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Dec 21, 2020

Christmas With André Rieu

Christmas With André Rieu

Exclusive interview

"Now I am primarily in the kitchen"  

Weekend Magazine, Dec 2020, by Emelie van Kaam

Photos by Marcel van Hoorn and Instagram

André Rieu's castle is completely in the Christmas atmosphere. The violinist likes to be in the kitchen,  some place where he spends a lot of time. He speaks to "Weekend" how he deals with temptations, that he does not speak with all his brothers and sisters and how he dealt with the passing of his mother. "I did not have a relationship with. I did not attend her funeral either."

How are you doing?

André Rieu: We are healthy, and that says it all. The rest is horrible. I should be performing for full venues. I see it on my calendar all the time. Last week we would have been in Belgrade and this week in Lisbon. I would much rather be doing that. We are now very busy to again reschedule all performances.

From 19 December until 3 January people will be able to watch you via a virtual concert, named "Magical Maastricht." Together with your wife Marjorie you have selected your favorite performances from the last fifteen years. Which one touched you the most?

When you see the crowd of 12,000 people on that square being carried away by us and the happy music and now you think that's no longer possible, than that's really horrible and painful to see. It better not be lasting too much longer and we should return very quickly to normalcy. Every morning Marjorie and I ask at breakfast: "How long can we sustain this?" Then we start counting and doing some math.

I am a crier with Christmas movies

Around this period 46 years ago, you entered into a relationship with Marjorie. Because of that do the Christmas days have a romantic touch for you?

"Every year we talk about that. The very first Christmas we were both very much in love, lying underneath a Christmas tree. Back then I had to play during the Mid-night Mass, to which I really had to force myself and tear away from her, ha, ha. I did that nicely, but afterwards said: I'll never do that again. So now with Christmas I am always home. They can offer me as much as they want, but I will not do it."

Do you both watch romantic Christmas movies at Christmas?

"Yes, of course, all those crying films surface again. I have so many favorites, such as "Miracle on 34th Street."  I can definitely shed a tear, but  then I'm such a cry baby, ha, ha."

What does the Christmas menu show this year?

"What am I going to cook? I don't know yet. I decide that day by day. What is my specialty? Just tell me what to fix, Indonesian, Italian, stew, and I can do it all. For a few years now we have a new kitchen and I always cook. Marjorie did not want such a large kitchen, but I really wanted one. So I promised then I would cook, and I have kept that promise."

You hail from a family with six children. You are very close with your brother Robert, who lives in Marseille. Will you see him with Christmas?

"No, I don't think so. They are very strict in France, there are many corona infections there. But we do have contact by phone."

Do you have a lot of contact with your three sisters?

"Not much. My oldest sister has been ill since she was eighteen.  It is very difficult to stay in contact with her, but I know she likes my music. I always send her the newest pieces. Through my youngest sister, who does have a lot of contact with her, I hear that she enjoys those. My second sister passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 69, she was two years older than I. No, I did not have a real bond with her. My youngest sister has five children and is extremely busy, so we don't see each other that often. But  they do come each year to a Vrijthof concert and then we always have a great time afterwards together in the catering."

You also have a brother named Jean-Phillipe

"I do not have contact with him either. We worked together for some time, but at a certain point it just did not click anymore. Let's just leave it at that."

For that same reason weren't you afraid to work together with your son Pierre?

"No, that's going perfect. But we speak very openly about everything, that's very important.  Moreover it  grew very slowly that way. He started at the tailgate of a truck when he was ten and worked very hard. He is now on the board and is our right-hand man. My entire life I felt that my son was doing great, but not my brother."

Jean-Philippe might be jealous?

"You would have to ask him that. Robert is not jealous at all."

A number of years ago you suffered a burn-out and an infection on your equilibrium, caused by stress. How do you watch your health now?

"I put things more into perspective and I exercise. Because of that, it will not re-appear again.  Since I was 62 I have been doing strength training three times a week with my trainer.  I think I had muscle cramps for three weeks after the first time I worked out.  I do it now to stay in shape, and that does me good."

Do you watch your figure?

"Yes, that is part of it. I eat very healthy, and for a few years now do not consume any alcohol. No, I find that not at all difficult. Half way through a glass I stopped. Suddenly I realized that I drank wine every day. Not much at all, but still every day. So I thought: this I don't think is good, and I stopped immediately. We just then had that new kitchen, with six wine cabinets totally filled with nice wines. Now our friends consume those, ha, ha!  My wife does not join in that either, she only drank half a glass once a year."

