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Christmas in the MECC December 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 2022.
The Limburger, December 11, 2022, by Rob Cobben. Translation: Ineke, assisted by Sonja Harper. André Rieu enchants the audience in his winter palace in Maastricht: 'If fairy tales don't exist, what is this?' It's started. André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra gave the first of five Christmas concerts Saturday evening on December 10th, in the conference center MECC in his hometown Maastricht, which has been transformed into a winter palace. Visitors respond enthusiastically: “Everyone exudes fun and optimism, and don't we all need that in these gloomy times?!" Mik Falize. He must be the youngest special guest ever to perform at the shows of André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra (note IC: no, that was 3 years old Akim in 2004). Shortly before the break on Saturday evening during the first Christmas concert, 6-year-old Mik Falize takes the stage. He stares at the floor, seems paralyzed for a moment as he looks into the audience of twelve thousand fans. But when the orchestra members play “Little Drummer Boy”, a popular Christmas carol written in 1941 by pianist Katherine Kennicott, and the three tenors behind him sing Parum pum pum pum, he starts beating his little drum rhythmically. And after a minute he dares to raise his head, with a grin on his face. Mik is the grandson of JSO's principal percussionist, Marcel Falize, and the son of Glenn Falize, who has also worked with Rieu for more than ten years. For the first time, three generations of the Falize family are on the stage. The moment not only gives goosebumps to dad, grandpa and the rest of the family, but also to the audience in the hall. Mik receives the first standing ovation this evening. Gospel More will follow. During the performance of the three tenors, for example. When The Gospel Choir takes the stage and performs swinging evergreens such as “O Happy Day”, “When the Saints” and “Amen”, then anyone can hardly remain in their seat and a dance party emerges like we know them from the Vrijthof. Pam White (64) from Newbury in the south of Britain says she is enchanted. She had seen Rieu on TV many times before and when her best friend asked if she wanted to come along to this show, she didn't have to think twice. “What a party is this!” says the British who earns her life as a singer. “Good musicians and a perfect atmosphere. I will definitely come back again, and that little drummer brought tears to my eyes. If fairy tales don't exist, then what is this…?” Metamorphosis The drab, gray concrete conference colossus in the Maastricht district of Randwyck has undergone a metamorphosis for the Christmas series of the city's most famous resident. Upon entry, visitors are immediately immersed with Victorian atmosphere and welcomed by actors dressed in Dickensian outfit from various theater groups. They then enter a golden palace with dozens of chandeliers and two ice rinks next to the big stage. At the beginning of the concert, the maestro mocks the late visitors… - "We've already started" - but in a good mood and makes a lot of jokes. He is visibly emotional when he thanks his fans for their heartwarming letters and emails during the pandemic, and for their loyalty: a large part of the people in the hall bought the ticket almost three years ago, shortly after the first Christmas concerts in the MECC at the end of 2019. What should have become a tradition, had to be put on ice for two years, because of the virus that paralyzed the world. Yet now it is possible and allowed again and everyone on and off the stage and in the stands, is in a great mood. There is a lot of laughter. When Rieu asks the audience to form one large choir, and divides the hall into sopranos and tenors, for example, and if everyone has to get a bell from under the chair, or two pieces of wood to imitate the sound of a whip during the performance of the Petersburger Sleigh Ride.
Converting the MECC was a huge job. The conversion of the MECC into a winter palace was a huge job, says André Rieu's son Pierre. “Unfortunately, Maastricht does not have a concert hall, so we had to pull out all the stops to decorate the concrete building in a Christmas atmosphere. We came back from a concert in Sofia (Bulgaria) on November 29 and started straight away the day after. No less than 55 trailers with materials have been driven in; stuff, in which we invested a lot of money three years ago for the first edition of the Christmas concerts, and which have been in storage all that time. Unfortunately, the carpets were not properly stored. When we rolled them out, they had bubbles in them, which we couldn't get out even with steam engines and a kind of mega iron. So we had to buy new ones…” According to technician Richard Bovee of André Rieu Productions BV, 250 people spent ten days building the winter palace in the MECC. More than eight hundred people are active during the concerts (orchestra, dancers, employees and volunteers). 25 cameras are operational for the cinema film that is made of the concerts. Eighty chandeliers hang in the 'palace' and almost fifteen hundred movable lamps are used. One hundred dance couples participate in the show, selected and instructed by choreographer Kim Smith. The Maastricht native, (who herself won the Dutch Championship Dancing for Professionals twice, appeared in the TV programs “Dancing with the Stars” and “Stars on the Dance floor” and provided the choreography for the musical “Dirty Dancing”), scouted the dancers, amateurs and professionals, from Holland, Belgium and Germany. In addition, about sixty ice dancers who have been trained by former figure skater Marsha Thijssen from Maastricht, can be seen during the performance.
