Violinist Andre Rieu played for his hometown base this weekend, bringing his orchestra, singers, and dancers to the Vrijthof Square. The gates that normally protect the seating in the square itself have now extended over the adjacent cafes as well, so it’s much harder to see details of the sets or the performance. The performers have always been generous about setting up free big-screen relays across town, so it’s easy to get a seat and a drink to enjoy the show.
I caught up with the crowd at Sint Amorsplein, a triangular- shaped plaza in the middle of the old shopping district a couple of blocks from the Vrijthof. Rows of seats had been laid out and they filled up by late evening when the performance started. Aproned waiters passed through offering koffie, wijn, and Erlanger bier. The video quality and sound was very good and the crowd bobbed and swayed and sang and clapped almost as though they were in the Square. There’s a lot of affection for Andre and his troupe, I really need to pay the admission some summer to get the full-on effect of the spectacle.
The show performs worldwide and had spent some time in South Africa this year. Sunday’s show featured gospel singers that I think had been part of that show, including some brilliant female soloists. The European and African singers shared various religious songs from across cultures, although there were sometimes incongruous combinations that I wasn’t sure fit together.
I made me wonder to what extent the contrasts reflected differences in underlying beliefs or only differences in expression. Certainly, the medleys encouraged listeners to see the commonalities between the cultures, styles juxtaposed and harmonized. But does that presume too much universality, even in religion? It was also hard to tell whether the soloists were native singers or classically trained: they had vocal range and control, a stage presence different from the roles that they wee cast into.
I’m probably asking too much of an evening’s light entertainment, and Andre always delivers an engaging and well-paced show. The twilight gathering was fun and I always appreciate his willingness to share the music and the color with everyone.