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Press articles about Vrijthof Concerts
The secret of André Rieu Chapeau Magazine, July 6, 2024, Column by Jo Cortenraedt Translated by Ineke, edited by Diana D. Le It must have been about the two-hundredth (or who knows, three-hundredth) André Rieu concert that I experienced live this week, this time again at the Vrijthof in Maastricht. The violinist with the flowing hair has entered my life since the Maastricht Salon Orchestra. I have attended his concerts in Melbourne, Tokyo, Cape Town, São Paulo, Mexico City, and God knows how many other cities. You know in general terms what is coming and yet it remains worthwhile, especially for the audience in the hall, which in Rieu's situation is usually a stadium or hall. Or a square. His concept has been written off for years by many “experts”, reviewers and other insiders. But it is still very much alive, in fact, his fans are getting younger and younger. The expectation that his elderly supporters would thin out automatically did not materialize. What's the secret? Very simple: the almost childlike but very pure enthusiasm of André Rieu himself and his wife Marjorie, who thinks along behind the scenes when it comes to the content of the program. Those two still have the most fun. And that reflects on the audience. During the encores, I stood near the stage with our cameraman on Thursday evening, and I once again saw a man who, at the age of 74, was enjoying himself like a child. And at the same time he keeps an eye on everything and leaves nothing to chance. He sees everything and everyone, he is the director of a film in which he plays the leading role. It is purely that enthusiasm that comes across to the audience. The people in a room or on a square feel whether something is made up or real. Comparisons with classical concerts by, for example, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic are pointless. That's a different department, a different audience. At Rieu’s, it is by no means all classical music and when classical pieces are played, they are given a tasty smooth sauce, making them easy to digest for an audience that is not trained in listening to heavy music. But a completely different repertoire is also played and that mix creates a party evening, with a whole crowd going wild. Different from Pinkpop but certainly no less atmospheric. That authenticity is also reflected in Emma Kok, a girl who lives for her music and yet stands there very tough and full of self-confidence at the age of 16, singing like an international star. This does not happen automatically, in addition to talent, it also requires a lot of dedication. And Phil Bee, our “Joe Cocker” from Mheer (town), was also pure. I have known him for several decades from another life, but he is as happy as a child that he can sing there on the big stage on the Vrijthof. His Sweet Caroline was a hit with everyone and backstage Phil was almost out of breath from the emotion, he thought it was all that “cool”. Creating that atmosphere is much more difficult than it seems, but André Rieu succeeds again and again. On the one hand by preparing everything very professionally down to the last detail, but on the other hand by being completely himself on stage. This means that this success formula is far from worn out.
Telegraaf/Privé, June 29, 2024, by Harrie Nijen Twilhaar Translation: Ineke, edited by Alice Leung André Rieu on the eve of the Vrijthof concerts: 'Performing with Bruce Springsteen is my dream!' For the next three weeks, Maastricht will once again be the waltzing capital of the world. With his twelve summer concerts on the Vrijthof, André Rieu (74), who is not ready to think about stopping, is pulling out all the stops to give his tens of thousands of fans an unforgettable evening. “I see more and more young people in the audience, so we are very popular on YouTube and TikTok.” From next Thursday, André Rieu will have plenty of fun again when he gives his familiar Vrijthof concerts in Maastricht. Together with his Johann Strauss Orchestra, the maestro will perform twelve times on stage until July 21. “It is a huge highlight every year to organize the summer concerts in my own city,” says André on the eve of the series. “We have just returned from our tour in Scandinavia and are preparing in the coming days to make the Vrijthof concerts something fantastic. Everything must be arranged down to the last detail. The immense stage, the light, sound and of course the ambiance.” Over the next three weeks, tens of thousands of fans from all over the world will find their way to the Limburg capital. “For my orchestra and me, this is the highlight of the year, every summer. It really feels like coming home. I only see happy faces in the city. It's a huge honor that all those fans come to Maastricht, the whole city will be buzzing for almost a month. And if the weather gods are kind to us, it will be a big party, with full terraces. ” What do you have in store this year? “Let that remain a surprise for a while, haha! But I can assure you that it will all be beautifully decorated again. In the coming days, there will be a lot of construction on the Vrijthof in the run-up to July 4. That is always a wonderful moment for everyone.” The fact that the king of the waltz is also a human being of flesh and blood was evident earlier this year when he had to cancel his tour in Mexico due to illness. “That decision had a huge impact on me,” says André, “at such a moment you prefer to continue. We had six concerts planned in Mexico City, but after the second performance things fell through. The cause of the misery turned out to be a sum: too much travel, too many concerts, in combination with overtiredness and the flu. All