Maastricht, July 3 - 23, 2018. 13 concerts in a row.By Ineke. Thanks to Sonja Harper, for assisting us with the English language (during John’s vacation).On July 3rd, for the 14th year in a row, we headed off to the center of the Universe, for a record stay of three weeks with no less than 13 André Rieu concerts, a few side concerts/meet and greets by soloists and orchestra members and many fan gatherings.Media attention.What crazy weeks we had!!It first started in the car on our way to Maastricht (we live in The Hague, a 2,5 hour drive from the center of the universe). We received a text message from the NOS (the main Dutch Radio/TV channel) with the request to call them back as soon as possible. The next roadside restaurant was ours and they told us they would be in Maastricht the following day with a camera crew to interview us and some other foreign fans. After the interview had been broadcast that evening, one telephone call after another followed. By Limburg TV, The Hague TV, the main Dutch newspapers Telegraaf and Algemeen Dagblad (AD), Radio interviews by phone, TV interviews on the balcony of Ruth and Jim's room, written articles in papers, everything. One day, early in the morning, Ruud even gave a (fortunately RADIO!!!) interview in his underpants from the bed!! Holy cow, what is happening here???? We were flabbergasted. The concerts had not even started yet!! Apparently the press had discovered that this year André is setting a record with 13 concerts and that we had attended all the Maastricht concerts from the very first year in 2005. We assume that they found us through our fan website andrerieumovies.Headline of an article: "Married couple spends a fortune for the best view"….
Hotelroom.And yes, we spent a fortune on the hotel bill, because hotel rules changed this year. We have to say that the Maastricht entrepreneurs are getting too greedy in their attempts to earn money from André's concerts. Hotel rates went sky high, payment was requested a long time in advance and no refunds in case of cancellation. While the hotel can easily book the rooms again on these special days, it looks like excessive greediness has started to take advantage of Andre's fans. (Thanks to the Hotels supervising organization: SaHot). Since 2005 we have booked this room for all the Maastricht concerts, so 14 years in a row, and a hundred years in advance. We don't like to lose our birds eye view. It is unique. We see technicians climb into the light poles to replace lamps, every day we see the replacement of the fireworks on the roof of the stage. We see the ushers in red, putting water bottles on the seats, or ponchos, or little lights, and hear the cleaning team at work early in the morning to remove the confetti and strips off the square. But it is getting harder and harder to afford…. And we are lucky that we don't have to travel from far! In 2005 André started one weekend with 3 concerts, later two weekends, and now it has grown to three weekends and 13 concerts. The hotel rooms are the most expensive on André concert days and there were a lot of them this year! Each year the hotel keeps the room reserved for us and often we share the view with professional photographers, press and other guests. From the beginning the hotel allowed us to fix our home made banners to the hotel façade, and our cardboard Andre is welcoming the hotel guests in the reception hall next to the elevator. So we think every year we contribute to a festive atmosphere in the hotel.
Concerts.During the first few days the secret was revealed who the guests of the concerts were going to be: Los del Rio, a Spanish couple of elderly gentlemen, who had a hit in 1996 with the Macarena. Wow, I remember that!! The lady of the housekeeping crew who cleaned our room, was a foreign student who had never heard of André Rieu before, but she knew the moves of the Macarena, which she taught us during a fun practice session in our hotel room. As compensation we invited her to watch the concert from our room, and she will never forget the name of André Rieu again!Long time fans were familiar with the program. André played the music many times before, it is on many DVDs, same speeches, same jokes, the tenors, the Russians again with the same songs. They had seen it many times before. Some long time fans, coming from far away, were disappointed, they missed the "wow" factor. They are considering not to return to Maastricht next year. Other long time fans told us: "We don't care what he is playing, we want to be part of it, because it creates happiness!"What we see from our window is that it still works! Every evening the people on the square and the terraces are extremely enthusiastic, thrilled, excited and overjoyed to be there. They love to be part of the show, they yell "Olé", cheer with the SNOW waltz (during the HEATwave!), dance the Blue Danube, the Sirtaki, the Macarena, the “go home” act…yes…no…yes…no... Not to be unnoticed: 13 open air concerts without rain!! That is very rare in Holland! Only at one concert a downpour started exactly after the concert had been finished!We purchased tickets for three of the concerts. Being at the concert, we feel the magic, we feel uplifted, every time again. We know that André loves participation by the audience. Maybe that's why there were not too many "love" songs, even though LOVE, AMORE, was the theme of the concert series. The CD AMORE is very beautiful and the romantic music brings so much relaxation, that people would fall asleep. Because being asleep is the highest grade of relaxation! What pieces fitted into the "love" theme? "I Can't help falling in love", "You never walk alone", "You raise me up" and "Amigos para siempre".The sopranos were outstanding. Anna, Donij, Jing Li, Shao Lin, received standing ovations at every concert.
Fan gatherings.We celebrated the annual reunion with our fan friends with champagne, many meals together, the fan dinner with 104 people on the Stiphout (shipping company) cruiser, 3 Saturday fan picnics in the Maastricht City Park (between 12 - 2PM). We regularly meet on Facebook all year long and the fans who stayed home had a virtual party together at the Harmony Parlor fan group on Facebook, watching the concert via the Vrijthof webcam (without sound), having virtual food and snacks, while following the posts and some live broadcasts from Maastricht. Thanks to Sue Berry and Chris Fowler who lead this virtual party every year! Maastricht is like Mecca for the André fans: Once in your life you must have attended an André concert in Maastricht, his hometown, where he lives…. The Center of the Universe… Maastricht is one big reunion for fans from all across the world, being friends, feeling like a family. Kyle Craft, our young violinist from California celebrated his 25th birthday at our fan dinner ship and at the same time we had a little commemoration for Barbara Johnson, whose family traveled to Maastricht in her memory, after her passing away only one month ago. Joy and sadness came together and that is what life is. Ruth Morgan, who has been creating free André buttons for all fan dinner/fan picnic attendees every year from the beginning, celebrated her 76th birthday and the DuCasque hotel staff surprised her with flowers and a strawberry cake (vlaai). The Stiphout crew surprised Kyle with a fireworks dessert! So they all live with the invasion of André fans in July!! And we experience love and friendship everywhere.
