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Waltzing with Andre

4th December 2015

If the question is how do you get 8000 people to pay an average of £60 each to listen to classical music, never in my life did I think the answer was Andre Rieu. How wrong I was. Having played in or listened to orchestras since I was about 13 years old, I’ve never seen anything like the show the Dutch conductor and his Johann Strauss Orchestra put on last night at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

Although it’s easy to scoff classical music as elitist and old fashioned, learning how to play an instrument (which can take decades to master) showed me the values of practice, dedication and teamwork. The thrill of playing with one hundred people on stage is something I was lucky to experience and will never to forget.

And even if you think you don’t classical music, there’s a probably a film or TV score which you love. From Star Wars to James Bond, Clint Eastwood to Marlon Brando, there are legions of classical and orchestral music pieces which jobs memories of a favourite film or film star.

But back to Andre and his band. The Maastricht native has achieved world renown for this travelling orchestra and ability to bring classical music to the masses. Last night’s concert, which latest two and half hours, included famous waltzes and arias from Puccini’s Tosca, Bizet’s Pearl Fisher’s and even Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera. The orchestra aren’t just musically gifted - the show is as much about theatre as it about melody and includes comedic musicians, huge stage graphics and even a snow machine. By the second half, couples from the floor and surrounding seats were waltzing in the aisles, while fans of all ages stood at the front, desperate to get a close up photo of Andre and his violin.

One definition of success is when your expectations are exceeded. Throughout the concert the camera kept an eye on the clarinetist at the front row. At the end, with the backdrop an Irish seascape, the oboe player stood up to play Amazing Grace on a penny whistle. To everyone’s amazement the clarinet player also stood up, lifting a set of bagpipes (a difficult instrument to play), and performs a second powerful rendition of the Newton hymn. Expectations fully exceeded Andre. Thank you very much.

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