in all it was too much for me. Fortunately, I have now fully recovered.” What did you have to do for that? “Well, what does a person do when he is tired? Rest! So I did that. And just live a healthy life. This means: following my daily sports program, eating healthy, no alcohol, no smoking and having fun in life.” Have you also gone through the medical mill? “No, fortunately no special investigations were necessary. It soon became clear that I only had the flu and was overtired. In short, I had to recover and take a break.” Enough time to read all the expressions of support. “I have many lovely fans all over the world, and they are immediately concerned as soon as something happens to me or someone from the orchestra. They send us heart-warming messages, especially via social media, which is wonderful! Of course, it is also an incentive to get back on my feet as quickly as possible, so that I can perform for them again.” Even you are getting older, does that also apply to your audience? “They are actually getting younger! When we started the Johann Strauss Orchestra 35 years ago, our concerts were mainly attended by elderly people. But now I see more and more young people in the audience. We are also very popular on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. I think we will also attract a new, young generation. Everyone, young and old, enjoys our music.” Are you consciously tapping into new target groups? “No, that happens naturally, partly due to social media. When we play in a country we haven't been to often, it always surprises me that the venues there are completely sold out. For example in Malta and Bahrain. We had some really nice performances there a while back, mainly for young people.” Is the atmosphere in the Netherlands, and on the Vrijthof in particular, different than abroad? "Yes certainly! Almost all orchestra members, including me, live in Maastricht. Just the fact that we are performing in our own city is very special for the fans. Because it is not just the performances on the Vrijthof that have enormous appeal throughout the world. We also notice this during the annual Christmas concerts at the MECC. When you see how many people from all over the world come here, it's truly unbelievable. In both July and December the whole city is buzzing with fun.” You have been loyal to Maastricht all your life. What makes that city so unique? “To be honest, I don't have an exact answer to that. All I know is that I'm happy every time I get home from tour and that I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world.” How do you prepare for the first concert, Thursday? “I have of course already made the program for the summer concerts, so that is already in my head. We have been rehearsing with the orchestra, choir and soloists since last week.” What is actually the secret of your success? “I wouldn't know, but I think: beautiful music. And I also feel a great connection with the audience. Not only do I want to perform the music as beautifully as I can, they must also absolutely enjoy it.” Extended due to success, Limburg singing sensation Emma Kok (16) will also move the Vrijthof this summer with her angelic voice. She already did this a year ago with her version of Voilà, by the French singer Barbara Pravi, which has already been viewed almost sixty million times on YouTube. But before Emma joins the violinist and his orchestra, she will first perform the Wilhelmus on the TT circuit in Assen (motorcycle races in the Dutch town of Assen) for more than a hundred thousand motorcycle enthusiasts, accompanied by the “Johan Willem Friso Kapel” (a professional military band). “She is a unique girl, with a beautiful voice,” continues André, who is more or less her mentor. “I am extremely proud of her. Emma has been traveling around the world with us for almost a year and has been a huge success everywhere. Of course she will be there now and I am sure she will surprise the entire audience again!” Which big star would you like to be on stage with again someday? “Performing with Bruce Springsteen is still a dream of mine. Who knows, one day... He is the same age as me and it would be great to welcome him as a guest in Maastricht, but also worldwide. I really love his music and I’m a big fan.” Do you also have a favorite waltz? "What do you think? The beautiful “Blue Danube”, of course! That is the only waltz where, all over the world, everyone in the room actually jumps up to dance. That waltz is so unique, and Johann Strauss was a genius. That he was able to compose something like this... I say that every evening. I hope that somewhere in some afterlife he hears us play and that he is satisfied.” Aren't you afraid of suffering hearing damage from all those performances? “I do everything I can to protect my hearing, and that of the musicians in my orchestra, against noise. For example, I had screens set up in front of the wind instruments in the studio, so that the string players in front of them are not too bothered by the sound.” Do you think there will ever come a time when you want to take it easy? “Who knows some day, but not for a while. As mentioned, we have just returned from a very nice tour through Scandinavia and after a short rest we started rehearsals for the Vrijthof. That actually gives me a lot of energy. It's going to be very promising!” Note Ineke. It happened to be that Bruce Springsteen performed live in the Netherlands on June 27 and 29, 2024, as a part of his European tour with his E-Street Band. Place to be: Goffertpark (city Park) in Nijmegen, NL. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but André was at home and Bruce was nearby... Who knows? (of course not this year, he has a full touring schedule, but maybe in the future).
