He’s there, at the top of my blog, with his magic violin and enchanting smile. It’s sad, I know, but I love Andre Rieu. I fell in love with him a year ago when we came across his concerts on Sky Arts. Now we have his CDs and videos. And we watch them a lot. We tell others about him. I can’t think of anyone else I would willingly wait for, hours in the rain. Relentless rain, no complaints.
Last weekend, along with hundreds of other fans, we sat in one of the grandest squares in Maastricht, praying that the sun would momentarily peep out from the clouds, so we could dance, stand, applaud. No chance. Dressed in free plastic ponchos, fastened tightly, we gripped our plastic chairsand sat as still as we could. For with the slightest movement rivulets of water ran down and tickled our necks. Hard to show your appreciation when you don’t want to move. How did everyone manage to stay so cheerful? There were people in wheelchairs, small children, babies, lots of folks older than us. Like us they’d probably waited a long time for this concert. Since first seeing him on the TV a year ago (thanks Gordon!). And we weren’t going to let anything deflect us from the pleasure of being there together, and enjoying the music. Yes, our girls and their boyfriends were there. (Not normally their sort of festival).
For lovers of Andre many of the acts would be familar: the three tenors, gospel choirs, the Russian trio, the choir and amazing Johann Strauss orchestra. The video backdrop changed dramatically to suit the music: religious, arty, starry sky, flowing Danube. And after the interval, suddenly there was Marisia as Mary Poppins, flying over the high roof of the staged palace, holding trademark umbrella and singing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, loud and clear, as the rain and the wind tried to buffet her. We all ‘whooped’ as she appeared, suddenly, from the clouds. Don’t know how she kept so upright and on-key.
This was a concert like no other. No rip-off programmes, no alcohol, not even popcorn or icecream, no heavy sales of merchandise. Just music and costumes, colour and fun. The joy of the performers is infectious. The jokes may be corny (and in Dutch!), the costumes kitsch, the music romantically familiar. But there is something special.. You can see from people’s faces that they’re all enjoying themselves. And when he played Ravel’s Bolero, accompanied by fireworks and gold streamers, at last we stood up and cheered. Not just us, everyone. We didn’t want to leave.
I hear that some ‘real classical music lovers’ are scornful. They say that real classical music isn’t like this. We don’t care. Who decreed that musicians have to look so serious? Being at an Andre concert is like being at a family party – even in the rain.