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Paul G Sheridans
Eurovision Tit Bits!!















Friday 13 May 2011
My last day in Düsseldorf. Checked out of hotel, and headed to the Arena. First rehearsal for tomorrow night's Final started at 3.00pm (2pm Irish time), and we still had a Mooney show to do before heading to the airport this evening. The feed of the rehearsal was on in the background, and when Jedward came on (at No. 6), we stopped to watch the boys give it everything. Let's hope they keep up the good work.

Thursday 12 May 2011
Happy Semi-Final 2 day! We look forward to today, with great excitement, as our own Jedward lads give it loads for a place in Saturday's final. Of course, the Mooney team are out here (since yesterday) as Derek is on air with the show from here for the rest of the week. I'm on the show with him this afternoon to talk about the second semi, Jedward's chances, and their opposition. So at 3.00pm (Irish time) we're on air, and then I give my top ten predictions: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Austria, Slovakia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Israel, Romania, Estonia, Denmark and Ireland.

Fast forward to 7.40pm and I'm in my seat in the Düsseldorf Arena waiting for the show to commence in 40 minutes. Eight p.m. and we're away! Eighteen performances from Bosnia & Herzegovina to Denmark - and then it's the turn of the last song of the evening, Lipstick by Jedward for Ireland. This is the moment we've been waiting for, and we were not disappointed. The Grimes' boys gave an absolutely faultless performance in the hall, and got the biggest cheer of the night. They surely had to qualify! After the interval act, Anke Engelke then announced the remaining ten lucky finalists: Estonia was first, then followed Romania and neighbouring Moldova. The fourth country through to the final - Ireland.



Jedward now only one more hurdle to cross. Then followed Bosnia & Herzegovina, Denmark, Austria, Ukraine (surprisingly!), Slovenia and Sweden.



Now all 25 finalists were known. I stayed around for the press conference afterwards, where the starting positions for Saturday night were to be drawn after each interview with the successful artists. When came the turn of Jedward, both boys' hands focused on one ball, so they pulled out, and slowly unveiled the number 6. Well, it was better than No. 2, but still, out of 25 countries …! The last country to select the only ball left was Sweden with the popular Eric Saade and eh … Popular! He unveiled the remaining number 7, in the spot after Jedward, and Hungary drew No. 5 on Tuesday, and Estonia had drawn No. 8. So four pop songs in succession would be a travesty - the two middle ones could be forgotten! Let's hope not, as this country needs a lift now. Go Jedward!

Wednesday 11 May 2011
Having left RTE at 11.30pm the night before, I now had iron some clothes, pack a suitcase, and leave home at the ungodly hour of 3.30am (I didn't even get to bed) in order to get my flight to Düsseldorf at 7.00am. So having arrived in the German city at around 10.00am, I then proceed to Cologne where my hotel is for the next two nights. Incidentally, it is absolutely scorching here - no jacket required. I make it to the press centre at the Düsseldorf Arena to pick up my accreditation badge at around 4.00pm, where the afternoon dress rehearsal for the second semi-final has just concluded. Meeting up with old friends, as you do, who are quick to remind you that they haven't seen me for years, is always a great start to the event. So into the evening, and it's back to the hotel where I catch up on two nights' sleep in one.

Tuesday 10 May 2011
It's the day of the first of the two semi-finals, and here at base we're preparing for a long day in Studio 6, from the afternoon dress rehearsal where we rehearsed graphics, etc. Not so much for today but for Thursday, when the Irish public do have the chance to vote for any of the other 18 songs. All was grand there, but as we were counting down the minutes to the live transmission at 8.00pm, it became clear that there were problems with Marty Whelan's commentary link. Panic set in, but as we cannot hold back a pan-European live transmission, we hit TV screens on time, but no Marty to set the scene for viewers at home. He was talking, sure enough, but his voice didn't make it air for the first 15 minutes. Problems, apparently, with the lines at Germany's end, since half the countries' TV stations experienced similar glitches.

So after the first two songs from Poland and Norway, Marty finally made it to air - via his mobile phone - well, it's better than nothing, and as per usual, did a stirling job. All in a day's work. The ten successful countries, as announced by presenter Anke Engelke, were, in the following order: Serbia, Lithuania, Greece, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Switzerland, Hungary, Finland, Russia and Iceland. So one of the favourites in this heat, Norway's Haba Haba, bowed out, alongside Poland, Albania, Armenia, Turkey (another shock exit), Malta, San Marino, Croatia and Portugal. So now everybody was looking forward to Thursday …!

Tuesday 3rd May 2011
Today's the day that the Irish delegation will travel to Germany. The Jedward boys and their entourage are to fly out at 17.30 (Irish time) in order to present themselves at rehearsals tomorrow. Of course, their army of fans (Jedwardians) were going to be at Dublin Airport to wave them off.

But over in Düsseldorf, it was time for the first ten countries in Semi-Final 2 to go through their stage performances. Bosnia & Herzegovina, Austria, Netherlands and Belgium underwent their first rehearsals in the Arena, then after lunch it was the turn of Slovakia (another set of twins), Ukraine, Moldova. Then the last two countries for today, Sweden and Cyprus, took their turn.

Meanwhile, back in Dublin - at the airport to be exact - the Jedward fans were out in full force and the RTÉ News crew were there to cover the boys' departure for Germany. Jedward will be the last to rehearse tomorrow, so we expect them to be full of their usual youthful exuberance and energy on stage - even if it is only their first rehearsal! More tomorrow!

Bosnia and Herzegovina

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Austria

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Netherlands

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Belguim

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Slovakia

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Ukraine

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Moldova

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Swedan

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Cyprus

© Elke Roels (EBU)

Monday 2nd May 2011
It may be a bank holiday weekend at home but in Düsseldorf, where the 56th annual contest of song will soon be upon us, it was time for the remaining nine countries in Semi-Final 1 to be put through their paces.

Malta were first up, on stage at 10.00am (having had to be at the venue an hour before), then it was onto the obligatory press conference. During which time, San Marino (making their second Eurovision appearance), Croatia and Iceland rehearsed their songs on the Düsseldorf Arena stage for the first time.

After the production lunch break, Hungary were next up. The word on the street was that Kati Wolf's performance was not great, but hey! - this is the first rehearsal. Artists do not have to give their best at first rehearsals. It's call 'saving the voice'! Portugal were next up, followed by Lithuania, and after the 20-minute tea break, the last two countries for today, Azerbaijan and then Greece, whose rehearsal finished at 17.20, followed by the viewing of the stage performance, then the press conference started at 18.05. Another day over.

Malta

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


San Marino

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


Croatia

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


Iceland

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


Hungary

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


Portugal

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


Lithuania

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


Azerbaijan

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)


Greece

© Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Sunday 1st May 2011
Well, it's been a few weeks since I last blogged - the calm before the storm, if you like - but now we're in full swing as the first wave of artists, delegations, media people and fans from all over Europe arrived into Düsseldorf yesterday in preparation for the first wave of rehearsals starting today. The first ten entries in Semi-Final 1, which takes place on Tuesday week (10th May), were put through their paces (no time for delays, this schedule is tight) from 10.00am (9.00am Irish time). For the first rehearsals (which last 4 days for all semi-final nations) each country has 40 minutes on stage. Prior to that they have 20 minutes each for backstage preparations, so each delegation has to be at the venue one hour before their rehearsal.

