Despite her reputation as a stage actress, Frances Ruffelle is perhaps best known as an unlikely and almost forgotten Eurovision contender.
Frances Ruffelle was born on the outskirts of London in 1965. Her career spans over 40 years already, having made her debut as a child actress, first on stage and then in films. But in 1994, she joined a list of unlikely hopefuls to win the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK with an even more unlikely tune. Frances was born into performing. Her mother is Sylvia Young, founder of the Sylvia Young Theatre School, and so it was natural for Frances to step out onto the stage aged 9 years old. Having ‘tread the boards’ in her formative years, she landed a small role in the fifth St. Trinians film, ‘Wildcats Of St. Trinians’, in 1980. After a handful of similar roles, Frances crossed over to the recording studio in 1986 to record her debut single, “He’s My Hero”. The song was not a great success, but Frances continued with her now growing stage presence in productions as high profile as Starlight Express and Les Miserables.
She returned to the charts in 1988 with American singer Christopher Cross when they recorded the duet “I Will (Take You Forever)”. The song made a brief appearance on the US Adult Contemporary chart but after returning to the stage in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Frances began recording her debut album in 1993. It was here that Frances was heard and put forward as a possible contender for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. Songwriter George De Angelis had written “Lonely Symphony” as his bid to win the contest and put up against seven other songs in March of 1994, “Lonely Symphony” won the televote with 99,000, 36,000 ahead of the song in second place. Aged 28, Frances took “Lonely Symphony” to Dublin that May, now infamous for the interval performance of the Riverdance, and came tenth, the lowest placing for the UK since Samantha Janus three years earlier. “Lonely Symphony” did, however, put Frances in the single sales chart for the very first time when it entered the UK top 40 at No.25. The song dropped the following week, but following the Contest itself, went back to No.25 before falling again and then out altogether.
Frances released the album, “Fragile”, in 1994. This, along with three further singles, was not a huge commercial success and, to date, she has yet to return to the top 40 singles chart. Frances has continued to record music, with albums coming out in 1998, 2004, 2010 and her most recent, “I Say Yeh-Yeh”, in 2015. She has recorded with Michael Crawford and worked with Andrew Lloyd-Webber, but the main focus of her career is the stage. She has gone on to play Roxy in Chicago and star in Piaf, Bella, Make Me A Song and Whistle Down The Wind, among many other productions. Perhaps she considers her moment in Eurovision history as a blip, but there she is, one of our many hopefuls who dared with something very different, a song that perhaps was a little too refined to ever be considered a winner amongst cheesy pop numbers. But as we know from Eurovision history, sometimes it’s the outsiders that can surprise us all…
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