December 12, 2022. The Limburger, Editorial Board Entrepreneurship in Limburg. Rieu must make up an 80 percent loss of revenue. André Rieu has started his successful Christmas concerts in his hometown of Maastricht. The violinist hopes to make up for the millions lost during the corona pandemic. From March 2020, the income almost completely disappeared and Rieu was in great uncertainty about the continued existence of his company. 2020 ended with a loss of more than 2.2 million Euros. A year earlier, in 2019, André Rieu Productions was allowed to add 11.8 million Euros in profit. Net revenue fell within a year from almost 44 million to 8.6 million, according to the most recently filed annual accounts for 2020. The picture was not much better in 2021 either, because there were hardly any performances by the orchestra in that year either. The financial statements for the 2021 corona year have not yet been filed with the Chamber of Commerce. Only in December 2021, Rieu was allowed (after having not performed for a period of 630 days), to give four concerts in Portugal. Currently the agenda is filled again with worldwide performances. Rieu describes in the financial report how dire the situation was. In mid-2020 there was great uncertainty about the continued existence of the company. “Due to the current situation, our liquidity position is deteriorating. The continued existence of the company depends on when we can give concerts again with a normal line-up.” Fortunately, that moment came again at the end of 2021. Rieu implemented cutbacks and made use of the NOW scheme (temporary emergency measure bridging for retaining employment) to pay wage costs. Rieu has more than 86 fulltime employees on his pay role. The entrepreneur received 3.8 million Euros in compensation that year. The revenue at Rieu mainly comes from ticket sales for the concerts, the proceeds from royalties and rights and merchandising.
Cheerful. Marja Kemper (72) from Alkmaar enjoys herself. She sings in a choir herself and was taken along by her one year younger sister Hennie, who had previously attended one of the Vrijthof concerts. “I have seen him on TV before, but to experience it live now is very special. He is charismatic and cheerful. You can see that in the entire orchestra. Everyone exudes fun and optimism. Don't we all need that in these gloomy times?!" This positivity can also appeal to three German fans from Magdeburg. The three sixty-plus fans enjoy a beer before returning to the concert hall. The Germans drove more than five hundred kilometers to attend the concert. Under slight coercion from their wives, they confess with a laugh. But they are pleasantly surprised. “The entourage is great. And the music too!” No critical note? "Oh, no". Although: “The break is much too short and the lines for the toilets are too long.” Dance couples. Meantime in the winter palace the orchestra starts with the first notes of “An der Schönen Blauen Donau” (the Blue Danube) by Johann Strauss and a hundred dancing pairs - including twelve in a wheelchair - occupy the aisles. Suddenly they separate and invite people from the audience to a waltz. Hennie Kemper and Pan White also hit the dance floor. They shine. “I will definitely be back,” says White. “Maybe as early as July, on that beautiful square here in the city.” The next four Christmas shows, on December 11, 16, 17 and 18, are almost sold out. A film is being made of the concert series, which will be shown in cinemas at the end of next year.
