Ruud and Ineke
Ruud and I attended a concert in the 90's in a small theater in the Netherlands. At that time André performed mainly in Holland, Belgium, France and Germany. After his big breakthrough in the Netherlands in 1995 (soccer match Ajax (Holland) – Bayern- Munich (Germany)) the floodgates opened. I remember that we attended a concert in which Suzan Erens was the soloist for the first time - but I cannot remember which year that was.
André performed abroad very often (he was even more famous in Germany and Belgium than in the Netherlands) and suddenly we were aware that he had returned to the Netherlands in 2004 with a big show in the Roda Stadium in Kerkrade (DVD The Flying Dutchman). That signaled the moment for us to buy tickets again. There we met our first fan friends in person: Gemma and Nand from Belgium and a couple of Dutch fans. Because Facebook did not yet exist, the fans found each other through Sonja's guest book and website. We were slow starters. We had not been alert enough to buy tickets in time, so we were on the field far from the stage, but we could follow the concert on the big screens and the show was breathtaking. It was freezing cold but I'll never forget that concert!
Approaching the stadium I remember that we saw horse trailers outside on the parking lot and we wondered: ‘What is going to happen here?’ Before the concert started, a soccer player walked onto the stage and asked the audience: "What are you doing here? I'd like to do my training exercises." Well, that was not possible of course and then he said: "Well since I am here now, I'll teach you the "wave" as we do in soccer stadiums." It was very entertaining. We did not know yet that we had to use the wave techniques in the concert!! (Snow Waltz). André played for 4 hours, including his American tour repertoire with a country medley. Little Akim was there, white doves, the gurgling, the horses, Irish John Sheahan, German Otto Waalkes, Marcel Falize and his three young sons ... We had so much fun. We saw people happily waltzing in the smelly puddles and droppings which the horses had left behind! So please don't complain if you get wet during a concert, or covered with fake snow, confetti or whatever, because it could be worse!! We’d never laughed so much and had never experienced such a concert before! It blew us away. So special, we had the time of our lives. We were hooked and fans forever.
Gerd Leers, mayor of Maastricht was in the audience and he said to André: "You cannot perform in Kerkrade (a rival Limburg city) and not in Maastricht, because you are a Maastricht resident and Maastricht also has a soccer stadium...." Yes..... but that is not what André had in mind.... And if André has something in mind......pfooooh.... It had to be the Vrijthof in the center of the city!! To make a long story short: The next year the concert was in Maastricht on the Vrijthof square ...
Later on we noticed that we had missed Cortona in 2003, and that is what we regret most. Of course, we attended the first Maastricht concerts the following year and all those that followed during the next 9 years. It has become our primary hobby and holiday destination: By 2014 it has grown to include a fan website, three weeks in Maastricht, 8 concerts, thousands of international fan friends, fan dinners, fan picnics, fan events. It is amazing!
We have attended countless concerts with fan friends all over the world: in several European countries, Canada, USA and Australia. Also, of course, the "Specials" in Toronto, Heidelberg, Mainau and Vienna, which were unforgettable.
And ... most importantly: since we were not "real" classical music lovers, we learned a lot about classical music! André taught us the meaning of several arias from operettas, names of composers, and so on.
By 2007 Sonja had become too busy to continue with her translations website. We discussed it in Maastricht where we all met each other. There the idea was born that Sonja would keep the Translations website dormant to save all the information (www.andrerieutranslations.com), while Sue Berry and John de Jong would continue Sonja's guest book and start the blog ‘Harmony Parlor’ (which developed into an entire website by itself). When Facebook became popular, Sue created the Harmony Parlor group on Facebook in 2010, which currently boasts over 4000 members and the lively discussions moved from the website guest books to Facebook.
Ruud and I started the Movies fan website in 2007 with the idea of posting mainly video clips, TV programs and interviews. In the meantime we have posted over 500 videos on our movies website. To this very day, the movies website (from Holland) and the Harmony Parlor (from California, USA) still work happily together. Sonja and John who were born in the Netherlands and Entia from South Africa assist us with English translations, so we are a great team. Read the "History of the fan websites" on http://www.andrerieumovies.com/Historyfanwebsites.html
Ruud and I have never been to Meet and Greets, nor did we purchase expensive travel packages and we have never met André in person. We are proud of the few high-fives which we have received in the aisles and my first photo with André was a coincidence in the CinemaLive broadcast of Maastricht 2012 in Heerlen. We went to Heerlen with a few Dutch fan friends, for a weekend in Christmas atmosphere and we were about to leave the cinema after the movie had finished. Then... André came downstairs – there were not many people around – and we asked for a picture with him. Johan, his body guard, took the picture. So this is my one and only trophy with André and I am very proud of it! We did not exchange two words and I don't know whether André knows me, but I am especially happy with this photo because it was a spontaneous picture and not a forced and expensive "Meet and Greet" photo ... Ineke
Florist who Resides in Maastricht
From Han: Thirty years have passed since André gave his first concerts in the Staar gebouw (building where the male choir "Maastrichter Staar" is rehearsing) in Maastricht during the Hieringebiete (annual carnival). By that time we had already had our flower shop in the suburb of St. Peter for many years. The bouquets that were offered after André Rieu's performances were ordered from us. Towards the end of the concerts we would be in the wings with the flowers ready.
At that stage there was always a very pleasant atmosphere - not only in the hall, but also amongst the musicians. That became the basis for a healthy interest in the Rieu phenomenon! It has been quite fascinating to watch from such close quarters how André and the JSO conquered the world - from so small to so huge.
From a business point of view we have always been involved with the Rieu Company. Particularly since the family moved to our suburb, St. Peter. We were familiar with the interior of their house as before them the house was inhabited by Jesuits. And because we used to decorate the crucifix at the corner of their house with a floral garland on Good Friday, we were invariably invited for coffee with an Easter egg.
The tradition of the garland of flowers still exists! Because we live in the same neighborhood we have regularly shared activities with Rieu; for instance, the Orchestra rehearsed in the gym across from our business. I often slipped inside to quietly enjoy the music in the corridor. The beautiful sounds often drove me to tears, with no one around me. But they were still a long way from the great success they are today.
To this day, I follow all their activities, including all interviews recorded around the world. I feel privileged to have been invited – along with my grandson Jamie – to the Castle for the recording of André’s Christmas special as a result of this connection. In those 5 days I experienced how closely the family worked together on this huge undertaking - Marjorie and Pierre have also left their mark on it. It was conceived, directed and edited frame by frame until it was merged into the sublime result, frame by frame. Only the best is acceptable.
(translation by Entia)