Poland will be the first entry in Semi-Final 1, so this is their timetable for the day:
  • 07.45 - 08.00 Safety briefing
  • 08.00 - 09.00 In dressing room, deciding on costumes, etc. though not all artists will wear their stage outfits in their first rehearsal.
  • 09.00 - 09.40 Sound checks
  • 09.50 - 10.00 Backstage preparations
  • 10.00 - 10.40 Rehearse on stage
  • 10.50 - 11.10 Artists and entourage view their rehearsal in the viewing room. This is so any problems with performance, direction, etc. can be resolved.
  • 11.25 - 12.05 The Press Conference - this is where you see not just the media but also the deluge of fans who just love to be near the artists, and ask a question or two!
  • 12.20 - 12.50 Make-up consultation for artists.
After which, the Polish delegation are free until their next rehearsal on Thursday (5th).

Following on from that, Norway, Albania, and Armenia all rehearsed until the lunch break (12.40 -13.40) while press conferences continued throughout.

First to rehearse on stage after lunch was Turkey (they would have had to take an early lunch) followed by Serbia and Russia. Then another break (for just 20 minutes) then the last three countries, for today at least, took their turn: Switzerland, Georgia, and Finland.

As Finland were on stage at 17.20, their press conference took place at around 18.45, so you can imagine that, for the production team especially, each day is quite intense.

Poland

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Norway

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Albania

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Armenia

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Turkey

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Serbia

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Russia

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Switzerland

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Georgia

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Finland

© Alain Douit, Pieter van den Berghe (EBU)

Tuesday 15th March 2011
Well, the draws for the order of appearance in the two Eurovision 2011 semi-finals have taken place in Düsseldorf. The draws started at approx. 12.15pm Irish time, and was introduced by one of the presenters for Eurovision 2011, Judith Rakers. She then introduced the presenter of the German national final, who then drew the balls accordingly.

Back in January, the allocations draws took place as to which country was in which semi-final, and also whether each would be in the first half or the second half of their semi-final. On that day, Ireland drew a place in Semi 2, taking place on Thursday 12 May, and that was immediately followed by whether we would be in the first half (numbers 1 to 9) or the second half (numbers 10 to 19). Ireland drew a place in the second half. The singing order of the countries was then decided today.

Ireland drew No. 19 in Semi 2, and therefore last place. In the semi-final, it's a good place to be. Back in 1970, Dana sang last in Amsterdam, and the rest, as they say, is history. The only other time Ireland drew last place in the contest was back in 1967, when Sean Dunphy took 'If I Could Choose' to second place in Vienna.

After the two semi draws, the starting positions of the 'Big 5' countries - namely France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom - were also drawn. Spain drew the wild card here and chose No. 22. Then the UK drew No. 14, followed by Germany at No. 16. France drew the No. 11 place and Italy drew No. 12.

Which leaves last position free (No. 25) so Jedward, if they make it to the Final, can still draw that place provided that no other country has beaten them to it.

So Jedward fans will have to be patient on the night of Thursday 12 May, as eighteen singers and songs go on stage before them. But that's a good omen!

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2011
SEMI-FINALS - Tuesday 10 May & Thursday 12 May 2011


The draw for the order of appearance for the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 Semi-Finals took place on Tuesday 15th March 2011 and was conducted in the host city of Düsseldorf. The result was as follows:

WILDCARDS:
1. POLAND - chose No. 1 1. SLOVAKIA - chose No. 5

2. GREECE - chose No. 19 2. LATVIA - chose No. 17



EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2011

GRAND FINAL - Saturday 14 May 2011

The draw for the order of appearance for the 5 finalists so far in the Grand Final of Eurovision 2011 took place on Tuesday 15th March 2011 and was conducted in the host city of Düsseldorf. The remaining places will not be known until the end of each Semi-Final. The result was as follows:

WILDCARD:
SPAIN - chose No. 22



Monday 14th March 2011
Well now, all 43 songs for the 56th annual Eurovision Song Contest have now been chosen, and today the 43 Heads of Delgation will descend on Düsseldorf for the conference, and tomorrow - the moment we've all been waiting for - the draws for the order of appearance will take place from 12 noon (Irish time). In addition, we'll know where the 'Big 5' countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK - will be singing in the Final. And the final draw conducted will determine the order of voting on the night of the Final on Saturday 14 May.
More on that tomorrow.

Sunday 13th March 2011

ERIC SAADE IS 'POPULAR' IN SWEDEN
Last night in Stockholm's Globe Arena, the 10 Melodifestival finalists - eight having come from the four semi-final qualifying heats, and two from the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round - took to the stage, each hoping to be Sweden's ambassador in Düsseldorf in two months' time.

There were only two familiar names in the running: Sanna Nielsen, making her sixth Melodifestival appearance, and Eric Saade who missed out last year when his 'Manboy' finished in third place behind Salem Al Fakir and eventual winner Anna Bergendahl. For the first time, Sweden failed to qualify from the semis last year, but whoever the winner was going to be this year would be determined to sail into the 2011 Eurovision final. The decision rested with juries in eleven countries - Russia, Ukraine, France, Greece, Malta, Croatia, San Marino, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway - and with the Swedish televoting public.

After the international jury vote, which came in first, the result was as follows:

  1. Eric Saade - 'Popular' - 81 points
  2. Danny Saucedo - 'In The Club' - 79 points
  3. Sanna Nielsen - 'I'm In Love' - 75 points
  4. The Moniker - 'Oh My God!' - 55 points
After a second interval act, the televote results were then announced, and added to the juries' results, thus:

  1. Eric Saade - 'Popular' - 112 points added, total 193
  2. Danny Saucedo - 'In The Club' - 70 points added, total 149
  3. The Moniker - 'Oh My God!' - 69 points added, total 124
  4. Sanna Nielsen - 'I'm In Love' - 39 points added, total 114
Therefore, 20-year-old Eric Saade and 'Popular' was the clear winner, and will represent Sweden in the second semi-final on Thursday 12 May.


Eric Saade sings for Sweden
© SVT

Azerbaijan has finally announced its entry. We know that the singers were selected on 11th February, but the song is now known. Called 'Running Scared', it was written by the same who wrote the Azerbaijani entry, 'Drip Drop', which was placed fifth in Oslo last year for the singer Safura. The singers Eldar and Nigar will perform under the name Ell/Nikki.


Ell/Nikki will fly the flag for Azerbaijan
© Ictimai TV, Baku

Saturday 12 March 2011
Had to be RTÉ at 12 noon as I had one crucial job to do - sit on the Irish jury for Sweden's Melodifestival final in Stockholm. For this year's event, Swedish TV decided to rely on eleven juries, not in local regions as was the norm for years, but in eleven different countries!

So Ireland was in the mix, and five of us sat in a room with the final dress rehearsal performances beamed into us in order to make our deliberations. As there were 10 finalists, our chairperson decided that we mark each song from one to seven points for our favourite seven contenders, then our least favourite three would receive no points whatsoever. Therefore the total number of points per song would be translated (as in the Eurovision itself) into jury points.

Sanna Nielsen's 'I'm In Love' received the highest aggregate from the Irish jury, and so that was converted into '12 points'. Eric Saade's 'Popular' was placed second with us five and so received ten points, with The Moniker and 'Oh My God!' in third place, getting our eight points. Confused? The Irish results then were sent to the co-ordinator in Stockholm, and so on the live programme were read out after nine countries' points had been declared. Ireland was number ten, and the last country to vote was Norway. So job done. Roll on Saturday night!

Wednesday 9th March 2011

DANA INTERNATIONAL MAKES EUROVISION RETURN!


