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André Rieu invites you to a musical extravaganza in Maastricht

Every year André Rieu performs a lavish open-air concert in his hometown of Maastricht, which is also broadcast via satellite to Vue venues across the country. Here, classical music sceptic Kirsty Knaggs tells us how she fell for the charms of the King of Waltz.

I’ve never really been one for classical music. Despite my Dad’s lifelong attempts to impart his encyclopaedic knowledge and enthusiasm of it to me, it’s never really struck a chord. But then I encountered the gloriously guilty pleasure that is André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra.

I remember the moment with startling clarity. We were on an ill-advised New Year trip to Bruges, where the temperature was hovering somewhere around -50 degrees. We’d been out for dinner and had scurried back to our hotel to warm up before heading out for the big open-air concert at midnight. There we were, huddled under the blankets in our icy room, when a blast of warmth radiated from the TV in the form of a colourful costume-clad orchestra led by a twinkling, crinkly-haired conductor/violinist. Numerous shots of the audience showed them dancing in the aisles, waving flags and gleefully clapping along to an all-killer-no-filler repertoire of popular classics.
Andre Rieu
We sat transfixed throughout the whole spectacle, which included slapstick routines, dancing and special guests (strangers to us but clearly superstars in Europe judging by the uproarious reception they received). We’d never seen anything like it. The joy of everyone – the musicians, the audience and, of course, the maestro himself – was so palpable it was impossible not to be swept up in it all. It turned out to be the highlight of our trip and, every Christmas and New Year since, we recreate the mood by sticking on one of his DVDs and succumbing to the festive cheesiness.

He performs sell-out tours all over the world, but his most famous concerts are the ones he gives in his hometown of Maastricht every year. For several evenings in the summer, the city’s medieval square – Vrijthof – is transformed into an open-air arena, where Rieu and his orchestra perform a three-hour spectacular in front of thousands of adoring fans, accompanied by light shows, fireworks and plenty of audience interaction.

This annual concert series sells out months if not years in advance, and tickets go for eye-watering prices. But, thanks to satellite streaming, you can experience the spectacle for yourself for a fraction of the cost and without venturing further than your nearest Vue. The concert is being broadcast via satellite to Vue venues across the country on Saturday 23 July at 7pm and Sunday 24 July at 3pm – and, as expected, tickets are going fast!

Say what you like about André Rieu but I defy even the most cynical or classical-averse among you not to be carried away with the sheer joy of the event. You may even find yourself dancing in the aisles.