For the time being there are 20 concerts scheduled on the Vrijthof this coming summer.

"I hope they will take place, they are outside and still six months away. Science has worked very hard to develop a vaccine, so something does need to happen. I am going let myself be vaccinated, for sure. Right away as one of the first. I have never had a flu vaccination, but in this case I am definitely going to do it. Corona does not seems to be a pleasant illness. Yes, of cousre am I afraid of becoming infected with it, and I am doing everything to prevent that. I am not afraid to die, no, I just hope not to be in pain. I hope it will be a long time before that happens, because it is cozy here."

Violinist speaks about temptations and Jealousy

Do you sometimes worry that something might happen to Marjorie?

"Of course. And that is mutual. That would be a disaster. You are together for so long. If she happens to pass, I would not know how to go on. I don't know what would be left of André Rieu, because I ask her everything. We do everything together."

If corona rears its ugly head again this summer, won't you fear that that will be the end of the story for your company, as you said previously?

"It is all very exciting, but that is also relative.  We are healthy and live well. And if it all falls apart, we'll start all over afterwards. Did you think I was going to stop? We have had a few good years and fortunately I am have out of debt with the bank, which is to my advantage. So it just depends on how long I can survive this. The moment I nothing left, I'll need to let everyone go. But as soon as it is all possible again, I will call them all and we will all start again. It's just that simple.

Can you continue to live in your beautiful castle?

"I hope so. If I keep paying my staff, at a certain point I'll have to sell the house. Somewhere it has to stop, then there is no more money to buy bread. That would be the moment when I decide to close things up. At least I would be able to live for a few more years. Of course I receive support from the government, just like everyone else, but that is becoming less and less."

 If I want to continue paying everyone, I'll have to sell my house

Your last album "Jolly Holiday" is fortunately again very successful.

"We worked very hard and long on it. When it is finished, Marjorie and I invariably listen to it during breakfast. I listen to what she thinks, because she listens with different ears. My father was a conductor and he didn't care about anyone else's opinion. He didn't think you knew anything about it. While I feel: The audience is the one who listens. And my wife is my sounding board."

Do you ever dance with your wife to your music?

"No, we had a fight just once and that was when we were at dance class. I said I could dance well, but she thought she could dance better, ha, ha! That was the only fight ever. And that was when we first were together, during the first year. Furthermore, we always agree."

Marjorie has always been deeply involved in your career, did she also have to make sacrifices?

"No, I don't believe so. Marjorie just doesn't want to be in the public eye. She dislikes traveling, flying, attention and luxury. I'm on stage, all photos are taken of me, that's just part of the operation. It is not that she is second place. She's fine with that. I think that's why we are still so happy with each other, otherwise it would be such a competitive battle. You often see that with famous actor couples, it almost never goes well. It's not possible, because then you become involved in a kind of a competition fight, something that is absolutely not the case with us."

In what else are you opposites?

“She always wants to watch different TV programs than I do, but we have more rooms with TVs, ha ha. In the great things of life, we always agree. We also think exactly the alike, which is almost frightening .”

Are you a womanizer?

“I am a man, enough said. I am a man through and through and I like that there are beautiful women. Isn't that healthy?"

Nevertheless, you only have one great love in your life.

“Yes, but that has nothing to do with it. You can also see good food and become hungry by that”.

You are adored by many women. How do you deal with temptation?

"That's right, but I can't sleep with all those women anyway, that would be a bit difficult, ha, ha. Apart from the fact if I would like to, of course. It's just wonderful that I'm a man. When the girls in my orchestra get to wear a nice dress, then I think the neckline should be a little lower. And they think so too. It's difficult making a nice dress with a beautiful neck line. I definitely get involved with that, yes, because I know how."

Is your wife ever jealous?

"No definitely not. She is also present during the fittings. A jealous woman seems horrible to me. Can you imagine. So I just look at another woman and then when I get home I receive a thrashing for that every time…No thanks... I'm not the jealous type myself either. Marjorie has many male friends. I think that that is also the secret: when you hold on to each other too tight and never let go, then you'll want to leave.”

You have 5 grandchildren, what kind of grandfather are you?