Family visits.Last year our daughter Irene joined us at a concert. She said: “Once in my life I have to experience why my parents are so crazy about this, that they go there every year!” She was hooked! She cannot take much time off, because she owns a horseback riding school with 40 horses/ponies and 250 clients, in the country side. Our eldest granddaughter Natascha has been a fan from the beginning. She often spent time with us in Maastricht and she also came this year, but missed the fan picnic to meet more friends. Our son Martin, his wife and two grandkids Thomas (8) and Peter (5) arrived by train. Due to track maintenance between Eindhoven and Roermond, this train trip was interrupted and they had to do part of the trip by bus. We spent the day in the Fort Willem playground with a pool and Thomas insisted on watching the concert. He has music education at school, took violin lessons and played a little bit in a school orchestra. So he wanted to stay with us, while his parents and brother returned home (to The Hague). All night he watched from the window, with binoculars, observed people and instruments and noticed that the Russians had "weird guitars"…. Not sleepy at all, he stayed up all night. I tried to teach him to waltz but he was not quite ready for that. Dancing is definitely not his passion. The next day we accompanied him back to Utrecht, where his dad met us, continued the journey and took him home. Highlight for him: he went to bed at 0.30 AM! He said he was so sorry that he was on vacation, because he really wanted to tell about the concert at school….
Spare time.In between the André Rieu concerts our agenda was filled with fan dinners, fan picnics, other appointments, performances by the Gracenotes, the Divas, several Meet and Greets, Marc's exhibition. You may read all about that on separate pages under: Maastricht 2018.The entire city of Maastricht radiated a musical atmosphere. Street artists on every corner. Musical ensembles by top level conservatory students. We visited the Sfinx Passage where we took notice of the history of the former porcelain factory Sfinx. The factory itself has now been turned into a student hotel. The Bassin, the historic inner harbor with small shops, exhibition rooms for artists and café/restaurants with terraces at the waterside. We visited the ENCI quarry (former cement factory) with panoramic lookout and stairs down into the quarry, which will be turned into a nature reserve with pool in due time. We had a look into the new underground bicycle parking lot in front of the train station and went to see the Green "carpet" (a park on top of a tunneled highway) and we noticed that the Wyck Bazar never got developed. (We wonder: is the André sculpture still hiding there? Why don't they give it a prominent place in the city center??)
Getting to know new people.To meet new people every year is very exciting. This year the story of the painting "André Rieu fans in town"must be told.Maastricht resident Marie-Jeanne Huinck painted it last year and she decided to give it away for free to a real André fan. Barbara Johnson loved the painting, wished to apply and she was the lucky one. We arranged an appointment for her at the artist's home in Maastricht, to hand over the painting. But sadly enough Barbara (82) passed away one month before her planned trip to Maastricht. She intended to bring three generations of her family to the André concerts this year… Her son Kevin mailed me that it was Barbara's wish that the family would go and the family still would like to receive the painting as a remembrance. So on a Sunday morning Marie-Jeanne and her husband Jean received us, Kevin and Robert (Barbara’s two sons), with coffee and "vlaai" (Limburg pastry). We spent a few enjoyable and emotional hours at their house and took the (big) painting with us to the hotel room. The Johnson family left Maastricht the next day by KLM bus and plane and we all tried to figure out how to get the painting to Birmingham, England. Coincident or not, we heard that Linda and Richard Oswick always travel from the UK to Maastricht with their own car and cross the NorthSea by ferry. They planned to return home one week later and they were able to take the painting in their car to England. They even delivered the painting to the Johnson's in Birmingham! This is a good example of how fan friends, who feel like a family, help each other!
Another new acquaintance is the retired architect Mathy Engelen, who produces drawings and aquarelles of Maastricht, preferably painted from high towers overlooking the city. Our hotel room offered him a new view over the Vrijthof square. Mathy is on Facebook and showed us very special drawings of wineries, painted with…. red wine!! The result is a beautiful light red-brownish glowing color, which gives a special atmospheric effect. Mathy introduced us to two conservatory students piano: Daniël Vissers and Peiyun Xue, who play piano duets.
Of course a few ladies of the Dutch mime JSO orchestra “the Golden Oldies at Full Speed” were also in Maastricht. Sadly enough without the inspiring founder and leader (playing André) Joke Breedijk. Joke is seriously ill. We hope and pray for the best. Click here to read the story of this very special senior orchestra and her talented conductor. The ladies had Joke’s photo with them, to pretend that she was also with them. We raised a glass on her health and we hope she’ll overcome the misery.
So far our own story. Journalists asked us: Isn't it boring? Three weeks and 13 of the same concerts??The answer is a heartfelt "No". Every day we had different experiences and we loved every minute of our stay at Maastricht. My goodness….. no vacation can give us more excitement than Maastricht during the Rieu concerts!Ineke.
This is the painting in Birmingham, UK: above the piano.
Maastricht window decorationsand André’s gorgeous maintained castle (built in the 15th century with yellow Limburg sandstone), painted by Mathy Engelen.
André enters the square and people try to get a high five!!