me: “Luíz, we have a strong song for the festival – and you’re the man! This song has your face on it!” That’s the expression he used. “You’ll love it,” he continued. “You are my man to write the orchestration for the 33-piece orchestra of the festival in Portugal, but I believe you’ll have to make a bigger one for the Eurovision orchestra later, because this song is really strong, believe me… and you’re going to make it even better!” Within that single minute in which he told me all of that, he managed to awake my curiosity and enthusiasm. This guy really believed in his composition – and in me! Isn’t it great when someone puts his trust in you in such a way?”

“When I heard the demo which Ricardo had done of it, I was impressed. Firstly, the demo was already very good. In my long years of working as an arranger, I was regularly given demos with only voice and guitar – often badly sung, stopping halfway through and then continuing after a long silence. Ricardo’s demo was different! This guy worked permanently for one of the country’s best record studios. He had all the best equipment at his disposal, which he put to good use. His version contained synthesisers and a full rhythm group. The build-up was perfectly clear. The first time I listened to his version, I knew what to do with the song… I knew exactly! The catchwords which came to me were; epic, Roman Empire, fighting, wars – all of that. Ricardo had given me complete freedom to make the arrangement the way I thought best. For several days, I immersed myself in the song, giving my attention to every single detail to create the best possible outcome… and I believe I succeeded! This song required a powerful sound. We recorded a studio version with a few brass players and a rhythm group. The strings were done with synthesisers.”

When asked if he ever felt uncomfortable with the message of the lyrics of ‘Conquistador’, which at first glance seem slightly nationalistic, Duarte laughs, “Are you being serious? This was not a song about colonialism or oppression! In the words, countries across all continents of the world are mentioned. It’s just Australia that doesn’t feature. Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Goa, Timor… and so on, the Portuguese came overseas to find new lands. There is no political component underneath. The only problem we had were those hideous colonial wars undertaken by Salazar and Caetano in Africa, which gave Portugal a bad reputation – and rightly so! Nowadays, all of those countries are free, the language spoken there is Portuguese, and they have the best possible relations with Portugal. The song ‘Conquistador’ celebrates the exploring nature of those Portuguese sailors who took to the seas all those centuries ago, giving ‘new worlds to the world’!”

Backstage at the Festival da Canção in Évora, having a chat with a journalist (1989)

The 1989 Festival da Canção was held in the historic town of Évora, about an hour-and-a-half’s drive away from Lisbon. “I remember the spirit among myself and my fellow conductors was as good as could be. We were away from home and enjoying ourselves to bits. We were throwing jokes at each other all the time. The other four agreed that ‘Conquistador’ was a strong song. They gave me a very good chance to win. In the voting, they were proved right. We won, hands down – the song was lost ahead, so to speak! While the votes were coming in, Fernando Correia Martins began poking my arm. “Don’t forget my cheese!” he said, referring to the Eurovision Song Contest which was due in Switzerland that year. I said, “Oh, come on, Correia, there are still a lot of votes to be counted!”, but he just smiled and said, “Are you listening to me? I want you to bring me a big Swiss cheese!” After all results had come in and ‘Conquistador’ had been declared the winner, we had to perform the song again. While I was standing up from my seat in the front row of the theatre to walk to the orchestra, Correia and the other conductors all together said something like, “Oh, Luíz, we really love cheese!” They made me laugh. It was all quite funny. There they were, four grown-up musicians in a little theatre in Évora, cracking jokes about Swiss cheese. It’s a great memory!”

After winning the Portuguese final, the group Da Vinci could start thinking about the Eurovision Song Contest in Lausanne. Luíz Duarte was approached by the group’s keyboard player Pedro Luís. “He was worried that the orchestra in Switzerland wouldn’t play the song in the correct tempo, and that their rhythm section wouldn’t give the song the power it needed. It was obvious that he was nervous. He had heard other countries would be using a backing track with the essential rhythm parts included – and he wondered if we could do that as well. I hadn’t previously given it a thought. I suggested using a click track with a synthesised drum – not a real drummer, but more like a marker indicating the tempo. The idea of not using the rhythm section in the orchestra, as some other countries did, was never on the table. Our track was very limited, not interfering with the drummer of the Swiss orchestra who played the part live. Using the click track was a wish coming from the group. Personally, I don’t think it was necessary, given that I had a pocket metronome which could have given me the exact tempo when counting in the orchestra. With the benefit of hindsight, there was even less reason to worry, given that the orchestra in Switzerland was great… but we didn’t find out about that until arriving in Lausanne.”