Dana International, winner in 1998, returns to the Eurovision stage for Israel.
© IBA

Last night in Israel, ten songs competed for the Israeli ticket to Eurovision 2011. The decision was in the hands of the televoting public (which made up 48% of the vote), the professional jury (40%), and the fans (12%). After all the results were in the total points for the top three placed songs were:

  1. 270 points Dana International - 'Ding Dong'
  2. 235 points Idit Halevi - 'It's My Time'
  3. 219 points Adi Cohen - 'Rak al ahava' ('Only about love')
So it was a great night for the ladies, and Dana International once again represents Israel, 13 years after her victory in Birmingham. This time, she has written her own song 'Ding Dong'. Dana also composed the Israeli entry in 2008, 'The Fire In Your Eyes' sung by Boaz Mauda, which finished in ninth place in the final in Belgrade.

So well done to Dana I. She is one of two previous winners to take part this year - the other being Lena, last year's winner for Germany who is back to defend her title.

They join the long list of previous winners who came back for more:
  • Lys Assia (1956, returned in 1957 to defend her title, and again in '58, all for Switzerland.)
  • Corry Brokken (1957, returned in 1958 to defend her title and finished last, representing Netherlands.)
  • Jean-Claude Pascal (1961, returned in 1981, both for Luxembourg.)
  • Isabelle Aubret (1962, returned in 1968 and finished third, both times for France.)
  • Gigliola Cinquetti (1964 for Italy, returned in 1974 and finished as runner-up to Abba.)
  • Anne-Marie David (1973 for Luxembourg, returned for her native France in 1979 finishing third.)
  • Izhar Cohen (1978 with The Alphabeta, returned solo in 1985, both for Israel.)
  • Johnny Logan (1980, returned in 1987 and won for the second time for Ireland.)
  • Bobbysocks - (1985 for Norway, Swedish/Norwegian female duo Elisabeth Andreasson and Hanne Krogh took part either as soloists or as part of a group before and since.)
  • Carola (1991, returned in 2006, but début in 1983 had her in third place, all for Sweden.)
  • Niamh Kavanagh (1993, returned in 2010.)
  • Charlotte Nilsson (1999 for Sweden, returned under her married name Charlotte Perrelli in 2008.)
Then there were those who won after the second or third attempt:
  • Udo Jürgens (sixth in 1964, fourth in 1965, won in 1966 - all for Austria.)
  • Vicky Leandros (fourth in 1967, won in 1972, both for Luxembourg.)
  • Bobbysocks (see above - Hanne Krogh finished 17th in 1971 for Norway; Elisabeth Andreasson as half of the duo Chips in 1982 finished eighth for Sweden.)
  • Carola (see above.)
  • Linda Martin (second for Ireland in 1984 with Terminal 3, written by Johnny Logan who also wrote her winning song in 1992.)
  • Helena Paparizou (in 2001 as half of the duo Antique, then won solo in 2005, both for Greece.)
  • Dima Bilan (second for Russia in 2006 behind Finland's Lordi, won in 2008.)
Sunday 6th March 2011

ARMENIA, CROATIA, PORTUGAL & RUSSIA DECIDED

In the Armenian capital, Yerevan, tonight, Emmy performed all 4 songs one week later than scheduled, owing to the death of her father. So last night the public (accounting for 50%of the overall vote) and the professional jury decided that the song 'Boom Boom' should be the song that Emmy takes to Düsseldorf to represent Armenia. She will perform in English.


Emmy for Armenia
© AMPTV

In Croatia this year, a completely new and fresh format for the national selection 'Dora' was established by Croatian broadcaster HRT, who invited 24 artists to compete for the Croatian ticket for Düsseldorf - the same format used for RTÉ's 'You're A Star' to select Ireland's entry from 2003 to 2005. Week by week, 22 artists have been eliminated leaving only Jacques Houdek and Daria Kinzer standing for the final. Three composers were invited to write songs for the final by HRT, and Jacques and Daria were given the task to perform all three songs in last night's show.

In the first vote of the evening, split 50% televoting public and 50% jury, two songs progressed to the final round. The idea of the first round of voting was to establish the best combination of singer and song that could achieve success in the Eurovision Song Contest. However, it was the Daria Kinzer's version of Lahor ('Breeze'), written by Boris Djordjevi?, which won the overall vote. Daria will perform the song in English in the first semi on 10 May as 'Break A Leg'.


Daria Kinzer for Croatia
© HRT

And also last night in Lisbon was the final of the 2011 Festival da Canção, the contest to find Portugal's song. Portugal is the longest-serving Eurovision country never to have had a victory since their first entry in 1964. Not even a top five placing! Last night, twelve contenders, which were voted upon from 24 contenders - three of them ended up being disqualified - via the RTP (Portuguese TV) website by viewers over a week, lined up to win the ticket to the first semi-final Düsseldorf.

So in the end the Portuguese public and the 'expert' regional jury decided on the six-piece band Homens da Luta, who will wave the flag of Portugal with the winning song 'A Luta É Alegria'. This took many people by surprise, and the song appears to be a 'political protest' song. It remains to be seen whether we see this in the Grand Final on Saturday 14 May.


Homens da Luta for Portugal
© RTP

In Russia, it has been decided by Channel 1 Russia that 23-year-old Alexey Vorobyov will fly the flag with the Red One-composed 'Get You'. Red One writes most of Lady Gaga's hits. Although this song has already been leaked on YouTube, the official début performance will on Russian TV on Saturday.


Alexey Vorobyov for Russia
© Channel 1 Russia

Thursday 3rd March
Last night it was the turn of Greece to make their selection for Eurovision 2011. Six competitors battled it out in Ellinikós Telikós 2011 from the ERT (Greek TV) studios outside Athens.

The decision rested on the shoulders of the studio jury (50%) and the Greek public (the other 50%). Rather bizarrely, the audience were located in another studio - reminiscent of the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest staged in two studios at the BBC Television Centre - therefore only the presenter Lena Aroni and the jury were in the same studio as the live performances.

But it was Lukas Yiorgas, featuring rapper Stereo Mike, who beat off competition from the other five contenders, who will fly the Hellenic flag in Germany with the song 'Watch My Dance'.


Lukas Yiorgas - Greece


Stereo Mike - Greece

BELARUS: CHANGE OF SONG TITLE
On Monday this week, the Belarusian public broadcaster BTRC announced that Anastasiya Vinnikova would represent her home country in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Born In Byelorussia. The song reminisces about Soviet Union times as well as the historical name of Byelorussia, which is not officially used anymore.

Now the lyrics have been officially changed to 'I Am Belarusian', and the main theme of the song was shifted to a more contemporary way of describing Belarus. The new lyrics were written by Evgeny Oleynik and Svetlana Geraskova.

LATEST NEWS FROM UKRAINE
The result of the Ukrainian national selection on 26 February provoked many discussions in the Ukrainian press and among the TV viewers. Yesterday, the press conference with the representatives of the Ukrainian public TV channel Pershy Natsionalny took place in Kyiv. After the vote recount in front of the journalists, Mika Newton stayed the winner.

Mika Newton will still be representing her country after all the controversy and confusion.
Therefore, the restaging the of the 'super final', which was supposed to take place in Kyiv tonight, has been shelved, especially after the two runners-up last Saturday, Zlat Ognevich and Jamala, decided to withdraw from the race.

The SMS-votes from the Ukrainian national selection last Saturday have been recounted once more. After such a recount, Mika Newton scored the most points (31.54%) and was confirmed as the winner of the Ukrainian national selection. Zlata Ognevich came second (29.42%), while Jamala took third place (16.47%).

However, it is still not known whether Mika will perform 'Angel', the song she won with last Saturday, as she made it known that she didn't like it and would rather have another song chosen to represent her country.

Monday 28 February 2011 7.45pm:
LATEST NEWS FROM UKRAINE!
NATIONAL FINAL TO BE RE-STAGED!