André Rieu, a blessing for Maastricht Chapeau Magazine, by Jo Cortenraedt, July 5, 2024 Translation Ineke, edited by Alice Leung July was traditionally a quiet month in the city center of Maastricht. Many city residents were on holiday and tourists avoided the city, especially on hot days. But since André Rieu's Vrijthof concerts – this year for the eighteenth time – July has become a record month, especially for hotels and restaurants. Entrepreneur Berry Kuzelj is eternally grateful to the musician. With four businesses in the city center, Berry Kuzelj is a busy entrepreneur. He has been active in the catering industry for almost forty years and now, together with his wife and children, he owns three businesses on the Vrijthof (Britannique, Aux Pays Bas and Monopole) and one around the corner (Amadeus). While he was used to the city only starting to come alive again when the people of Maastricht returned from holiday, this has been very different since André Rieu's initiative. “I remember well that André Rieu called me on a Sunday morning to ask if he could come by with the then mayor Gerd Leers. Yes, of course he could, but I had no idea what he had in mind. I brought in my colleague Ber Rekko and we heard his plans. He already had in mind exactly what that should look like. He needed our cooperation to give those concerts at the Vrijthof. I immediately saw the benefits, especially because he was so generous that he did not need any of the terrace packages that we were able to offer. As long as we cooperated, didn't play our own music and didn't serve alcohol during the concert itself, but before and after. I realized then that this was a golden opportunity to put the Vrijthof on the international map and that is what happened. During the first year I had to do my best to convince some colleagues, because some wondered whether this was not jeopardizing their normal turnover. Well, you don't hear anyone squeaking anymore, everyone is very satisfied with it.” Permanent customers The first year there were three concerts in one weekend and that was already considered a great success. “Back then we mainly saw local people on our terraces, but now they come from seventy to eighty countries. We have regular guests from Argentina, from Brazil, from Australia. Truly incredible. Some not only come to eat with us and enjoy the concert, but also sleep in the hotel above the Britannique. And during the day you often see them again for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.” July is now an absolute top month for entrepreneur Kuzelj, especially now that it concerns three weekends with a total of twelve concerts. “We have more than five hundred seats on the three terraces, so that means we have to work hard in the kitchen and service. But we have the arrangement set and we now work with about ten members of the family. It's also fun to do that job together, especially with such a great atmosphere.” Statue According to Kuzelj, the entire city benefits from the Vrijthof concerts, not just the entrepreneurs on the square. “All hotels are full, people visit the city during the day, sit on a terrace, go shopping. André Rieu is truly a blessing to the city, he deserves a statue. The suppliers are also having a heyday, every morning the trucks are unloaded so that they can serve the people in the evening.” “It never becomes completely routine, but it does not make us nervous. Fortunately, we have enough staff on those days. Many employees from the past come back especially, they find it extra fun and don't want to miss it. It's such an international atmosphere, really great. The only stress factor is the weather, because it is an outdoor event. The rain radar is closely monitored. In all those years it has only gone wrong a few times when the rain was a spoilsport. Sometimes we went through the eye of the needle, then there was a shower before or after the concert. They sometimes say: God is a Maastricht resident; that could well be the case. In any case, we as entrepreneurs hope that André Rieu will continue at the Vrijthof for years to come. I don't want to think that it will ever stop.”