The Frisian Anthem is played in an empty Thialf venue in Heerenveen. Three hours before the first concert, in a series of three which André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra will perform in the ice stadium, the musicians are busy rehearsing. Thousands of chairs are all neatly lined up in rows in the hall, waiting for as many spectators. Only a dozen or so production workers are sitting in the hall keeping a close watch on everything. Among them Pierre Rieu (28), son of the famous stand alone violinist.
August 28, 2009
For nine years now he has been working in his father's company, during which he has made himself indispensable. "Well, nobody is indispensable, except André", says the vice president of the André Rieu group about his role in his caravan. But he must admit, his role is important. "When Andre has ideas, he first launches them to me. I am his first sounding board. Yes, and also his first filter. André thinks big, very big. For him, nothing is impossible, but sometimes his ideas go too far. I tell him so honestly. But André remains the boss. If he knows beforehand what the place looks like, and we are going to lose money, and he wants to perform there anyway, then the decision is his. It is his money
That André Rieu has big ideas was relevant three years ago when, at the start of the World Stadium Tour, the Viennese castle of Schönbrunn was copied. This palace will not be seen in the Thialf as scenery. "That is for very large venues only. You need at least a thirty thousand person public if you want to give it a cozy look and come out ahead on the costs", said Pierre Rieu. "For a show like that, 450 artists travel along too. That can not always be. But besides that big show we also do about 120 concerts a year in smaller venues, such as the Thialf, and also so that people will not have to travel too far". Over the course of three concerts, we expect around 24,000 visitors.
Reality Soaps André has two celebrity levels in the Netherlands. The first explosion was in 1994 with the second Waltz. After that it became more quiet. With the start of the reality shows three years ago (in preparations for the big shows in New York and later Australia) people found out that the man now travels all over the world. He does that very successfully. Andre Rieu has this year been named as the best selling male artist in the world. Only Madonna, Britney Spears and Tina Turner sold more concert tickets. Critics sometimes say: "Everyone can play a little waltz like that". Then I think: "If that is so, why isn't there anyone else who is as successful?. No, it's really not so easy the way André and his orchestra do it.
Millions of people worldwide enjoy Rieu's concerts. Son Pierre thinks he can explain the success. Classical music was always for the elite. You were not even allowed to cough in the hall otherwise people would turn to you annoyed. With us, people can be themselves. you are allowed to laugh or cry and that does happen. What André does is accessible, there are many familiar tunes. People are not simply waiting for something they do not know. And the public can see that everyone on stage really is having fun in what they do.
Although very popular worldwide, there are still plenty of unexplored areas. "Andre is called the best known unknown artist. In the U.S. we play approximately fifty times a year, but nobody knows him on the streets. In England, it is the same. There was an André special ten years ago in the Royal Albert Hall, but we still have no foothold there. In December he will perform in the Royal Variety Show. That will be the kick-off of a new promotional tour in England.
North Pole On Rieu's wish list there are also countries in South America. "We have fans there who come all the way to Maastricht for a concert." And for next summer: the North Pole. Pierre Rieu has said it already: "His father thinks big. We were approached by someone who leads expeditions to the Arctic to conduct a concert there and I am starting to become more and more confident that it will succeed.
The idea is to go there with couples from around the world, to bring attention to the environment and to emphasize that the world belongs to all of us. "For us of course it is a huge promotional stunt, but it is also is a manner in which to give a lot of attention to the environment. Such a project can deliver unique images. But we will only go if we have some major environmental organizations behind us. If they say we can go, then we'll go.
Such a plan of course requires huge preparations. That is exactly what Pierre Rieu is involved in. When he started nine years ago in his father's company, he was primarily concerned with technical matters. Now he is busy with everything that occurs within the company. He has rearranged the technical matters in such a way that he can turn those over to others with confidence. "I'm not always present at a concert any more. That affords me the opportunity to address plans for Brazil and the Arctic".
What will follow those? Well, I know André would find it fantastic to be invited to come to Oprah Winfrey. It would be nice if that would come true. Or who knows, maybe he would play for Obama. There are plenty of ideas. And the professionalization of the company continues on. It has to, there are 120 people employed with us full time. Standing still is like walking backwards.
*Short Note: John and I have taken a week off and we have really enjoyed it, but I'm afraid the habit of seeing news, and wanting to post it for all fans to also read has become such a habit with us, that not posting has become harder than posting. :) ... So, the week has been nice and now we're back.
And back with another one of John's great Translations. :)