Oh no! Just when I thought that Ukrainian controversy was confined to 2010 after two national finals, government intervention, and then another late change of song, thus missing the EBU deadline for submitting their song! Well, more Ukrainian Eurovision scandal in 2011 …

Two days after the Ukrainian selection programme concluded, a new scandal has arisen in the country as one of the jury members asked for the re-evaluation of the votes, having expressed her negative opinion about the outcome of this year's Ukrainian national selection. Moreover, the winner, Mika Newton, announced that she wants to perform another song at this year's Eurovision Song Contest. She performed the winning song 'Angel' on Saturday 26 February.

Ukraine's national broadcaster NTU is facing - yet again - a chaotic situation days after their national selection for this year's event. Just like last year, several contestants of the show including Zlata Ognevich and Jamala, have expressed their desire to nullify the results of the final as the voting process was invalid. One of the members of the jury asked for the re-evaluation of the votes as well.

An online petition was created by Ukrainian fans in order to cancel the result of their national selection, based on the fact that Mika Newton received votes from about 2,000 unique phone numbers, while Jamala got votes from more than 6,000.

As a reply, Mika Newton sent a letter to the president of Ukraine, Mr. Viktor Yanukovich, as well as to the prime minister, Mr. Mykola Azarov, requesting their involvement in order to prove that the voting was fair and no fraud was intended. Moreover, Mika Newton announced her desire to perform another song at Eurovision 2011. A new song will be performed for Ukraine in the second semi-final.

UPDATE:
NTU have confirmed the news and through a press release they have announced that a new selection show will be held in order to clarify the chaotic situation regarding the voting procedure. Mika Newton, Zlata Ognevich and Jamala will compete in a special show aired by the First Channel of Ukraine on Thursday evening, 3 March.

A new winner will be chosen by SMS-voting. Only one vote per phone will be allowed, so the Ukrainian TV viewers will have a tough choice!

Also hot off the press is that details of the entry from Belarus has been announced today. Anastasiya Vinnikova has been internally selected by a jury to represent her home country with the song 'Born In Bielorussia', a song citing memories of Soviet Union times.

Just like last year, the Belarussian public broadcaster BTRC conducted an internal selection to find the country's representative for the 2011 contest, and it was up to a professional jury to find the most suitable song.

The experts in the jury were representatives of the four main Belarussian TV channels. In total, 29 bids were received by BTRC, including entries from Belarus, Latvia, the USA, Spain, Greece, Luxembourg, Moldova, and Russia. Out of those, 22 applicants complied with the rules of the national selection.

Today, the result of the consultations was published: 'Born In Bielorussia' was composed by Evgeny Oleynik, and the lyrics were written jointly by Evgeny Oleynik and Victor Rudenko.

Anastasiya Vinnikova became well-known through her participation in the talent show 'Music Court' on the channel ONT.
Will her participation in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest boost the 20-year-old singer's career? In May, the TV public and the juries all over Europe will decide. Belarus was drawn to take part in the second semi-final on 12 May.

Anastasiya Vinnikova for Belarus
© BTRC

In Cyprus, the song that Christos Mylordos will be singing has been aired on the national TV channel RIK. It's called 'San angelos s'agapisa' ('I loved you like an angel'), and the specially-shot video of the song was broadcast earlier this evening.

The next country to make its choice will be Greece, on Wednesday 2 March.

Monday 28 February 2011 The first of tonight's selections last night took place in Slovenia. Their national final, called EMA, saw 10 finalists, including one previous Eurovision performer, Omar Naber, who last took part in 2005. After the ten songs were performed, the all-female studio panel, comprising Severina (who represented Croatia in 2006), Darja Švajger (Slovenian representative in 1995 and 1999), and local TV presenter Mojca Mavec (former Slovene final presenter and results spokeswoman for Slovenia in the late '90s/early '00s) shortlisted the selection to just two, who would now sing again in the 'super final'. The lucky performers were April with 'Ladadidej', and Maja Keuc with 'Vanilija'. The decision was now in the hands of the public, who voted overwhelmingly for Maja Keuc, who will now fly the flag for Slovenia in the second semi-final on Thursday 12 May.


Maja Keuc for Slovenia
Photo: Dejan Nikoli

Meanwhile, over in Macedonia, in the capital city of Skopje, 20 songs competed for the honour of representing the ex-Yugoslav republic. The show last an incredible four hours - not even a Eurovision final lasts that long! Leaving aside the 20 competing entries, the interval before the voting lasted a whole hour! Finally, the results were announced with the televote and jury unanimously decided that Vlatko Ilievski should be the Balkan country's representative with Rusinka. Like Slovenia, Macedonia will participate in the second semi-final.


Vlatko Ilievski for Macedonia

Tonight, Cyprus will showcase their entry 'San Angelos S'Agapisa' ('I loved you like an angel'), sung by Cypriot talent show winner Christos Mylordos. This will be its first broadcast.


Christos Mylordos for Cyprus

© CyBC/RIK

Sunday 27 February 2011
Last night was dubbed 'Super Saturday' by Eurovision enthusiasts - as six national selections took place across Europe: Moldova, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Serbia and Ukraine. Moldova - the only one of the six never to have won Eurovision - kicked off proceedings in Chi?inau where 25 artists competed to fly the flag for the tiny Romanian-speaking state.

The result was determined by 50/50 televoting and expert jury, with the traditional Eurovision scoring system being used. It was down to female singer Karizma, and the band Zdob ?i Zdub (who performed Moldova's début entry in 2005, finishing in sixth place), where Karizma received the maximum 12 points from the televoters - but only one point from the jury; while Zdob ?i Zdub scored 10 points from both sides, giving them the Moldovan ticket for the second time. Their song, for the second semi-final on 12 May, is 'So Lucky'.


Zdob si Zdub for Moldova
© TRM

Across to Denmark, and the Melodi Grand Prix 2011, where ten singers and songs took to the stage at the Ballerup Super Arena, located outside Copenhagen. From these ten, the televoters across Denmark voted for four songs to go to the second round.

These were:
Song 1: 'Sleepless' sung by Anne Noa - went through to the 'super final'
Song 6: 'Hvad Hjertet Lever Af' by Stine Kinck
plus:
Song 4: '25 Hours a Day' by Le Freak
Song 10: 'New Tomorrow' by A Friend in London - went through to the 'super final'

After another round of televoting between Songs 1 and 10, the final result was announced - and Song #10: 'New Tomorrow', sung by the Vastrup band A Friend In London, was declared the winner. The lead singer Tim Schou sports a hairstyle like the Jedward boys - but he says that (as yet anyway) he hasn't heard of them! Denmark will sing in the second semi-final on 12 May.


'A Friend In London' sing for Denmark
Photo: Claus Larsen (DR)

Meanwhile, in Belgrade, Serbia, the Song for Europe show took place, where Kornelije Kovac (who was lead singer with Korni Group for Yugoslavia in Brighton, 1974, with 'Generacija '42') and his two daughters Aleksandra and Kristina were all competing against each other in a three song competition. Kristina Kovac's song '?aroban' ('Magical') scored the most votes with the Serbian public, and has a mid-1960s sound. The singer Nina, and her backing singers, all dressed in late '60s fashion, will perform for her nation in Europe's biggest TV Show (semi-final 1 on 10 May) in Düsseldorf.


Nina sings for Serbia
Photo: RTS

In Ukraine, 19 contenders sang their hearts out to be their country's ambassador in Düsseldorf. The winner was to be chosen by a professional jury (45%), SMS voting (45 %), and an internet vote (10 %). The jury consisted of well-known Ukrainian personalities such as Jegor Benkendorf and Jan Tabachnikov, as well as the former Eurovision participants Ruslana (winner for Ukraine in 2004), Ani Lorak (second place in 2008), and Alyosha (tenth place in 2010). The jury seriously discussed all 19 songs, and chose Mika Newton with the song 'Angel', as the best candidate for the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. The young singer inspired not only the jury with her romantic ballad, she also could convince her Ukrainian nation with her originality and a very good performance on stage. Mika will represent Ukraine in the second semi-final on 12 May. Ukraine debuted in 2003, and won the following year in Istanbul with Ruslana and 'Wild Dances'.


