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Apr 25, 2014

André Rieu expects to greet his half-millionth fan this summer!


It was like swearing in church and it became a goldmine

André Rieu expects to greet his half-millionth fan this summer during the decade of concerts on the Vrijthof, the living room from his hometown of Maastricht. A staggering number, which no one took into consideration when it all started in 2005.

In a three part series, the Limburger Newspaper outlines the growth and impact of the event for the city and the region. Today Part 1: How it all began in the Roda Stadium in Kerkrade - by Stefan Gybels en John Hoofs.

In 2004 Maastricht ex-mayor Gerd Leers was invited by his colleague Kerkrade Mayor Mr. Jos Som to the Parkstad Limburg Stadium to attend an André Rieu concert. The violinist and conductor had already been working for several years to conquer the world. Leers had been following that with interest. He did not know Rieu personally yet and was introduced to him and his entourage by Som after the performance. I told André on that occasion: "What you're doing here is like swearing in church. How is it possible that you - with all due respect – perform here in the Roda Stadium, and not in Maastricht?" I was then told that he had been busy for years to accomplish that, but was not successful. I then asked him if I could dare to attempt that. The rest is history as they say. Rieu wanted the entire Vrijthof at his disposal, but ran into resistance with the Vrijthof Entrepreneurs who could not envision that. Leers convinced them of the common interest and on July 9, 2005 Rieu conducted his first Vrijthof concert in the living room of his hometown. Jean Jacobs, formerly city councilman for Economic Affairs and Events in Maastricht, confirms that Rieu was running around with plans for the Vrijthof concerts. The city council was immediately enthusiastic, he added.



We have greatest artist in the world, on the best square in the world.
Mayor Onno Hoes

Jacobs' former colleague John Aarts confirms this. Why it did not work and whether Leers eventually pried things loose is unclear. Entrepreneur Benoit Wesly, friend of Rieu, claims not to know the reason: "They did not want him in Maastricht, that is why he performed in Kerkrade. There was little atmosphere and it appeared cold in that stadium. Afterwards contact was indeed established between Rieu and Leers. But Leers says that if he was the determining factor, he very much underestimated the person Rieu. André states: "The first plan was made for a concert on the St. Pieter, but it ultimately became the Vrijthof. There were difficult conversations with Hotel-Cafe owners around the square, but I do not think that they are sorry now."

That the Vrijthof concerts would become so gigantic, we never would have imagined.

Pierre Rieu, son of André who was involved from the start of the Vrijthof concerts, confirms that statement. "It took a lot of effort with all entrepreneurs to convince them that the concerts would be good for everyone. In addition, the closing of the Vrijthof - one of our conditions – was basically not allowed. Gerd Leers finally forced his demand and ensured that concerts could be held. They are forever grateful to him. "There are more people in the city benefitting, since the Rieu concerts proved in more ways than one to be a huge gold mine, which revealed even greater discoveries. You do not need to be dealing with a mathematician to figure out with a wet finger that Rieu, hotel owners, innkeepers, shopkeepers, ticket sellers, tour operators, security firms and other companies realized profits in the tens of millions of Euros due to the the concerts. No one who was present there in 2005 when the first and only concert of that summer took place, could have imagined that.

"What Rieu means to Maastricht, is unprecedented", finds former city councilman Jacobs. He does not only view the financial side of the concerts, but also the quality of what is offered and especially the audiences which Rieu attracts. "A public that belongs to Maastricht, at the level that the city pursues. People in their best dress go to the concerts; fans come from far away, often staying for several days." Antoine Scheerens, the foreman of the Cooperating Hotels Maastricht, had no idea what he could expect in 2005 at one of Rieu’s concerts on the Vrijthof. "We thought about a kind of Preuvenemint. Nice, but especially nice for the people of Maastricht themselves. 

That it would turn out so huge, we could never have imagined that. "Yet in the earlier years there was a time when we were playing with fire. On some of the hotel terraces around the Vrijthof there arose, due to overly exuberant alcohol use, a jolly and noisy atmosphere, which disturbed the concerts. To top it off, even a brawl occurred. Gerd Leers: "We came together with entrepreneurs and agreed on a type of behavioral protocol. There were rules to which everyone had to adhere. That is why I had to knock some heads together with the entrepreneurs. "This has to stop," I told them. Otherwise we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs."

