Pierre Rieu, son of André Rieu
"If my father would stop, the company would continue on like normal"
"Sometimes they were hard lessons in life"
You have recently ensured that the show Rakonti returns back into the theaters. The performance is inspired by the world-renowned TEDx conferences, telling people with disabilities, their family members, caregivers and volunteers their stories. Touching, poignant and sometimes hilarious, but always true to life. Why did you want that?
"Rakonti is a wonderful performance which really deserves to be back in theaters. I indicated that directly after the performance. I am convinced that if we know more about each other, have heard each other's story, there will eventually be more understanding and providing more space. More space to be yourself. To be human, which everyone deserves. This performance can contribute to that. That makes it special. I'm glad it worked out and wish for them full venues. In fact: they deserve it!"
"How did you happen to come across a performance like this?
"At the invitation of a lady friend, my wife and I attended. Rakonti subsequently put me to thinking. Of course everyone wishes for a one hundred percent healthy child, but when you have a disability, that does not mean it is the end of the world. In fact, I heard some very exceptional stories that evening which inspired me. With these performances you should be able to reach many more people. More than just the people who are directly affected. For example if you could also reach entrepreneurs , there would certainly be more room in the future for disabled people to 'just' to be part of society. I have a godchild whose brother has a disability. He is now 22 years old and recently has acquired a real job as a horse caretaker. You cannot imagine what that means for the whole family. That boy now feels independent, has an income, money that he can spend, the right to exist, and is a person. That's wonderful and it is so important. Rakonti can form an important part in that and that is why I thought they needed to do more with that.
You have been working with André Rieu Productions since you were nineteen years old. You never hesitated to enter into your father's company?
"No, never. I wanted it very much myself and it were my parents who really supported me in that decision. Until I had children myself I was gone an awful lot -- more so than Dad. That was primarily because I often went ahead and returned later from foreign concert tours. In addition, it was often I who went on to do research: researching locations, securing contracts. In the beginning I organized the entire technique and the traveling part. I did that for eight years. In that aspect I was really thrown to the lions. I was nineteen years old and still had to learn everything. Sometimes they were hard lessons of life, but I have grown enormously since. Now I sometimes think it might have been better if I had first gone to work or had studied, looked in someone else's kitchen."
"I wanted the best for everyone and presumed they wanted the same for me."
"I'm quite busy studying the violin ........ no, ha, ha! If my father unexpectedly quits, then the company will continue on like normal. Let me put it this way: Joost Zwagerman (Dutch author who recently passed away) has never sold so many books as he does now. That is how it is with a lot of artists. Which on the one hand is a pity, but also very beautiful. A tribute to an artist. The legacy of André is gigantic: the company continues on. In addition, I, together with my wife, we are writing an animated series for children, in which André stars. it's not about André himself, but primarily about things that pertain to children aged four to seven. Educational without being pedantic. It also has to be especially fun for children. Stories about the life of an eleven year old boy with long hair, a costume and a violin. But for now we still have a lot of concerts on the agenda and we would still like to conquer North America. A big tour in 2016-2017. Then it will have to happen."
"You spoke about the hard lessons of life. Do you have an example?"
"The hardest lesson I learned when I was on the road is that the people you are with are not your friends. They are colleagues. Friends you have at home. I do have colleagues who I can rely upon tremendously, day or night, but they can never be friends. I wanted the best for everyone and presumed they wanted the same for me. But it does not work like that. Eventually I am still the boss' son. At times I came home crying, but in the meantime I have learned that it does not work that way. Friendship for me means one hundred percent confidence. Confidence, confidence. That is so important. It will only harm you once."
"What do your friends say about you?"
"Pffft ....Why don't you ask them that yourself?"
"What would you like to have them say about you?"
"I hope that they like me and that they know I am there for them whenever they need me. That I am someone who does a lot of goofy things, has a lot of energy. I believe that I also can be 'serious'. Sometimes I have to think before I speak. In my work I can solve situations easier and better. I can converse better there since it is about the business. With friends that is more difficult. I very quickly feel someone else's emotions. I cannot handle conflicts between people who are dear to me. That can keep me awake nights."
