I’ve become addicted to watching Andre Rieu concerts. I’d never heard of him until a rare moment of absent-minded television watching a few months back. I rarely watch television and when I do I try to watch something that will broaden my education. By that I mean I don’t watch reality television or soaps. I like to think that everything I imbibe is part of a bigger picture, not a moment for my brain to press pause and reduce in size.
I used to play violin in an orchestra when I was younger and I miss it. I wouldn’t call myself a classical buff with knowledge of composers and periods, but I have memories of playing particular pieces and I listen to the composers I know and like. I stumbled across a classical concert on television and from the first few moments I was hooked and I’ve worked out why.
Andre Rieu’s main aim for each performance is “for people to have an unforgettable night”. He talks to his audience, he tells stories and more importantly he entertains. He plays as well as conducts and stands up for the entire two hour (plus) concerts. He and his orchestra completely embody the theatricality of performance and I think that’s why I feel so anchored in when I watch them. He’s renowned for opening up classical music and making it accessible to a wide audience and not just classical fans. There are small moments of rehearsed frivolity threaded through the performance and although you know they are planted they remain fun and fresh and just underline how much these musicians enjoy their job. From the outset it may look like another stuffy classical concert and I understand the garish ballroom-esque dresses do promote that. But the entire production is a grand celebration of the spirit of music and the impact it can have. It strips classical music of it’s uptight nature and welcomes the audience to revel in it’s new laid-back costume.
I’ve watched a few of his televised concerts and each one brings with it the wonder and spectacle of the audience. I wax lyrical about how envious I am of the gathered crowds that attend these concerts. They are from all walks of life and all ages too. They dance in their couples when a waltz strikes up, they clap along en masse when enjoying themselves and they sing along in their droves when the mood takes them. And they’re captivated. They cry when the music proves too much, they hug each other when a traditional song from their country is played. The sight of seeing 8,000 people link arms and sway for Auld Lang Syne is pure magic especially after he invites the European Pipe Band to stand among the audience:
They are there to be entertained and they do not go away empty handed or less of heart. And even better is he commends each and every one of his performers, he insists they take several bows so the people can applaud their hardwork. He even drags out the stagehands to do the same at one point. He is a performer who knows the hardwork that goes into a performance and celebrates it by exposing what goes on behind the scenes.
[Admittedly some of the flourishes in the production are very traditional (the elaborate wide shots, the choice of some modern songs .etc.) but even a layman can see the awe-inspiring quality to it all. The very fact it’s filmed with several cameras is rare for a classical concert to begin with.]
The concert he did in his home town in Maastricht Square is a joy to watch as it documents the passing of time with the night sky unfurling as the concerts goes on (his Berlin concert is in an amphitheatre but the intimacy of the Square seems more potent). He always provides a plethora of special guests and you can see the pride he has of performing in his own homeland. He’s a relaxed performer and a charmer to listen to, a true showman leading his motley crew to entertain everyone within listening distance. He quips in this concert that he asked the surrounding bars and cafes to shut whilst the concert was on, to which they said no. Instead they stopped serving altogether but lined up tables with buckets of wine and champagne for those who didn’t get tickets to sit and listen to the concert.
The reason why I admire what Andre Rieu sets out to do, is he unites a collected audience of all social classes, ages, creed and treats them as one person to move, to entertain, to reach out and touch. And he succeeds. I write theatre to do exactly the same, to promote that it’s not just for a particular select few or other theatre-makers. I do it because I have stories to tell that are from different perspectives and I want to represent them in all that I do. Whether or not you think you don’t like classical music (or theatre for that matter) you cannot deny that these people are fantastic at what they do and the charm they exude on their audience is moving. It’s a selfless act that has rippling repercussions and it’s a reminder, at a time when I’m constantly in doubt, of why I do what I do.
(I can’t find a full version of one of his concerts subtitled – the Dutch man talks fluent English, French, German, Italian and Spanish – but enjoy nonetheless, especially the threat of an impending storm as lightning fills the sky ominously beginning at 11:57 on the video below…)
Also – if anyone would like to buy me a ticket to see him in December in London I would be eternally grateful and probably weep with joy. I’d like to say this is one of my usual quips, but I really do mean it.