Two days before the Portuguese delegation were due to fly out to Switzerland, fate struck; Da Vinci’s guitarist and songwriter Ricardo Landum was involved in a grave traffic accident. “He and a group of friends were coming back from a party in a location outside of Lisbon,” Duarte recalls. “Their car crashed and two of them were killed. Ricardo survived, but he was seriously wounded. He had to stay in hospital for several weeks. There was no question that he could come along. The other group members managed to find someone to replace him (Manuel António Rosa – BT). He was a guitarist, but not of the professional level of Ricardo himself. Ricardo was due to play his guitar live on the Eurovision stage. The song includes a guitar solo towards the end and having it played by this new guy was a risk we were keen to avoid. Therefore, the decision was taken to adapt the backing track to include the guitar parts Ricardo had done for the record version of ‘Conquistador’. This allowed his replacement to imitate Ricardo’s solo without having to worry about playing correctly. Everything had to be done in a rush. We got this new, extended backing track done just in time to take it with us to Switzerland.”

The Portuguese band Da Vinci during rehearsals at the 1989 Eurovision Song Contest in Lausanne – photo taken by the orchestra’s pianist, Rui dos Reis

At the first rehearsal with Benoît Kaufman’s Eurovision orchestra in Lausanne, Luíz Duarte was in for a surprise. “I was up on the conductor’s platform, just about to hand out the scores to the orchestra members. The musicians were on several different platforms, with the rhythm section on the lower plan and the strings and brass players higher up. Looking down, all of a sudden, I saw Rui Reis, with whom I had been in the Quarteto 1111. I was completely surprised! Sure, I knew from Vítor Mamede that Rui had moved to Switzerland a few years before (in 1979 – BT), but it never crossed my mind that he would be the pianist in this Eurovision orchestra. When our faces met, I couldn’t help stammering, “I don’t believe it! What are you doing here?” One of the other musicians noticed and said, laughing, “Oh yes, we forgot to tell you, we have a guy from Portugal playing in our orchestra!” After the rehearsal, I had the opportunity to speak to Rui and ask him about his life in Switzerland. He told me about his studies at the conservatoire and how he was now focusing on baroque music. In fact, he gave me a record of Bach music which he had done with a colleague he had met at the academy in Switzerland. I was amazed. It was very good to see an old friend doing so well!”

“In that first rehearsal, I first played the score with the rhythm group and then with the strings, just to check that there were no wrong notes in the various parts. Third up was the brass group. At that point, the first trumpet player raised his voice, “Please allow me to ask about the first bars. That brass intro is very powerful. How do you want me to play it? If you want, I can play it one octave higher than written in your score.” Now, the arrangement was written in B flat – and for trumpets, a B flat is written as a C. Playing that intro in C was already hard enough, but apparently he was undeterred and asked me this question. “Really? Can you do that?” I asked. My voice must have sounded incredulous, because I was stunned by his suggestion. “Oh yes,” he answered coolly, “I’m used to doing that.” “Well, I guess… if you can make that extra octave, it would be great!” He then promised me to do it for the general rehearsal and for the concert itself. Because hitting the note required a special effort on his part, he wanted to spare himself in the regular rehearsals. Doing that first rehearsal, I realised I didn’t need to worry about the orchestra. They were fabulous!”

“After the first rehearsal, I went for a drink with Rui Reis, Benoît Kaufman, and some of the orchestra players. The spirit amongst musicians was very similar to what I experienced in Harrogate. Some of the members of the orchestra were from Paris, like Benoît himself in fact. Frankly, I was still baffled by the remark of that first trumpet player. I asked Rui if the guy had been trying to make a joke. “Oh no,” Rui said. “This fellow is amazing. He is a French musician originating from Central America. He can play those high notes just like Freddy Hubbard! If you ask him to play a super G, he won’t even blink his eyes – he’ll do it for you on the spot!” It was almost incredible, but he was right. In the general rehearsal and in the live broadcast, in those first notes of our song, you can hear his trumpet playing one octave higher than the others – and it gave the song an extra dimension. Telling you this, I can hardly believe my own story, but he really played that high note, and he did so comfortably.”