Mika Newton for Ukraine

Now to the Baltic states. Firstly, Estonia held their selection after having two semi-finals in previous weeks, where five songs from each semi qualified for last night's final. The juries and televoters selected two songs from the ten, which were: 'Rockefeller Street', sung by Getter Jaani, and 'I Wanna Meet Bob Dylan', sung by Outloudz To determine which of these two songs would represent Estonia, that decision lay with the televoters only, where 62% voted for 18-year-old Getter Jaani with the song 'Rockefeller Street'.
Getter is new to the music scene, with her first record released last year. She will sing for the tiny Baltic state in the second semi-final.


Getter Jaani for Estonia
© Mika Newton

Across the border into Latvia, where there were eleven contenders in the Eirodziesma 2011 programme held in the middle Baltic state's second city, Ventspils. There were meant to be 12 songs but one had to be withdrawn due to the illness of the lead singer of the band Trianas Parks. The decision was in the hands of a specially-formed jury, and a telepoll, with a 50/50 vote. Three songs then progressed to the 'super final'. One of these was Lauris Reiniks, who was a member of the group F.L.Y. who represented Latvia on home soil in 2003. Lauris also composed one of the Irish Eurosongs in 2009, 'I Wish I Could Pretend', which finished second to Sinéad Mulvey & Black Daisy's 'Et Cetera'. However, the overall winners were the male duo Musiqq with their song 'Angel In Disguise'. Latvia made their Eurovision début in 2000, finishing third, and in 2002 won the event in Tallinn with Marie N. and 'I Wanna'.


Musiqq for Latvia
© LTV

Saturday 26 February 2011
The Turkish band Yüksek Sadakat, as reported yesterday, showcased their entry for Eurovision 2011 in a special programme broadcast on Turkish TV (TRT) last night. Their song, 'Live It Up' can be described as a rock number, early '70s in sound, which follows on from the popular band maNga, who took second place in Oslo last year.

From Istanbul to Vienna, and the Austrian final - called 'Düsseldorf, Wir Kommen' - fielded ten finalists, of which three would progress to the 'super final', as decided by the Austrian televoting public. The lucky three super-finalists were: the band Trackshittaz; another band Klimmstein lead by the UK musician - and son of the Police frontman Sting - Joe Sumner; while Nadine Beiler completed the final line-up. Ultimately, it was Nadine Beiler who won the ticket to Düsseldorf with the song 'The Secret Is Love'. Austria has not been in the Final since 2004, and will be participating in the second semi-final on 12 May.
















Nadine Beiler for Austria
© ORF

Friday 25 February 2011
Ireland may be going to the polls today, but last night the people - or, more to the point, a jury - in Lithuania elected Evelina Sašenko and the song 'C'est ma vie' to be their representative in Düsseldorf less than 3 months from now.

The road to representing Lithuania isn't an easy one. Firstly, all artists this year had to make it through a semi-final, then two rounds in the final. To make it even more challenging, a total of 44 songs took part, meaning the competition is rife! From that number, 31 contenders were eliminated.

Last night's final was made up of 13 songs, nine of which qualified directly from the final - and four wildcards.
There was an interesting mix of music genres, colours and fashion. After each performance, the artist(s) stood in front of the jury in the studio, who gave their opinion of the song and performance. During the show, the progress of the televoting was shown to give an idea of who was leading. These positions changed as the songs were being performed.

The first round was decided by 50/50 jury and televoting, where the actual number of votes as converted into 1-8, 10 and 12 points and then added to the jury votes, which were in the same format.

After the first round, 10 songs were eliminated leaving 3 acts to perform again in a 'super-final' (a commonly used expression this year!) These were: Evelina Sašenko with 'C'est Ma Vie'; Linas Adomaitis with 'Floating To You'; and R?ta Š?iogolevait? with 'Break Free'.

The final winner was chosen by a 15-member jury. This was Evelina Sašenko with 'C'est Ma Vie', who will now perform in the first of the two semi-finals, on Tuesday 10 May. Lithuania is only Baltic state yet to win Eurovision.


© Š. Mažeika

Two national selections are happening tonight in Austria and Turkey.

In Turkey, the band Yüksek Sadakat, who were internally selected by the state broadcaster TRT, will reveal their song in a live show tonight. Yüksek Sadakat, who were formed in 1997, are hoping to go one place higher than the band maNga, who finished in second place for Turkey last year in Oslo with 'We Could Be The Same'. Turkey's only Eurovision win was in 2003 with Sertab Erener and 'Every Way That I Can'. Viewers can watch the broadcast live on www.eurovision.tv at 5.00pm Irish time.


© Magazin Servisi

Austria makes a welcome return to the Eurovision Song Contest! After an absence of four years, the Alpine nation is now back for more and is looking for a successful entry for the 2011 contest. Tonight at 7.15pm (Irish time) on ORF1, the quest to find a popular song will start - and you can follow the show on www.eurovision.tv

In the live-show Düsseldorf, Wir Kommen!, from ORF's TV centre in Vienna, the Austrian entry for 2011 will be chosen. It's been - wait for it - 45 years since Udo Jürgens won with Merci Chérie in Luxembourg, and since then only two Top 5 placings - in 1972 and 1976. In recent years however, comedian Alf Poier managed sixth place in 2003, when the contest was held in Riga, Latvia.

Experts and fans expect a tough race, and several names - like Trackshittaz and Alkbottle - have been named as possible winners. There will be two rounds of voting tonight, at first the TV viewers will decide a 'super final' top three. These three will then perform again with the winner being ultimately chosen afterwards. The decision will be televote only, so anything can happen with a good performance tonight!

On Saturday night (26th February) - dubbed 'Super Saturday' - no less than six nations will be making their choice: Moldova, Ukraine, Latvia, Denmark, Estonia and Serbia. Out of those six, only Moldova has yet to win a Eurovision Song Contest.

I'll have more news about Saturday on Sunday morning, because on Saturday night, in Dublin's Panti Bar, is the annual EuroBash with special guests Donna McCaul (2005), Dav McNamara (Eurosong finalist in 1993 and 1996), Dawn Martin (1998), Sinéad Mulvey (2009) and 1994 winner Paul Harrington. Oh yes, and I'll be doing a DJ spot myself during the course of the evening, spinning some Euro classics from the 1970s, '80s and '90s. A great night is guaranteed, so if you can make it, please do come.

Thursday 24 February 2011
Half the participating countries for this year's event have now chosen their songs and singers.

Last night, Bulgaria chose Poli Genova, a cross between Pink and Dolores O'Riordan, to be their ambassador with the song Na Inat, which was decided by the viewers and a jury (known as The Academy), beating off competition from 18 other contenders. Poli came first in both polls, and two years ago finished in second place in the Bulgarian national final. She will compete in the second semi-final on Thursday 12 May.


© BNT

Tonight it is Lithuania's turn to choose their entry after three semi-finals where a total of 44 songs have competed for the precious few places in the final.

The line-up for this evening's final is made up of the nine entries that qualified directly from the three semi-finals held on the last three Saturdays (5, 12, and 19 February), where a mixture of juries and televoting decided the outcome. In addition, four wildcards have joined the line-up: three chosen by LRT, the national broadcaster, and one chosen by a national online publication Zebra.lt. This means a total line-up of 13 songs.