"Do you lie awake a lot at night?"
"I wake up with ideas and also go to sleep with them. In one way or another the inspiration happens when I am in bed. I can also stay very much awake and worry myself silly."
"What do you ponder about then?"
"That, I would like to keep to myself. Well, yes, it does go in all directions. They are not always positive things."
"Are they bad thoughts?"
"Let me just say that I like to ponder. That is the nature of the beast."
"Does it also bring you positive thoughts?"
"Of course, that is why I always have a note book next to my bed. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wonder what in heaven's name I wrote down. I apparently did that in my sleep. But most of the time it makes sense. Especially when it is associated with my work. My contract does not state precisely how I am to perform my duties, so that leaves a lot of room to ponder."
"What does your contract state?"
"My primary task is to ensure that André can do his job as well as possible."
"When you speak about work you speak about André?"
"Dad, André.....it changes back and forth. At home it is 'Dad'."
"How are thing in the house of Rieu? Is it always about work?"
"Only work? that is impossible. But work is not a dirty word. So, yes, there is a lot spoken about work, but none of us have a problem with that. That is entrepreneurship. We talk and discuss a lot of what we can and still would like to do. Eventually you are responsible for a large business but at the end of the month everyone needs to be paid their salary. If you see that as continuous pressure, you should stay very far away from that. André started this because he wanted to be free. Freedom, freedom, freedom! That he has achieved."
"Do you also experience that freedom?"
"Uhmmm, had I not told you that, I would not have received that question, would I? I will have to remember that for the next time! I feel very responsible for all I require from myself. I feel very free, and could be freer, I think. But feel especially responsible."
"On the downside, are your expectation set too high?"
"I have placed my own expectation very high. I am a perfectionist. And I did not inherit that from strangers. That is why I feel so extremely responsible. I am extremely thankful for everything my parents have done for me. Not only for me, but for everyone around them.
"Do you have difficulties saying 'no'?"
"Yes, and that too did not come from strangers, but I can definitely do it for André."
"What does it then do for you?"
"Yes, that is a real good one.....My wife. She does that well and I listen to her mostly. I am slow in learning to say 'no' and with that guarding my limits. Not too long ago there were many festivities around the liberation of Maastricht. Because of my hobby, collecting old army vehicles, I am often asked to participate with my collection. Lately I have declined these invitations, because they always take more time than I anticipate."
"Are you an emotional person?"
"Yes, very much so."
"Are you religious?"
"No, not at all. I is alright with me if there are people like that. As long as they do not push that upon me, everyone may believe what he wants."
"So, you would not light a candle in the church?"
"No. I find that a nice gesture, but nothing more than that. Last year my father-in-law suddenly passed away. And there was his picture next to a candle in the house. I liked it, but did not attach any further value to that. For me, dead is dead. That's when it ends. The switches are turned off and that is it."
"Are you not afraid of death?"
"For the surviving relatives I find it terrible, but I am not afraid to die. It makes no sense at all. Eventually we'll all die."
"Are there things you absolutely still want to achieve, a sort of bucket list?"
" Together with someone I'm trying to start a museum here in my warehouse. He has a wonderful collection of World War II stuff and I have a collection of old military vehicles. I think it's important that we keep the history alive. To establish a reality center where children can experience the second world war. From all the attractions you can experience all the facts, the fight of the combat soldiers, the fear of the people in hiding and the violence of D-Day in Normandy. If you can see it, then the children can maybe imagine a little bit of what it was like. Here it comes again. When you know each other's stories, there might also be more understanding. Although it will always remain difficult."
Pierre Rieu: Born in Maastricht June 24, 1981 and has been married since 2008 to Eefje. Together they have five year old twin girls, Lieke and Linde. After secondary school he studied law at the University of Maastricht, but decided to terminate his studies after just five weeks. Since 2000 he has been employed with André Rieu productions and in 2005 became vice president.
Thanks to John for the Translation