“On one other evening, I was again hanging out with Benoît Kaufman and some of his musicians in a café in Lausanne, having drinks together and chatting about music. I was at a table with Benoît and some musicians, including that first trumpet player. Benoît said, “Man, listen, in the orchestra we spoke about your song… we believe you’ll finish with the first three in the voting! That’s the common opinion among my musicians.” I protested, as I was sure that he was trying to fool me, but the others at the table assured me that he was being dead-serious. “It’s an epic song,” Kaufman said, “a warrior song. Your brass arrangement gives it extra oomph – it reminds me of the Romans and their armies.” What he said was incredible, because that was exactly the feeling I had wanted to express when I wrote the orchestration to ‘Conquistador’. I thanked him for the compliment. At the same time, I began feeling really hopeful about the concert. I was already quite confident we could do well, but the comments from Benoît and his musicians confirmed my belief in that.”

Da Vinci’s lead singer Iei Or during rehearsals in Lausanne – picture by Rui dos Reis

In the voting, things did not exactly turn out the way Luíz had been expecting. As so many Portuguese entries before, ‘Conquistador’ finished in the lower half of the scoreboard, finishing sixteenth in a field of twenty-two. “It was a huge blow to all of us. In Harrogate, I wasn’t expecting anything, but in Lausanne the situation was different. We had been told from various sides that we were among the favourites. Unfortunately, on the night of the concert, there was a technical problem which harmed the performance of the group. Iei, the girl who was the main singer of the group, couldn’t hear the return of her own voice while singing the first lines of the song. One way or another, an engineer had forgotten to switch the sound on for her. The audience didn’t notice anything, but she was panicking for a couple of seconds, making her tremendously nervous. She felt a little lost on stage. Iei wasn’t a seasoned professional singer who had had such an experience previously. This certainly impaired her vocal performance on the night. That’s one of the reasons why we didn’t get the number of points we were expecting.”

“I suspect there was an additional reason why we failed to do well in the voting. A couple of days before the festival, Rui Reis and I were having a chat at the entrance of the concert hall. As Sony were the main sponsors of the contest, they had been allowed to install a large exposition at the entrance of the auditorium, showcasing their state-of-the-art studio equipment. While Rui and I were involved in our conversation, a Portuguese journalist joined us. This man pointed his finger at the exhibition of Sony. “Did you notice?”, he asked. “This whole festival is being paid for by money made available by Sony. Mark my words, guys; the winner of this festival is going to be a song directly or indirectly connected with Sony!” … and this is what happened! Some of the entries competing in the festival were released by record companies with links to Sony. We weren’t one of those songs. Looking back, I can understand why Sony couldn’t afford taking responsibility for the organisation of such an event while running the risk of not winning it. They had to defend their position on the international market. Believe me, Yugoslavia won the contest for that reason – and we didn’t get the points we deserved because of all this. It’s not very nice to speak about such a thing, but this kind of manipulation really happens in the festival – and not just in 1989.”

Duarte and the members of the Portuguese band Da Vince could take comfort from the fact that, in spite of the disappointing result, ‘Conquistador’ was a big hit in Portugal – and in fact has become an evergreen, a song everyone in Portugal can still sing along to. If there were any sour grapes, Luíz Duarte has certainly got over the disappointment. “The day I was on that conductor’s platform in Lausanne was one of the happiest moments of my life. Looking back on my two Eurovision performances, I can say Harrogate was like climbing the mountain and getting to the top… professionally speaking. At the time, I was only just over thirty years old and in terms of conducting technique I still had quite a lot to learn. In Lausanne, I was nearly forty and I no longer had that nervousness about my professional ability. As a conductor, I was feeling perfectly secure about what I was doing. In Switzerland, I really was at the top of the mountain. I would say I wrote one of my best orchestrations and it was performed to perfection with Kaufman’s musicians. It was a highlight. No, I wouldn’t say that I am proud of my two Eurovisions. My life is not about pride, but I can say that both participations were extremely important and happy experiences.”

… and one last issue concerning the 1989 Eurovision Song Contest we were still curious to hear about was if Luíz bought the cheese that his friend and fellow conductor from Portugal, Fernando Correia Martins, had asked for. “No, I didn’t,” Luíz says, in a vain attempt at restraining a laugh. “I didn’t bring him cheese, but I bought him a bar of the finest and tastiest Swiss chocolate!”

Backstage in Lausanne, meeting up with his old friend from Harrogate, the United Kingdom’s conductor Ronnie Hazlehurst

In the following two editions of the Portuguese Eurovision pre-selection, Luíz Duarte arranged four more songs, with two of those finishing in third place. Surprisingly, in 1992, Duarte participated as a performer in the Festival da Canção again. After taking part as a solo singer in the 1973 and 1988 selections, he was back this time with ‘Um amigo sempre à mão’, a song written by Paco Bandeira. At the time, Duarte was the arranger of Bandeira’s studio work and the musical director of his stage shows.