This year, the final format has changed. After all 13 songs have been performed, the top three entries chosen by the public and jury will compete in a so-called Super Final, after which the winner will be decided by a 15-member jury in order to make the outcome fairer as a result of some televoting issues experienced last year.

Monday 21 February 2011
Great news in the Irish charts this week. Jedward went in at No. 2 with the Irish entry Lipstick, while runner-up in Eurosong a couple of weeks ago, Falling, sung by Nikki Kavanagh, went into the lower reaches at No. 44. Meanwhile, Norway's entry Haba Haba by Stella Mwangi is already No. 1 in the Norwegian charts. In the Dutch charts, the local Eurovision representatives 3JS dropped five places from last week's No. 1 with Je Vecht Nooit Alleen (You'll Never Fight Alone).





















© BHRT

Tonight in Bosnia & Herzegovina, internally-selected singer songwriter Dino Merlin presented the Bosnian entry, Love In Rewind, for the first time in a special Eurosong TV broadcast from the BHRT studios in Sarajevo. The song is set in a calm mid-tempo production and was presented on stage in the show together with a band of musicians as well as a circus artist.

Dino last represented Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1999 with singer Béatrice Poulot, and finished seventh in Jerusalem with Putnici (Passengers). He also wrote Bosnia's début entry for the 1993 contest in Millstreet, sung by the band Fazla.
Dino Merlin will compete in the second semi-final (alongside Jedward) on Thursday 12 May.

Sunday 20 February 2011
Competing in the first semi-final, Georgia, who made their Eurovision début just four years ago, made their choice yesterday with the six-piece band Eldrine. They beat six other entries, as decided by the televoting public. There were supposed to be ten songs in the Georgian final, but three withdrew. So Georgia are sending their first band to Eurovision, with the upbeat number One More Day.


© GPB

Over at the world famous San Remo Song Festival in Italy tonight, the winner of the Giovanni section during the five-night festival, as selected by a specially commissioned jury, was 29-year-old Raphael Gualazzi. His song 'Follia d'Amore' ('Madness of Love') will be the first Italian Eurovision entry since 1997, when male/female duo Jalisse took fourth place at Dublin's Point Theatre (now the O2). Raphael's song is jazz-orientated, not in the usual Italian style. Great to see Italy back, having won twice before in 1964 and 1990, finishing second in 1974 behind Abba, and then third in 1958, 1963, 1975 and 1987.


© foto Frezza/La Fata

Saturday 19 February 2011
Could Jedward be given a run for their money in Düsseldorf? Up to now they were the only twins to be participating this year - they are not, of course, the first set of twins to sing at Eurovision. But last night, Slovakia's national broadcaster (RTVS) have revealed their representative at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011.

TWiiNS - and this is how it is to be spelt - won the Slovak ticket to Düsseldorf, and will perform the song 'I'm Still Alive' in the second semi-final. They are 24-year-old twin sisters Veronika Nízlová and Daniela Jan?ichová-Nízlová, known to the European audiences as they were the backing vocalists of the 2008 Czech Eurovision entry 'Have Some Fun', sung by Tereza Kerndlová. During their career, they worked with world famous American producers and their music videos were shot in the US. The Slovak entry, 'I'm Still Alive', will be officially presented on Saturday 5 March at the Miss Slovakia Universe contest, to be aired on Slovak TV's first channel.


© RTVS

A big night last night for two of the 'Big 5'countries. It was the turn of Germany and Spain to make their choices for the 56th annual Euro songfest!

As most of you already know, last year's winner for Germany, Lena Meyer-Landrut, decided that she intended to defend her title this year. So all that was needed was a song. In last night's Unser Song für Deutschland (Our Song for Germany) held at the ARD studios in Cologne, Lena performed the six songs which were shortlisted from the two earlier semi-finals, after which four were eliminated - two of which she had co-written herself with Stefan Raab, who incidentally was one of the panellists - bizarre! This left the contenders 'Push Forward' and 'Taken By A Stranger', which Lena then performed a second time. After the interval act, the televote result was announced: 'Taken By A Stranger' won by 79% of the public vote. Germany first entered Eurovision in 1956, won the contest in 1982 and 2010, and has only missed one year - 1996. Good luck to Lena on home soil.


© ProSieben

In Spain last night, the national selection Destino Eurovisión was won by 25-year-old Galician singer Lucía Pérez, beating the other two acts Melissa and all-male quintet Auryn. Her song 'Que me quiten lo bailao' won over two thirds of the overall vote. The Spanish song title is a local expression which, although it loses something in translation, means 'Don't take away my good times'. Good luck to Lucía, and let's hope that Jimmy Jump doesn't reappear to sabotage the Spanish performance this year!
Photo - © RTVE

Friday 18 February 2011
Well tonight it's the turn of host nation Germany to decide which song 2010 winner Lena will sing in a bid to pull off the double in Düsseldorf. The last time this happened was when 1957 winner Corry Brokken hoped to defend her title for the Netherlands in Hilversum the following year - but finished last. She did, however, go on to present the 1976 contest from The Hague!

Lena perfomed twelve songs in two semi-finals, and three from each have now gone through to tonight's German final which will be held in the ARD studios in Cologne. Lena has co-written two of them with Stefan Raab, who wrote Guildo Horn's 1998 entry for Birmingham, and his own song Wadde Hadde Dudde Da? which finished in fifth place for Stefan in Stockholm, 2000. Stefan will be one of 3 presenters of this year's Eurovision semi-finals and the Final.


© Indrek Galetin (EBU)
Lena's Eurovision triumph in Oslo, 2010

The six songs Lena will perform tonight are:
  • Maybe (composed by Daniel Schaub & Pär Lammers)
  • Taken By A Stranger (composed by Gus Seyffert, Nicole Morier & Monica Birkenes)
  • What Happened To Me (composed by Lena Meyer-Landrut & Stefan Raab)
  • A Million And One (composed by Errol Rennalls & Stavros Ioannou)
  • Push Forward (composed by Daniel Schaub & Pär Lammers)
  • Mama Told Me (composed by Lena Meyer-Landrut & Stefan Raab)

Meanwhile in Slovakia, the entry will be performed tonight for the first time. This year Slovak TV, like the UK, selected internally.

The other grand final tonight is happening in Spain.

Each of the three successful acts from the earlier semi-finals will perform a medley of three songs, given to them from the 20 originally selected entries. The jury will eliminate two songs from every participant in two rounds and the viewers will have the final say when each act has only one song left.

Incidentally, UK representatives Blue will be guest artists, performing one of their classic hits. Also appearing as a guest act is last year's Spanish ambassador Daniel Diges whose performance, you may remember, was invaded the infamous 'Jimmy Jump', who was subsequently escorted from the venue. Poor Daniel was then given the nod to perform the song again after the all 25 songs had been sung.

On the home front, we now know that Jedward's stage routine for their performance in Düsseldorf will be guided by X Factor choreographer Brian Friedman.

Thursday 17 February 2011
Since last Saturday night when five countries selected their entries for this year's Eurofest, there has been only one other final - and that happened on Valentine's night! It was the turn of Poland to make their choice out of the 10 songs on offer, and it was hot favourite Magdalena Tul, with the first song of the night Jestem (I am) that was the favourite with 44% of the televoting public, twice the amount of calls for the runner-up Anna Gogola. Magdalena is already a huge star in her native Poland, and this is certain to qualify for the Final, which the country hasn't performed in since 2008.













© TVP

Meanwhile, in one of the Irish tabloids today, Jedward have a centre-page spread. There have been two misquotes which I must put right here: Firstly, the fact that the UK cannot vote for Jedward is simply down to the luck of the draw, not because our neighbours across the sea voted for Ireland last year. The draw had the UK voting in the first of the semi-finals. Ireland is in the second semi.