“I am a sweet grandfather, but I try not to spoil them too much. You notice they are getting older. Grandchildren start to disengage at a certain point. You can feel that. Now they think: “Here comes that old grandfather again, we are going to do other things”. They will be on their iPads. It seems difficult for parents nowadays having to deal with that. And what they are allowed to look or not to look at? I always used to go play outside with Robèrt, with the cart. No, I am not going to further get involved. Raising them is for the parents to do."

Did your grandchildren inherit your musical genes?

“Yes, but whether they will continue is unclear. Both my sons play an instrument. Pierre trumpet and piano, Marc piano. No, no one plays the violin, only me.”

Who will one day then follow in your footsteps?

 "I would not know that. But I don't mind, they have to want that for themselves. My father was a conductor, so we all had an instrument at home. I received a violin and had the talent, that went smoothly. I became a violinist. But did I really want all that that time, you never know afterwards. I am very happy that my children and grandchildren like my music. .

You just spoke about the iPad. What do you think of Social Media?

“On the one hand, I find that very annoying. It changes all of life. People start to think that everything they read and see there is true, that it is real life, but that is nonsense. The youth now says: “I have so many friends”… Social media friends are not friends at all, it's all fake. But social media is also a wonderful  way for me to stay in touch with my fans from all over the world. They write to me from Egypt, USA, Australia, Mongolia, South Africa. That is amazing!"

 Do you have many friends?

“Yes, especially from the past and they are not jealous at all. When they come by, we have a nice chat and have some cake which I baked. I have few well- known friends, and André van Duin is one of them. We don't see each other very often, but when we're together it always feels good. There is a click, and that's nice.”

He has had a tough year with the death of his husband Martin and best friend Corry van Gorp.

"Definitely! If he wants me to be there for him, then I'll be there. I recently saw him and then it's always fun."

Your parents never believed in your ability. You claim to have had a loveless and unhappy childhood. Where were you last year when you learned that your 98-year-old mother had passed away?

“I heard about it in the evening, after a concert. I did not have a relationship with her, so I wasn't too sad. I've hardly ever seen her in my life. No, I didn't say goodbye to her. I was in Vienna ”.

So her death didn't affect you, did it?

"No, not at all. I have processed that nasty childhood too! It does no longer bother me all day long. Again, it helps to put things into perspective. There are people who have had a worse childhood, I then think. Children are being born on scrap heaps. That's really bad! My childhood hurt me of course, but that is the way it is. I also made choices, for example by leaving the parental home more than 40 years ago. I didn't discuss it, I said: “Do your thing. It's such a madhouse here, I'm gone ” In retrospect, I think that was my best decision."

Finally: Have you ever been bothered by being a world star?

“I think it has more pros than cons. In Maastricht I can just take to the streets and they just say hello to me. In Amsterdam, Vienna or Paris is that totally different, there my name is immediately called out. That makes sense, because I don't belong there. Here they know: Oh well, he's home again. Just leave him alone .”

Thanks to Ineke for this article and her combined effort with John for the Translation

Dec 16, 2020

Maastricht Piece of Steel Christmas Tree

 Piece of Steel Christmas Tree 

A Great Example of Working Together and Thinking Outside The Box

 This in Maastricht (At home in Maastricht) by Laurens Bouvrie

Inventiveness, thinking out of the box; but also keeping the courage and doing something crazy. The average Maastricht entrepreneur who is affected by the corona crisis has undoubtedly let one of these thoughts go through his head. So is Pierre Rieu, in addition of being the right-hand man during concert series by dad Andre Rieu, runs his company "Piece of Steel." That company and the vision of Rieu Jr. can safely be called a strong example of "Made in Maastricht." He himself calls the 28-meter-high Christmas tree on the banks of the Maas, which already has been photographed quite often, a typical case of entrepreneurial drawing outside the lines. At home in Maastricht city historian Laurens Bouvrie spoke with Pierre Rieu.

Pierre Rieu is happy to talk about his towering steel Christmas tree located between the Maas, De Griend and the Sint Martinuskerk in Wyck. His company "Piece of Steel" has been around for about four years now. It owns an enormous amount of steel structures. Over the years, Andre Rieu's production company purchased this steel to be able to build the most enchanting stages. Who does not remember the perfectly recreated Schönbrunn Palace, or the Sissi Palace. In addition to the immense castle flanked by two ice rinks (600 m2), no less than 450 tons of steel and 600 tons of ballast material were used by Rieu et al. To realize the stage measuring 125 by 30 and a height of 35 meters.