“In fact, Paco wrote that song at the request of a Portuguese telephone company,” Duarte reveals. “They were looking for a tune for their new advertisement campaign. Sometime later, when RTP’s invitation to submit a song for the Festival da Canção rolled in, he was still waiting for the company’s reply. At that point, he decided to take the liberty to send that same song to Portuguese television, without any expectation of it being chosen for the final. To his surprise, however, it was picked! That’s when he contacted me. “Luíz, I have a problem… RTP’s festival committee have accepted the song, but I don’t want to take part in the festival myself. Who should I give it to now? Would you mind doing not just the arrangement for the song, but performing it as well? We’ve been through so much together and I would really appreciate if you did!” Yes, history was repeating itself here, because I had helped out Nuno Nazareth Fernandes in 1988 for similar reasons! “Well, Paco,” I said, “I can do just about anything for you; play the bass, arrange… as long as you’re not asking me to wash the floor after the festival, I’m alright!” I did it. It was a funny situation. Of course, I didn’t win, although the music was good… too good for a phone company campaign, I would say! For me, it ended there. At the time, Paco said he couldn’t sing it himself, but some years later he recorded it on one of his albums. Apparently he changed his mind. Paco was his own producer, so he could do whatever he liked!”

For the 1993 Festival da Canção, Luíz Duarte wrote three arrangements, one of them being ‘Renascer de um trovador’, a stately ballad with overtones of Portuguese traditional music. It was interpreted by Piedade Fernandes, a music teacher from Setúbal. “Again, that song came my way thanks to Ricardo Landum, the guy who composed ‘Conquistador’. This time, he wasn’t the composer, but the demo had been recorded in the studio where he worked. They were looking for an orchestrator to do the job. Somehow, it had been turned down by several others, probably because it wasn’t a typical festival song. The melody sounded medieval. When I heard the demo, I thought it was really interesting. I knew immediately what I wanted to do with it. Instantly the idea came to me to have the main movement played by a harp and a flute. It was an unusual combination, certainly in the context of a song festival. Many people didn’t understand the composition. They felt the melody was too slow. My answer was that happiness and beauty in music doesn’t have to involve an aggressive, noisy rhythm section… and it didn’t turn out too badly, as our song finished fourth.”

Luíz (to the right) with two other Portuguese musicians who graced the Eurovision stage as a conductor: Pedro Osório (left) and Fernando Correia Martins (c. 2005)

Luíz Duarte’s last involvement in the Festival da Canção came in 1994 with his arrangement to a retro tune called ‘Tanta gente sem rumo’, which was eliminated in the semi-finals. Four years later, the last international Eurovision final with a live orchestra took place. Although the RTP organised a couple more national finals with an orchestra in place after 1998, there are no signs that the Eurovision Song Contest will return to being a live event in the near future.

“I was devastated when I heard about the orchestra ceasing to be a fixed element in the contest,” Duarte comments. “Among musicians, the common opinion was that this was the beginning of the end of this festival. Yes, today it’s still around, but its reputation is completely different. As long as there was an orchestra in place in the competition here in Portugal, the country came to a standstill on the day of the Festival da Canção. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was the main music event on the Portuguese calendar. The last twenty years, the level of public interest has come down year by year. This isn’t coincidental. With an orchestra in place, audiences in the hall and at home can feel the enthusiasm generated by all those musicians on stage playing their heart out. Nowadays, this magic is gone completely. I spoke about this with Mike Sergeant and Armindo Neves… and they agree with me that, without an orchestra, the contest feels like just another television show.”

“There’s another reason why I feel sad watching the Eurovision Song Contest nowadays. As a conductor, I twice had the opportunity to experience the nervousness and excitement of taking part in this live music show broadcast in all corners of Europe. At that time, it was an achievement as a musician to make it, standing up in front of that orchestra and proving your worth… or for a singer, performing a song live accompanied by that orchestra. All of it had to come together in those three minutes. I can assure you that these were unique moments, moments to be treasured for a lifetime. Many tried to make it to that stage, and some made it, others didn’t. To my mind, it’s so unfortunate that singers and arrangers nowadays don’t have that opportunity to have that same feeling of achievement as I had back in the day.”

