It has been 10 months since I boarded a single flight to Budapest. I am on the move again, this time to tick off another item on my personal bucket list: to accompany a dear Barbershop singer friend to an evening with André Rieu.
André Rieu concert: Music knows no borders.
We are privileged to live in the continent where Western civilisation flourished; where new ideas and culture were fuelled by generations of immigration and emigration. Europe has produced a host of the most brilliant scientific and artistic brains. Despite war and pestilence amongst our nations, we must preserve and celebrate the diversity of our cultural heritage.
André’s orchestra of musicians and singers draws on the talents of many nations to give joy and a message of peace to all nations every year. My twin daughters in Australia knew my dream. One year ago they bought two tickets for André’s Concert in Maastricht in July 2022.
My love of Barbershop singing, a Capella style, introduced me to a worldwide family of new friends from America, Australia, New Zealand, and across Europe from Spain to Scandinavia, Ireland and Holland. Now here I am in André’s home town, with my Dutch friend, to enjoy a very special evening.
But it wasn’t without difficulties. The pandemic interrupted our lives. It hit the travel industry hard and, when the surge of public desire for freedom to travel again emerged, they were unable to cope. My direct flight from Spain to Rotterdam was cancelled 48 hours before takeoff. I tried another route, via Majorca, and arrived at Alicante airport at 05:00 to find that flight cancelled. I persevered and found a seat on a flight to Amsterdam – near enough! A short drive later I find myself close to the Familiehuis where Madelon, my Dutch friend, is staying for her temporary return to Holland from Spain for medical reasons.
Onwards to Belgium, Maastricht and Aachen
Two days later we headed south to our AirBnB home for three nights in Riemst, Belgium, a short distance to the Vrijthof in Maastricht. We dumped our bags and drove through country lanes to find a Carrefour supermarket. Time to shop. Priorities – three bottles of Chardonnay, strawberries, cherries, bananas and a few eggs. No time to cook.
The Concert exceeded our expectations. A long evening of emotions, fun and spectacular singing. André had put together a 150 male voice choir especially for the occasion and drawn from across the Netherlands, with little time to rehearse together. Finally, a bit of Gloria Gaynor “I will survive”. Most appropriate. We sat in the garden, under the moon, to reflect on the experience of a lifetime.
Three countries in one day
Before heading back to Rotterdam, we did three countries in one day. Out of Belgium, through Holland for a short visit to Aachen in Germany which is famous as the capital city of Charlemagne, who united Western Europe in the eighth century for the first time after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Aachen Cathedral was built on Charlemagne’s orders, and most of Charlemagne’s successors in the Holy Roman Empire were crowned there.
So that is two cities that are famed for their role in European integration: Maastricht, where the EU treaty for further European integration was signed in 1992, and Aachen from where Charlemagne ruled most of western Europe 1200 years earlier.
What does my next week in the Netherlands hold in store? Madelon won’t tell me. Wait and see. That’s my next article.