More than ten years ago, this World Stadium Tour construction made the concerts of Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra the most impressive in the world.

The tour force of that time has eternal value and also provides Pierre Rieu an incredible experience. But after that, the "Rieu-circus" and the accompanying stage were brought back to normal, yet still impressive, proportions. The purchased steel constructions were stored in the Netherlands and Germany, but were not left there aimlessly. Pierre Rieu: “We soon managed to make contact with event companies worldwide. They are always looking for good stage material. So we had plenty of that at home. ”So it came about that over the years the "Rieu-steel" was increasingly rented for numerous large events and concerts. Roughly four years ago, Pierre Rieu incorporated all that material and know-how into a company with the all-telling name of " Piece of Steel."  “From that moment on we also started to think more and more about how we could lease our materials even more optimally to more than just sectors of the entertainment industry."  That is a great objective, but as André Rieu's right-hand man and being responsible for just about everything around the concerts except the music, you also have to find time to develop ideas and plans.

And then the world - especially that part of events and concerts - suddenly comes to a standstill. From the Rolling Stones to André Rieu, from Beppie Kraft to Roger Villevoye; the entire artist world - like so many other industries - was forced to become idle. “Going on tour is our life and also our sandwich. Just like for many other entrepreneurs, this period is a business drama. Yes, that certainly gives a feeling of powerlessness at first. Not only my father's worldwide concerts have been at zero for months, ” says his son. “The rental of the stage steel also came to a complete standstill.” Pierre Rieu cannot change the "no performances"; he did start to brood on alternatives to Piece of Steel. Rieu Jr. soon realized that his company did not only have a "mountain of iron". It also has advanced software and employees who know how to devise and design a variety of constructions.

Rieu Jr. speaks with passion about what can be done with all those materials. “When we started seriously thinking about doing constructions not affiliated with the events sector about three months ago, we quickly came to the conclusion that we can serve a very broad field. We can provide support to dry docks, road builders and other companies who carry out large jobs that require construction. An absolute plus is that we have two large cranes. These two gigantic transport lifts were used, for example, at the end of the first decade at the concerts in the Amsterdam Arena (now Johan Cruijff ArenA).”

Back to the southern tip of the Griendpark. That oversized Piece of Steel Christmas tree has been standing there for over a week now. Pierre Rieu says he is proud and happy that his idea will be there until the beginning of January 2021, and will bring extra luster to Maastricht in these, for many people, 'dark times'. “I cannot emphasize enough that within less than a week it brought forth a perfect collaboration. Center management Maastricht and the municipality were not only just as enthusiastic as we, but they have done everything to give the project - in accordance with all rules and safety standards - the green light. But it did not stop at that close collaboration. The owners of the catering company Noon provided us with food and drink during the days of construction; and Johan Ropers (owner of, among other things, the oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts) and ice cream stand on the Vrijthof, ed.) came spontaneously to treat them to oliebollen. Despite the fact that we are in special and difficult times, all of this gives such a warm feeling of Maastricht unity. That makes me very happy!”

But of course Pierre Rieu hopes that this Maastricht Piece of Steel Christmas tree can also be seen elsewhere in the country, or perhaps even beyond in the coming years. Rieu again: “We have enough steel in house to make seven of these types of Christmas trees. Perhaps some additional supporting materials will have to be bought in addition. But as far as I am concerned, a steel tree in green with a red star will be at the Heineken Music Hall during Christmas 2021; or what about a completely orange version at Boels Rental.”

Thanks to Ineke for this article and John's translation


Dec 7, 2020

André Rieu and Camille Oostwegel.

About the castle lords of the South: André Rieu and Camille Oostwegel.

HP de Tijd Opinion magazine. 

December 2020. By: Willem Pekelder.

With a little bit of imagination, South Limburg's winters resemble a live Christmas card: snow on the hills, Christmas mangers along the roadways, bells ringing in the valleys. How is it this corona-Christmas in the South? Visiting André Rieu and the hotelkeepers Oostwegel. The crisis stimulates that "family feeling."

May I park my car at your castle? It is a matter of which a
reporter does not normally have to deal with every day, but in the instance with André Rieu, the question is entirely appropriate.
The violinist and waltz king lives in a late medieval Chateau at the foot of the Sint Pietersberg (St. Peter’s Mountain) in Maastricht.