In addition, the paper stated that they've heard all 20 songs in 'their'semi-final. That is impossible since only five songs in the second semi-final have been chosen so far. So where were the other fifteen heard … and besides there are nineteen countries in each semi-final!

Over in Estonia, there has been a little controversy. Ahead of the Estonian final on Saturday 26 February, one of the 10 finalists has now been disqualified as some of the lyrics in the song were featured in an existing song (by another artist). It will not be replaced, so there are now nine finalists hoping for the Estonian ticket.

2011 also sees the welcome return of Italy, after an absence of 13 years. Their last entry was placed fourth in Dublin's Point Theatre in 1997. Over five nights this week, the San Remo Song Festival is running featuring a combination of established artists (some of whom have previously sung at Eurovision) and newcomers, including one Italian X Factor winner. The winning entry will be decided this coming Saturday. Good luck, Italy - and welcome back to Eurovision.

The Greek and Spanish hopefuls have been made available online. Nine songs will be competing for the Spanish ticket this Friday (18th February) in Destino Eurovisión. You can hear brief snippets of the songs on Spain's national TV website www.rtve.es

Moving across the Med and Aegean over to Greece, six songs will be presented on Wednesday 2nd March, and the song to represent the Hellenic republic will be decided by 50/50 jury voting and televoting.

Reformed UK quartet Blue have announced that they will premiere their entry for Eurovision 2011 on the Graham Norton Show on Friday 11 March.

Written by all four members, Lee Ryan, Simon Webbe, Duncan James and Antony Costa, the song is called 'I Can', and it's the first time that the BBC has internally selected the UK's Eurovision hopeful. Since 'le Royaume-Uni' started taking part in 1957, there has always been a national selection broadcast on BBC Television with the winning song being decided by either the British public or by regional juries - or, in recent years, both. In the last two years the song had already been selected internally - and voters chose the singer who would best be able to do them proud on the Eurovision.

In 2009, Jade Ewen, now a member of the popular girl group Sugababes, came a respectable fifth in Moscow with the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Diane Warren song It's My Time, while last year in Oslo 19-year-old Josh Dubovie finished last with the 1987-style Pete Waterman-penned That Sounds Good To Me.

A one-hour documentary, showing Blue's preparation for the Eurovision Song Contest, will be broadcast on BBC One in April. It will feature them recording the single, travelling to Europe to promote the entry, and receiving advice from fellow artists in the music business.


© PA

I'll have more news for you later in the week.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Belgium 2011 - Witloof Bay

Belgium © RTBF

Finland 2011 - Paradise Oscar

Finland © Laura Pohjavirta/YLE

Iceland 2011 - Sigurjón's Friends

Iceland © RÚV

Ireland 2011 - Jedward


Malta 2011 - Glen Vella

Malta © PBS/TVM

Norway 2011 - Stella Mwangi

Norway © NRK

8.00pm:
I knew this was going to be a busy night for me, having to switch between no less then FIVE national selections over the next few hours. The IFTAs had to take a back seat on this occasion. So the first show I tuned into was the Melodi Grand Prix 2011 (Norway's national final) live from the Oslo Spektrum, where 15 years ago Eimear Quinn gave Ireland a seventh and last victory to date. But 8 contenders were waiting in the wings hoping to win the ticket to Düsseldorf in 3 months' time.

There was the usual variety of songs, from big ballads to rock to Afro-pop to 1950s rockabilly.
After the 8 songs were performed, only 4 made it through to the 'Gold Final'. But it was the very colourful Afro-pop song Haba Haba (Swahili for Little by little, roughly translated) by Kenyan-born Stella Mwangi, who has lived in Norway since the age of 4. This was clearly the most popular song in the Oslo Spektrum before the voting had started. Good luck to Stella and Haba Haba (she wrote the lyrics herself), which will be performed in first semi-final on Tuesday 10th May.

Across to Finland now, where 10 songs had made it to the final from the 3 semi-finals held in January.
Jaana Pelkonen co-hosted the show - you may remember her as Eurovision host four years ago in Helsinki. The 10 songs, having been showcased live, were then reduced to just three, who received the most amount of televotes and SMS votes.

But the Finnish mould was broken when the 20-year-old singer/songwriter Paradise Oskar (who composed/wrote under his own name Axel Ehnström) emerged victorious with Da Da Dum, a simple ballad which the Finns are not usually known for, especially when you remember Lordi's victorious rock number five years ago. Fans are already comparing him to last year's Belgian entrant Tom Dice, who finished sixth in Oslo. But this song is very different, complete with string arrangement, and Oskar should do well with Da Da Dum - no translation necessary here. Finland, like Norway, will sing in the first semi-final on 10th May. I reckon we'll see this in the Final.

Over to the most north-westerly country now, Iceland.
Seven songs were successful from the three semi-finals held in January. However, just before the third semi, one of the participants, Sigurjón Brink, died suddenly of a heart attack - he was only in his 30s! His family, however, decided that the song should remain in the Icelandic competition so the song he wrote, and was to perform, instead was sung by six of his friends, going by the name of Sigurjón's (or Sjonni's) Friends. This was the last of the seven to be performed, after which the seven became two. It was now between the singer Magni Ásgeirsson and the six-piece Sigurjón's Friends. Incidentally, one of the seven finalists was Yohanna, who finished in second place two years ago in Moscow, behind Norway's Alexander Rybak. But it was Sigurjón's Friends who won the Icelandic selection in Reykjavík - and the ticket to Düsseldorf with their late friend's song Aftur Heim (Back Home). Good luck to the guys, who will sing in the first semi on 10th May.

Now to Belgium.
This year, it was the turn of the French-speaking national broadcaster RTBF to choose the act/song to succeed Tom Dice, who finished first in the first semi-final last year in Oslo then proceeded to the final and finished in sixth place. Fourteen acts, mostly up-and-coming Belgian stars, had to impress the public and 4-member professional jury in Brussels. Jury members included Sandra Kim, Belgium's only winner to date - and that was 25 years ago! Viktor Lazlo, mistress of ceremonies for Eurovision 1987 in Brussels (where J. Logan's Hold Me Now triumphed) was also one of the judges. Most of the songs were in English, while the others were in French. After an exciting evening, it was unanimous - the jury and the televoters gave maximum points to the group Witloof Bay and the song With Love Baby. Belgium will join Ireland's Jedward in the second semi-final on Thursday 12th May.

Moving south now to the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta.
There was Irish interest over these two nights as one of the songs, Topsy Turvy, was co-written by Galway's Niall Mooney and Swedish Jonas Gladnikoff, who were both responsible for Ireland's last two Euro entries, Et Cetera and It's For You. In addition, Donna McCaul (who, with her brother Joe, represented Ireland in 2005 in Kyiv) was one of the backing singers for the main artist of Topsy Turvy, J. Anvil. Firstly, last night in Valletta's Mediterranean Conference Centre (while our own Eurosong show was being transmitted), 24 acts battled it out for 16 places in tonight's final. Good news for the Irish camp when Niall's and Jonas's Topsy Turvy made it through. However, it was not to be and after the televote results, the song received 12 points (and an subsequent eleventh place overall), with the maximum 36 going to the eventual winner One Life, sung by Glen Vella. The show seemed to go on forever, with numerous interval acts (including UK hopefuls Blue, who performed one of their big hits If You Come Back) and ad breaks, before the results were finally announced. The televote was announced first, then the jury of six announced their votes in turn. Like the Jedward victory, it was very close with Glen Vella and the very catchy One Life finished in first place by just two points ahead of Richard Edwards' Finally, which was favoured by the jury.

So Glen wins the Maltese ticket, with a place in the first semi-final on 10th May.