There was still a sore point that gradually through the years began to come into play: the yearly tax of the Vrijthof as an event site. Maastricht has been struggling for years with the normal standard for maximum use, which has been adjusted a few times in order to allow more parties and celebrations. Jean Jacobs: "When we decided to roll out the red carpet for André Rieu, we in the city council also agreed to make choices. Other events had to be cancelled from the Vrijthof. We had to choose quality. That had never happened before. Nonetheless: Rieu on the Vrijthof has been the right choice. The man is of world quality. You do not hide him on Square 1992.




 "This summer Rieu will give ten concerts on the Vrijthof, a record." Mayor Onno Hoes had to ask the City Council to make an additional concert day available, since the standard of events was again being stretched. A very remarkable state of affairs, found Hoes. "We have the greatest artist in the world on the most beautiful square in the world. No other city has that." Benoit Wesly shares in the annoyance with Hoes: "The mayor almost had to beg the city council for that additional concert, and almost had to get down on his knees to beg André if he would please provide for an additional performance. We are talking here about the Ambassador of the city and here we are whining about an extra concert day. Maastricht does not know what it is holding in its hands. Other cities would spend millions in order to bring in Rieu. When I see all those who receive a city medal, I wonder what the city council will ever give Rieu. Where's that street name? Why is there not a building named Rieu? It is time for the city to do something in return.



©Translation by John

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article, and thanks again for the translation John! You are keeping us all well-informed!
Happy King's Day,
Jennifer D.

Anonymous said...

What a great article! I wonder: would the Maastricht cooperating entrepreneurs have purchased the expensive bronze statue??? (I heard a rumor that it would cost € 65.000,--). Well, it is just my silly brainwave.... Ruud and I attended the Kerkrade concert and also all Maastricht concerts in a row. We remember the noise from one of the terraces and Andre threatened to stop the concert if they would not be quiet. We held our breath.... and fortunately it turned out well. Did you read that the article speaks about 10 concerts??? Do they know anything that we don't know yet?? Until now "only" 8 concerts have been announced. Ineke Cornelissen.

Francine Chavanon said...

Superbe cet article! André attire les foules venues du monde entier et c'est profitable pour l'économie de Maastricht et pour le bonheur du nombreux public qui aime la musique d'André. Pour ma part, ce sera ma première venue dans cette belle ville et je compte bien profiter au maximum des merveilleuses mélodies que va nous interpréter avec son orchestre, ce fantastique Maestro qu'est André Rieu et dont je suis une fervente admiratrice depuis le début de sa superbe carriére. Francine.

Carol Harwood England said...

Thank you for once again expanding my knowledge of Andre.It is lovely to hear about his journey from the people who really know the truth rather than the media.I and my husband attended a concert in Maasterich for our 40th anniversary.We will never forget the atmosphere and the fantastic Dutch people so happy and friendly.

Anonymous said...

John....thank you so much for translation. Sue...your selection and placement of photographs in the text is super. Does the city of Maastricht or the Province of Lumburg not have a medal that is reserved for citizens that contribute as much as Rieu? Personally, I think the bronze statue might be better placed after Maestro's death as a monument right in the middle of the square. See you all in Maastricht in Juy :-)

Kathy Chamblin
California, USA

Alice said...

Tell me about it. It says Maastricht Salon Orchestra on our most favorite CD but we had no idea what "Maastricht" was, or how it was pronounced...didn't even seem like English....didn't care anyway, all we cared was the beautiful music. Then one day, we saw this charming guy playing Toselli's Serenade, with beautiful Tanja and the whole colourful orchestra. If it wasn't for Mr. Leers' very determined mind, I might not have reconnected with Andre Rieu and made so many friends around the world. Life would be very different. 30 years now listening to Andre's music, and Maastricht definitely has a big flag on the world map.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes Alice, and wasn't it great that Mr.Leers and his wife were our guests of honor on the fan dinner in 2010???
Ineke.

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Pierre and André September 30, 2016 Maastricht

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Photo Taken at Mexico City Concert ~ September 2013

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"Hello to all my fans on The Harmony Parlor!"

Soundcheck in Maastricht 2013 (RTL Photo)

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Maastricht 2012 ~ "André and Pierre on The Theater Steps" by Bee

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