It is a national monument, called "Huis de Torentjes," of which the oldest piece dates from 1452. Rieu's PR. lady Marie von Baumbach, leads me through the orangery and the monastery garden with a Roman column gallery, to the kitchen, where cake and coffee await. She is German and early this morning flew especially from Munich to South Limburg for this interview.

In the kitchen, according to the story, French musketeer d'Artagnan, in service to King Louis XIV, had his last breakfast before he died in 1673 during the Siege of Maastricht. In the meantime André Rieu has now joined us, wearing a red checkered jacket with royal decoration and he smiles: “It's a story too good to go through again, so I won't do that”. Since March 2020, the orchestra leader has been forced to stay home, when due to corona measures he had to end his tour through America. He had only given one concert, in Tampa, Florida. “What happened after that? Well, I came home, hugged my wife Marjorie and my son Pierre, and started baking cakes. On his Smartphone Rieu shows photos of some successful creations. “Look, this is the Paris-Brest, made of puff-pastry dough with almond and praline filling in between. And this one right here: l'Opera, is filled with mocha and chocolate."

Rieu learned to bake cakes via the internet presented by the Amsterdam pastry chef Cees Holtkamp.

“When I was on tour and couldn't sleep at night, I watched those delicious cake movies. Now that knowledge is very useful to me. I bake for the entire neighborhood. Sometimes I hear on the street: “Hey André, it has been a while since we've seen one of your cakes. I now live from day to day, take a rest or do a sudoku in the orangery ”.

Yet it must gnaw on him that he cannot perform this Christmas due to the corona pandemic.

“Of course I would like to start again, but I am not sitting here crying, if that is perhaps what you are referring to. I generally only cry due to happiness. I am an optimistic person: one of these months there will be a vaccine.”

Financially Rieu is not worried. “We have had a few good years and therefore quite reserve. Last year alone we sold 750,000 tickets. For more than 100 of his permanent employees, he, just like all the other companies, receive 90% of the salaries paid by the government. He is now 71 years old. “But I feel like an adolescent. I still have a whole life ahead of me, I am at the most, halfway there. If I did not have that thought, I would have called 2020 a shitty year. Now I say, even if in the worst possible scenario I have to let everyone go, the day will come where we will rebuild everything. I will never stop making music. Never."

The time around Christmas will for the first time in decades pass without a full agenda. The planned concerts in the MECC in Maastricht have been canceled. Instead, Rieu has now released a Christmas CD/DVD: "Jolly Holiday." A huge artificial Christmas tree is already on display in his castle, with gifts underneath. “We will celebrate Christmas with the family. By the way, I've been doing that all my life. I once performed during the Midnight Mass, here in the Basilica of Saint Servaas. When I returned home I told Marjorie: "I'll never do that again. At Christmas I want to be with my loved ones, my wife, children and grandchildren.”

Rieu's musical career started in the church. As a child he sang during Mass in the St. Servaas choir and, together with his younger brother, studied scales with the famous Maastricht choir conductor Benoit Franssen. “Actually I was already a performer then,” Rieu recalls. "I did my very best to let the spectator enjoy himself. "As the son of the conductor of the Limburg Symphony Orchestra, he was born with a love for music. At the age of five, young André was already taking violin lessons. The Liège and Maastricht Conservatories followed later.

In 1987 André Rieu established his Johann Strauss Orchestra, which broke through in 1994 with Shostakovich's melancholic Second Waltz. The Maastricht born citizen has been allowed to call himself the most successful classical artist in the world for many years: sold about 46 million albums and 15 million concert tickets. During tours, Rieu's own chefs, his personal physician and fitness trainer all travel with him. 2018 was a peak year for André Rieu Productions, with a turnover of more than 54 million Euros and a profit of almost 12 million. You can say that Rieu has reinvented the waltz. Up until then, that genre was only performed during traditional concerts, with a polite applause at the end, but the South Limburger turned it into a colorful spectacle, with romantically dressed orchestra members and ballroom dancing couples. “I stripped the waltz of its old-fashioned image” thinks the violinist out loud, “and also especially from its negative connotations. That non-patronizing always hung around it. Leopold Mozart, the father of Wolfgang Amadeus, back then already said: "You should study and not play such a waltz. When I was still with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra, Strauss waltzes were invariably skipped. It was very annoying. Nothing is more difficult than playing a waltz”. He sings the first notes of the Blue Danube and then says: “Just play that with 100 people together. That is very complicated. The orchestra members watch every note coming out of my violin”.

