This month I return to my travel hat!
Photos above: Andre Rieu with his Stradivarius and orchestra. also his castle
I took a package deal with Andre Rieu Travel to spend a short stay in Maastricht as a birthday present to myself. Until three years ago I hadn't heard of him - but then I was living in South America. Three years ago, by a fluke I attended a direct telecast from Maastricht in my local cinema. The rest was history. I made sure I could watch every telecast available to me. So often on television and in the cinema we see only negative depressing things. It's a pleasure to see so much fun in Andre's show.
His orchestra is best known for its rendition of Strauss compositions including, waltzes, hence the name of his orchestra - "The Johann Strauss Orchestra". But being the excellent showman that he is, his concert programs include Opera, music from films, and even disco music, of late. He encourages audience participation with plenty of jokes thrown in.
He is always smiling and comments that music is beyond the boundaries of nationality, religion, Brexit or the European Union. It has the power of uniting people and he acknowledges that his audiences leave the concert hall with smiles on their faces and this gives him joy.
He is always introducing young talent to his show, giving them a chance not only, to travel worldwide, but also giving them their first big break, their chance to appear before large audiences.
I was privileged to have visited his castle home (I would describe it more as a French style chateau). One of his sons, Pierre, greeted us with a handshake, then a talk about how his father runs his business. He was quick to point out with a chuckle that his father did not necessarily keep to his budget. We were welcomed with an interesting ballgown show in the castle (all the ladies in the orchestra were dressed in ball gowns, with little jackets on hand should the evening turn cold), and after that it was afternoon tea/coffee with the most delicious pastries in the beautiful garden surrounding the castle. Dutch hospitality at its best.
After a gourmet dinner in the Kruisherenhotel where we enjoyed a performance of a couple of hours with five musicians from his orchestra playing in the background, we met together outside to start the eight minute walk to the town square. I couldn't believe that were were to be ushered into the Vrijthof Square with a sixty piece brass band, immaculately dressed in their uniforms and playing their hearts out. The walk took longer but what did it matter when we were waved to by people hanging out of their windows, diners relaxing at their meals in restaurants, and general public standing on either side of the road to the square. What a great introduction to the evening concert which started at 9pm.
It finished at 11.30pm but then Andre likes to play the game of "It's time for you to go home".
"No," the audience cry out.
"Yes, " he says.
and the game continues after each encore, finally ending the concert at midnight, Cinderella's going home time.
Back at the hotel we were welcomed back with "White wine or red, sir/madam?"
What a nice way to spend another two hours chatting with newly-made friends about the evening, enjoying bites of savoury, freshly-made food accompanied by wine.
Needless to say, I've been letting my friends in South America know about the forthcoming September concerts in Colombia.
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Barbara M Webb graduated in English at Queensland University, St Lucia. She has lived in 7 of the 52 countries she has visited. and now lives in Cornwall in the UK.