December 15, 2022. The Limburger, by Ronald Colée. Photo credits on this page: Johannes Timmermans, Jean-Pierre Geusens, L1 and several fans. Translation: Ineke/John. Pierre Rieu apologizes after complaints from visitors: 'I hope these people forgive us' André Rieu organizes the influx of visitors for his Christmas concerts in the MECC differently this weekend after complaints from visitors. “It was entirely our fault that they took their seats too late,” says production manager Pierre Rieu, son of the maestro. Huub Mulders (78) from Blerick was slightly offended after reading the newspaper article about the first Christmas concert in the MECC last Saturday, in which reference was made to the puns André Rieu gave his visitors who took their seats too late; while the concert had already started. Mulders belonged to a group of visitors from Northern Limburg who went to Maastricht in four buses at 3.10 PM. “We were already at the MECC at 4.45 PM, then had to wait in a cold, drafty hall until 6 PM before we could enter the Christmas Village. When we walked to our places at 7.30 PM, it took us almost three quarters of an hour, and then you are also be publicly taunted.” Mulders' criticism is not an isolated one, because the “Limburger” also received responses from readers who attended the first concert and also felt personally mocked. Without them being able to do anything about their late entrance into the concert hall. A conclusion confirmed by Pierre Rieu. “It was our own fault that these people were late in the hall. There was nothing they could do about that. That my father then jokes about it, was not meant personally. He jokes everywhere in the world where he performs. I myself stood there on Saturday with bated breath, when he said so. Because WE were to blame.” “In principle, people could already take their places in the hall half an hour after the opening of the Christmas Village. But that didn't happen.”With a small joke: “I think we made the Christmas Village too cozy with those brass ensembles and Dickens groups.” Then seriously: “That is why we pointed this out to change it in the future.” According to Rieu, there will also be a solution for the early comers, who now had to wait in the arrivals hall until 6 PM. “We ensure that we are ready earlier, so that these people can enter immediately upon arrival. Although... 4.45 PM is very early, but I understand that if you come from far, you don't want to risk ending up in a traffic jam. Again, I hope these people forgive us.”
Ruud and Ineke attended the two last Christmas concerts (December 17 and 18) and we did not experience any problems in the organization at all. Everything had been solved immediately after the first concert. The Christmas Village opened at 5.30 pm, no late comers in the concerts and no queuing up for the toilets. The concerts were wonderful as usual. Mik Falize was adorable. Towards the end of the concert, we sang “Silent Night” all together (in several languages and humming). That was emotional and heartwarming!! We met many fans from abroad: Monica and Shirley from Malta, Kevin, 2 Margarets, Jill, Sally, Sue-Robert Homewood, Linda-Terry Kirkman, Angie, Jennie, Jacqui from the UK, Martine, Micheline and Francine from France, Torben-Kirsten Esbensen, Ulla from Denmark, Kerstin, Gunilla-Björn Burlin from Sweden, John-Bobbie de Jong from the USA, Jeanette, Suzy, Han and us from Holland, Hanne from Germany, Kathleen, Johan-Martine from Belgium, and we saw enthusiastic fans from Poland. We had some very enjoyable days in a great atmosphere. Thank you André and crew. The concert ended with (all together): “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!”
Limburg TV, L1, Limbourgeois, Chapeau. Translation Ineke/John. Subtitles: Ruud.
6 year old Mik Falize, the little drummer boy.
Three generations of the percussion family Falize: Marcel, Glenn, Mik, (with André and Mik’s brother Ian).
In 1997 a Christmas special was recorded on VHS tape, for the WDR (Western German broadcasting company), titled: “the Christmas I love”. Here the little drummer boy was Marcel’s son Glenn Falize (5).
Our own video of Christmas 2022. Here the little drummer boy is Glenn’s son Mik Falize (6). Furthermore the Snow Waltz and the Peterburgers Sleigh Ride, with bells and “whips” in the audience. Duration of the video: 12 minutes.
Note Ruud and Ineke. During the tour after the two/three years of Covid lockdown, André made the charming gesture of thanking the audience for their support and loyalty. André reversed the applause and together with the orchestra members, he gave a standing ovation to the loyal fans who had waited for him to attend his concerts again. He bowed with his hand on his heart and blew a kiss. That was a touching moment. We really appreciated that. Do you know of any other artists who have done the same?
We saw four new faces in the orchestra and one new violinist in a blue dress. André never introduces new orchestra members, thus, the fans must embark on a scavenger hunt with varying degrees of success. One of the choir members was Vasiliki Chanou, who joined the choir earlier, and the name of the violinist seemed to be Annabelle Traves. First in the choir: Anna Reker, fourth Vasiliki Chanou. 2,3,4, unknown yet.
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