“Du sollst dir kein Bildnis machen” (German for: You shall not make yourself an idol). That “saying” by writer Max Frisch is what Rieu wants on his tombstone, he already knows that. When you follow that advice, you will no longer stick to labels and you will have respect for music in all its manifestations.

All good music is good music. When it touches ME, I'll bring it to the stage because then it'll touch others too”. And so Rieu's concerts are a variation of classical waltzes, especially Strauss and Lehar, operetta music, soundtracks and pop. From "Ave Maria" to "Dancing Queen," from emotional tears to exuberant swinging, and all of that in minutes. I don't think you see that anywhere in the world. Only with me. The concerts are for everyone, just like music was once intended to be, according to Rieu. In Mozart's time, painters whistled his tunes. I don't know what happened, what gave classical music such an elitist image.” He puts on a pretentious voice: "Classic? You don't know anything about that, do you?" He makes the sign of the cross in the air and continues, “I am not the one who is calling to the world; I have come to bring you the gospel of classical music. Please  no! I am not a priest. Then I would totally have to forget “Mambo number 5” and “YMCA” completely!"

Rieu is surprised by my reaction to that “YMCA” could at one time agree with Pope Francis, now that the prelate recently spoke out in favor of gay partnership registration. "Is it real?" the violinist asks. “Well, then the Pope could either today or tomorrow get a drop of poison in his tea. No, I am no longer a member of the Church, although I still feel like and remain a Catholic. I like incense, rituals and all that, but I don’t like that institution. Why? 1. The Inquisition. 2. The oppression of women and 3. The oppression of gays. Marjorie and I were both raised quite strict Catholic. After our wedding we went to therapy for it and we left the Church ”.

We resume the conversation on the issue: is classical music elitist or not. “Do I sufficiently feel recognized? Well, by my audience for sure, yes! And for the rest? I know people in the Concert building Orchestra who appreciate me very much. Well, I think it is the same with me as with André van Duin. The moment the NRC Handelsblad (sophisticated newspaper) writes about you, you are over the hill. I don't even care that much. The real connoisseurs know that what I bring is good.”

Rieu is one of the few musicians in the world who can say that he has been scientifically studied as a musical phenomenon. Five years ago, the University of Maastricht published the research “Rieu, Maestro without borders”, (a book) in which the violinist was referred to as a sign of the times. Project leader Maaike Meijer then told the Flemish newspaper “De Standaard”: “We live in an individualistic era. This is precisely why there is a need for collectivity, such as a concert by Rieu with a lot of emotions on a square. We know that from the Middle Ages; the entire people are involved, it radiates togetherness. People let their tears flow and even fall into each other's arms. Everything is allowed and possible”. The researchers also discovered that at performances by Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra one never zooms  in on the playing of hands. “No, I don't want that”, Rieu explains. “You are listening to a beautiful solo and what do you see? Hands. Or a bow. Ghastly! Its sole purpose is to show the virtuosity of the musician in question. But for me it's about something completely different: emotion. That's what I want to show, both the faces of the musicians as well as the audiences”.

A nice research, says Rieu, but the presentation was a different story. “Marjorie and I really were annoyed. Terms like “old-fashioned” and “Rieu’s orchestra even has a harp”… Even a harp, ha, ha! Since then, when we watch the Concertgebouw (Concert Building)Orchestra on TV, Marjorie and I invariably bump each other and chuckle: Look, even a harp! Well, this time I'm not going to let me be scientifically researched again, I know that for sure.”

Just like Strauss, André Rieu is a “Stehgeiger”(Stand-alone violinist): a violinist and orchestra leader at the same time, as well as audience entertainer. “Toon Hermans (another great Dutch comedian, who has since passed away) is my great role model in the field of humor. He knew how to managed and entertain the audience without hurting anyone, wonderful! Ultimately, such a concert really comes from here… ” and he gestures to his head. “Everyone watches me, and yes, I am the boss. Last year, during rehearsals for the summer concerts on the Vrijthof, I yelled: "Stop!" after two seconds. Then they know I'm serious. It was a mess with those 300 dancers. I am a perfectionist, and keep rehearsing until everything is in proper order. Nothing escapes me. If during a performance the second contra bass player happens to play one wrong note, I immediately turn my head and look at him. After that  it won't go wrong anymore. And at the same time I stay in touch with the public. My son Pierre, who along with my wife is also in the company, can sometimes during rehearsals go nuts because of me. “Can't you first say that it went well?” he then asks. Yes, I am strict, but never angry.”