Friday 11th February

7.15pm:
The dress rehearsal has begun - and I'm not there. Felt rather queasy as I was going home this afternoon so, for the first time in about 20 years I'll be watching Eurosong at home. Makes a change I suppose.

9.35pm:
The Late Late Eurosong 2011 Show begins. Ryan Tubridy looked as though he couldn't wait to get into his stride. He introduced 1993 winner Niamh Kavanagh who performed her winning song from that year, In Your Eyes. I had seen this earlier today in rehearsal. Niamh never lost it!

Ryan then introduced the panel: Marty Whelan, RTE Television's Eurovision commentator; followed by Cheryl Baker, member of Bucks Fizz, winners in 1981 in Dublin; 2006 representative Brian Kennedy took his seat, and finally Mairéad Farrell from Today FM.

After a brief chat with each panellist, Ryan then led to a montage of the past five Eurovision winners from Lordi to Lena!

Then it was time for the songs:
Don Mescall opened proceedings with Talking With Jennifer, which he co-wrote with his mentor Ronan Hardiman. A good performance vocally, and a nice catchy pop tune.

Then the Grimes' twins, collectively Jedward, took to the stage with Lipstick, complete with four backing singers who appeared to be carrying the twins, as their vocals were the weakest of the night.

The third song was Shine On, performed by Bling (until two weeks ago they were known as 'the mystery group') assembled by their mentor Willie Kavanagh, chairman of EMI Music Ireland. Again very strong vocals from all four members, and the song itself was old-style Eurovision which some of us old school Euroheads appreciate.

The Vard Sisters were up next with Liam Lawton's Send Me An Angel. A beautiful haunting ballad which is very much part of the sisters' repertoire. Very well sung by the girls - but is it Eurovision?

And last, but certainly by no means least, Nikki Kavanagh came to the stage with Falling, by a Swedish-Danish songwriting team. This song had Eurovision stamped over it, and Nikki provided the strongest vocal performance of the 5 contenders.

After another chat with the panel, and another commercial break, Ryan then chatted to former Euro hosts Cynthia Ní Mhurchú (co-presenter with the late Gerry Ryan in 1994) and Mary Kennedy (mistress of ceremonies in 1995).

Another commercial break followed, then Ryan announced that the voting lines have closed, and he introduced the 3 original Bucks Fizz members who performed their 1981 winner Making Your Mind Up.

By now it's around 11.20pm, and Ryan goes to the 6 juries based in Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo and Dublin. The spokespersons are all presenters in RTE Young Peoples Programmes.

Once all 6 juries' results are in, Nikki Kavanagh singing Falling is in the lead with 66 points, with Jedward 4 points behind.

Then it's the turn of the public vote. Would the people of Ireland agree with the juries?
They did with the songs which finished fifth, fourth and third place. But then the second highest mark of 30 points went to Nikki Kavanagh who was leading, bringing her to 96 points.

Then the maximum 36 points from the public went to Jedward's song, bringing them two points ahead on 98 points, and therefore the winners and ambassadors for Ireland at Eurovision 2011 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Jedward will perform in the second semi-final on 12th May.

The show closed, as is traditional, with a reprise of Ireland's 2011 entry for Eurovision: Lipstick by Jedward!

Good luck, boys!

Also tonight, over in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, it was decided that two singers will represent the Caucasian nation: Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal will perform as a duo in the first of the semi-finals on 10th May.

And the good news is that, in Malta tonight, Niall Mooney's song Topsy Turvy (with Athlone's Donna McCaul on backing vocals) was selected as one of the final 16 songs by six panellists and the Maltese public. The final is tomorrow night.

Other national selections tomorrow are happening in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Belgium. A busy night in Europe! I'll have more news on who is selected late on Saturday.

Friday 11 February 2011

3.00pm:
A quick cup of team, then it's time to temporarily leave the RTE campus to recharge the batteries. On the down side, I'm going to miss the 'Original' Bucks Fizz rehearsal at 4.00pm. But I'll be back in time for the evening dress rehearsal.

2.15pm:
Just bumped into Niamh Kavanagh in the canteen. Had a chat, of course, then we accompanied each other back to Studio 4 where Niamh is first up with 'In Your Eyes'. The Late Late House Band have given the song a new softer feel, and Niamh as you would expect can still belt it out.

1.25pm;
As I write, checking the national broadcaster website in Azerbaijan. The Azeris will be choosing the singer tonight at 9.00pm local time (5.00pm Irish time). The actual song will be chosen at a later date. Now, time for lunch.

1.00pm:
Studio breaks for lunch. Next rehearsal at 3.00pm will the 1993 winner Niamh Kavanagh, and yes - she will be performing 'In Your Eyes', her winning number in Millstreet all of 18 years ago!

12.15pm:
Now it's the turn of the lovely Vard Sisters - Lisa, Cathy and Wendy. They're performing Song #4: 'Send Me An Angel' composed by Liam Lawton. Many people will remember the girls taking second place in Eurosong '98 with Seol (another Liam Lawton composition) in this very studio. Needless to say, the girls give a faultless performance. I had a quick chat with afterwards, when they said, "You were on the radio yesterday introducing the songs. We were all tuned in."

11.00am:
Back in Studio 4 for first rehearsal of the day, the first song of the night, 'Talking With Jennifer, performed by Don Mescall and his band. Don, you will notice, looks remarkably like a young Johnny Logan. Good rehearsal performances from Don & Co.

Thursday 10 February 2011

6.15pm:
Studio 4 wraps rehearsals for today. Reconvene tomorrow morning.

5.45pm:
4-piece group Bling rehearse 'Shine On'. Excellent vocals from Marilyn, Tammy, Gari and Shane. As with the other artists, they run through their number 3 times.

5.30pm:
Nikki's rehearsal over, it's now time to sound check the two boy/two girl group Bling. They're due to rehearse their song (#3) 'Shine On' in 15 minutes.

4.30pm:
Once we're off air, I make a mercy dash over to Studio 4 in time to watch Nikki Kavanagh rehearsing 'Falling' (Song 5). She looks and sounds great, as you would expect, complete with 2 male dancers and 3 backing vocalists. Her entourage are in the bleechers, as are the make-up girls so we have a brief chat about the contest (as you do!)

3.04pm:
…. And we're away! A bit of background about the 2011 contest from Derek, then we're straight into the songs, introduced by myself. After the first two songs, Derek looks at the comments coming in from the listeners, pros and cons in equal measure! Then same again after Songs 3 and 4, but we're a minute late into the News. Sure they didn't mind! After the sports news, we're into Song 5. There you go, job done! It was great having Donna McCaul calling in from Malta where she is one of the singers of 'Topsy Turvy', co-written by Niall Mooney. This is one of the 24 semi-finalists in the Maltese contest tomorrow night. Best of Irish, Donna!

2.20pm:
Made to the Radio Centre, last minute discussions with Derek and the producers, then down to Studio 6 for sound checks. All music checked, so we're ready to rock.

1.15pm:
Now, time for a quick lunch, then give all 5 songs one more blast. I'm due in the RTE Radio Centre at 2.15. Have to get my skates on!

12.30pm:
Listened to all 5 songs once more before we go to air having had a brief informal meeting with the Late Late team.

10.00am:
Now that I've 'digested' the 5 songs, I'm now ready to introduce them on the Mooney radio show live to the nation (and beyond!) at 3.03pm local time, having spent most of yesterday having phone meetings with the Mooney team, and doing up my notes so now I feel ready for anything.

7.30am:
Up early this morning to listed once more to the 5 contenders for Eurosong 2011, which of course all happens tomorrow night on The Late Late Show Eurosong 2011 show being hosted, as ever, by Ryan Tubridy.