Finally, in 2017, after more than fifty years of botched attempts, Portugal managed to bag its first Eurovision win with Salvador Sobral and ‘Amar pelois dos’. When asked about his opinion of the song, Duarte comments, “I’m glad we won, because that song was a work of good taste. I met the guy who orchestrated it, a young man called Luís Figueiredo. I complimented him on his work. The harmonies in the strings were interesting and extremely well written. “It proves that you have a very unusual sensitivity,” I told him. In the performance, two elements came together; the way Salvador interpreted the song with that excellent orchestration…. Everything was just perfect.”

Luíz with Tozé Brito (2017)

“Perhaps we deserved to win the festival much earlier than in 2017, but I guess there was some sort of inevitability that it would take us so long. First of all, Portugal was an isolated country for very long. We needed a democratic revolution to start the process of connecting with other European societies again, but this took a lot of time. This worked two ways… influences from abroad finding their way to Portugal, but also Portuguese culture finding an outlet elsewhere. Suddenly, from the 1990s on, a new generation of fado singers won popularity abroad – but artists in other genres too. This is really a development of the last twenty years. With it came a growing acceptance of the Portuguese language. In the old days, foreign people weren’t used to the sound of the language, but this has changed completely. Due to the dictatorship and the perceived inaccessibility of our language, we used to have an image problem abroad, but this is no longer the case. The idea of Portuguese politicians being chosen to important positions in international organisations is proof of that. It was something unthinkable twenty, thirty years ago.”

When, at the end of the interview, we ask Luíz if he feels ‘Amar pelois dos’ is the best Portuguese entry in Eurovision history, he weighs his words carefully. “Well, one of the best. Another very good one was ‘E depois do adeus’, a composition by José Calvário for Paulo de Carvalho – a song with beautiful lyrics and given an excellent vocal performance by Paulo… but now that you ask me that question, I’m afraid I’ll have to speak about myself! I don’t want to, but I have to, haha! You know, I’m still speaking about this with musician friends, how ‘Conquistador’ was so much stronger than all other songs in the 1989 Festival da Canção. It simply couldn’t lose! Frankly, with the possible exception of ‘E depois do adeus’, I don’t know of any other song which was better than our song in Lausanne… To this day, I’m convinced that we should have finished in the top three!”

After reading through the interview in its draft version, Luíz himself felt the urge to add some extra words which carry a special meaning to him. “William Shakespeare once described life as “a twice-told tale.” To me, those words define more clearly than anything else the difference between what others think we were and what we consider to have been our true existence. Stories have different versions, depending on who tells it. Personally, I prefer to read a person’s life story in the first person rather than in the third. In the above, I had the opportunity to speak about my personal and professional trajectory. Whether you like it or not, it’s my personal truth. As the great Portuguese writer Virgilio Ferreira used to say, “The true meaning of the words is in the spirit that lives in them.” Speaking about myself, I’ve never been linked to any political party, I am an agnostic theist, and I’ve always maintained my status as a republican and secular democrat. I’m sending my best wishes to everyone with the patience to read about everything that I consider the be most relevant in my professional existence.”

Other artists on Luíz Duarte
Pianist Rui dos Reis worked with Luíz Duarte as a fellow-member of pop group Quarteto 1111: “Even though I played with Luíz Duarte for several years back in the seventies, I must confess I had no idea that his first instrument was the viola da gamba. What a coincidence! Harpsichord and Ancient Music are one of my major studies and interests until this day – which leads me to infer that rock has its deepest roots in Baroque Music! Many might be shocked by this statement, but let me assure you; from my experience, counterpoint fundamentals inspired many musicians as they compose, arrange, and improvise; and Luíz is one of those. The memories I recall, from our jams and arrangement sessions, are an unequivocal proof of that influence and of his classical background. His career, navigating through such different styles and activities, is one of the richest I have witnessed. May he grace us with his talent for many years to come.” (2021)

Links & sources
  • Bas Tukker interviewed Luíz Duarte twice for this website, February 2021.
  • Many thanks to Rui dos Reis for helping us to contact Luíz Duarte.
  • A playlist of Luíz Duarte’s music can be accessed by clicking this YouTube link.
  • Photos courtesy of Luíz Duarte, Rui dos Reis, and Ferry van der Zant.
  • Thanks due to Lily Beatrice Cooper and Edwin van Gorp for proofreading the manuscript; and to Edwin van Gorp for putting it online.

  

Songs conducted
1982: Bem bom
1989: Conquistador