 We're receiving a tour. “I bought this castle in three parts” explains Rieu. Where we are now, in the kitchen, that's part  one. Now we're going  to part two ”. A large dining room looms before our eyes: a table with 12 chairs, and a roaring fireplace. “This part was owned by the French jeans designer Pierre Morisset, and here," he continues, as we now arrived in part three, "lived Professor Struik. I asked Struik: "How much do you want for it?" "So and so much,"  he said. And so I bought it."  It is an en-suite drawing room with the pre-mentioned Christmas tree, paintings depicting the violinist and his wife, gold-leafed mirrors and Louis XIV-style chairs. “€ 75 each, from the V&D (department store) display window”, laughs Rieu, while caressing the chair. His precious Stradivarius we do not get to see. "In Vienna, for  maintenance" according to the lord of the castle.

Our view falls on the Monastery Garden, laid out by Rieu himself with tiles from Portugal. “The Roman columns are from Florence (Italy) and the roof tiles from the Dordogne (France). I like building so much!" exclaims Rieu enthusiastically. “I would really like to build a Roman villa.”

Although for years the castle and all of Rieu's belongings were seized, right down to his violin and trade name. That was after his bankruptcy in 2008, when the orchestra leader had Empress Sisi's Schönbrunn palace in Vienna copied for an international tour. That was too much of a thought, even for Rieu. The family business was left with a debt of 36 million Euros. “All those Bankers came here to the castle with a look of: "What more can we take with us?" But one of them said, you just keep performing because that's the only way we can get our money back. The Rabobank bosses agreed and I received their credit. Within 1 year I was back to 20 million in the black. Then the impoundments were lifted very slowly. I didn't think that was appropriate.  I've only been completely free from the Bank for two years now. Fortunately.  Money is my freedom, and freedom is the most important thing in life”.

Outside, the bells of the neighboring St. Peter church are ringing. A romantic sound, finds Rieu. “All young couples from Maastricht want to get married there”.

Time for a ride, he suggests. Rieu's stretched Mercedes Maybach is ready at the front of the castle, with which we take a tour through the Maastricht quarter where he was born, also called St. Peter's. Subsequently we drive to the Vrijthof. Rieu has not even left his car yet, when he is approached by a woman in a Kia: “Hello André, I see you often on TV. Wonderful! ” The King of the Waltz traveled all over the globe, but the Vrijthof is his home. “I'll never leave Maastricht, it is my city. Imagine: 11,000 spectators here on the square every evening. It is going to happen again next summer: concerts on the Vrijthof. We either make it or brake it." At a fish market booth he orders three herring sandwiches, one for PR. lady Marie Von Baumbach, one for himself and one for me, and says: “And with Christmas  2021 back to the MECC.”

The hour to say goodbye has arrived. “Oh, you are now going to Camille Oostwegel? He is a good friend of mine, ever since we were both at the Stedelijk Lyceum in Maastricht. We fell in love with the same girl, but she didn't give either one of us the time of day.”

Thanks to Ineke for this article. And a combined translations by Ineke and John

Dec 4, 2020

Musicians and corona, Manoe Konings


Musicians and corona, Manoe Konings


Photo by Rob Oostwegel 

de Limburger by Rob Cobben

Name: Manoe Konings-Place of residence: Maastricht-Age: 59

With Johann Strauss Orchestra since: 1989-Role in orchestra: plays clarinet, saxophone, bagpipes, guitar (and is a comedian)

She jokes all the time, including during this interview. That's just the way I am, she says. “When I was four years old, my mother said that I was already entertaining all the customers at my parents' hair salon. And did I already say then: "Later I will become a musician and be world famous!"

And so it went. Manoe Konings was already being "incorporated" by André Rieu during her studies at the conservatory in Maastricht. In addition to music, she also plays a leading role in his orchestra as a comedian. She even has a fan club on Face book, although she doesn't want to elaborate on that. 

“I am just Manoe and, like all my fine colleagues, I am part of André's orchestra, who is the best boss you can ever imagine. ” If he asks her to stand on her head, she might just do it. Never, now almost never, does she say "no" when André Rieu comes up with something new. “Yes, but just one time, thou. He then thought I should play a bass clarinet. That was impossible, I almost fit into that device. And after only one try, I was out of air. So I said: I am not doing that!”

I could not watch those TV broadcast of the Vrijthof concerts of 2019. Tears! The tissue box was empty in no time. 


She does not get bored during the forced concert break, she says. She puzzles a lot, is taking singing and guitar lessons and is studying Spanish. She also has signed up again as a member of Harmonie(Marching brass band) Heer Vooruit, where she once started her career as a musician. In addition, she now performs with the "Ensemble The Strings" from Stein. With shortly a recording of a Christmas concert for a local broadcaster.

But the real desire is to tour with "André and our orchestra," she says. “We are a close-knit family. The feeling of being on stage, with thousands of people in front of you - and the energy that is then released - is indescribable! ” At the table in her home in the Maastricht district of De Heeg, it seems as if she has little trouble with this strange year, the pandemic and all the restrictive rules. “There is not enough time left,” she says several times.


But gradually the emotions start to surface. And she speaks about the TV broadcast of last year's Vrijthof concerts. “I turned it off after a few minutes. Tears! I had a box of tissues next to me on the sofa and in no time at all it was empty... ”There was another big down period in July, she says. “When we were actually going to perform the Vrijthof concerts. That was a terrible period. ” But she understands it all, those rules must be followed because of Covid-19. “During the summer, as an orchestra, we decided to uplift André. He knew nothing about it. We then gave a concert in his castle garden. But it was hard to keep our distance and not being able to get close. I can't wait until that is possible and allowed again.”

Thanks to John for the Translation

Dec 1, 2020

"We're Going To Light It Up Again" Donij van Doorn

"We're going to be blazing again" 

A black hole. Gloom. Sleepless nights. Musicians from the Johann Strauss Orchestra, like their boss André Rieu, were on an emotional rollercoaster because of the pandemic. But they have not been idle. And look forward to the first concert after the crisis: "That will be an explosion of joy."

BY ROB COBBEN, "de Limburger

Photo:Jean-Pierre Jans

Name: Donij van Doorn Residence: Nieuwegein 

Age: 35 With Johann Strauss Orchestra since 2014

Role in Orchestra: Soprano

In the beginning she liked all that free time. Spending a lot of time with her boyfriend Fabian Egli, who is also a musician and who she usually doesn't see very often, as both are on tour for a large part of the year. It looked a bit like a holiday: sitting in the garden just the two of us, having a glass of wine. And the salary continued to come in, thanks to the government. But soon the mood changed, says Donij van Doorn. The walls started to close in on her. And she lay in bed at night worrying. “I come from Twente, I have a down to earth nature. And a positive one too. But I still became insecure and scared. Wondered how we would go through this tough time. And whether there will still be an orchestra in the future," says the soprano.

In the meantime the peace in her head has returned a bit. “Pierre (son of André Rieu, RC) said in an interview that we will be fine if next year's Vrijthof concerts can continue. That will be twenty instead of twelve. With the advent of vaccines, the future looks a lot brighter. I cling to that. I think it will be fine. ”

She has not exactly stood still in recent months. She rehearses many hours every day and has also taken singing lessons again: "I want to make the most of all the colors in my voice and if we can perform again, I want to be even better than before." She also frequently visited the physiotherapist and gym. “Last year I played too long with a back injury. I often had to endure the pain to get on stage. That injury has now almost disappeared. In that sense, the corona crisis was convenient. ”

With the advent of vaccines, the future looks a lot brighter. I cling to that. It will be alright. Donij van Doorn

Mini concerts

During this spring's lockdown, she and her boyfriend gave mini concerts at various care centers. “That was a very nice experience. We have been to thirty different locations. Sometimes we stood there playing music for three hours. In the open air, even in the rain, for people who were forced to sit indoors and were not allowed to receive visitors from family or friends. We have had many great responses. Really very rewarding work. ”

Family visit

There was also time to visit her family in the Achterhoek (Area in the eastern part of the Netherlands) and make a theater performance together with her partner: The Lady and the Tramp. “We were able to perform it about eight times, for a small audience. The repertoire? Very diverse, from Frank Sinatra, musical songs to fierce opera. And with sketches. We hope to be able to do that more often. ” But the biggest wish is to be able to perform with "her family" again soon. "The emotions you feel when you play in front of such a large and cheerful audience with all of you cannot be described."

Thanks to John for the article and translation!




Pierre and André September 30, 2016 Maastricht












Photo Taken at Mexico City Concert ~ September 2013




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

Soundcheck in Maastricht 2013 (RTL Photo)

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

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