With Laurie & Noel Crowley

First off, I want to express our thanks & appreciation to Al Girard for all the professional pictures he took in Maastricht and at the concerts. He captured the essence of each day. Also to Sue Berry for the organization and posting of the pictures. We missed you terribly, Sue.

And thanks, as always to Ineke & Ruud for all they do for us every summer & all through the year. What would we do without you? And thanks to Beate Gundler and others for their postings, too.

Our last night in Europe was spent at a luxurious (airport) hotel in Brussels. One of the managers was from Maastricht or environs and upon learning that we had been in So. Holland inquired about our attendance at an André concert ~ which day? We mentioned that our first concert was at one of the Terrace Cafe's and she asked which one? Our answer was Vrijthof 9 and she said . . . "halfway down and across from the break in the fence." Great dinner and a great place to watch. The marching band goes in and out of the square at that point and stops in front to play several marches. And André and half the orchestra walk from the theater terrace down the street, waving all the way and then group inside for their entrance to 76 Trombones. We had a memorable dinner with Doug (Santa) Whelan from VA Beach and his niece Debbie from Atlanta. No greater people on earth!

No, we are not missing the record breaking heat with almost no air conditioning!

It is pure joy to witness André's performing before his hometown crowd (with people coming from all over the world). He always tries to be "up" wherever he performs in the world, but in Maastricht, his enjoyment is extraordinary and he just exudes the fun of performing. He puts on one great big party.

A highlight was the Fan Dinner, beginning at 5 p.m. prior to the Saturday night concert. Run each year by Ineke and Ruud, it gets better every year. We had 73 people from 5 continents and many countries. The food was fantastic ~ both salmon and chicken served. It was hot below deck, so many of us went up on top of the ship where there was a breeze to enjoy our meal. A highlight was former Mayor, Gerd Leers, and his wife who spoke very eloquently to us. He mentioned all the countries attending and how many fans. (The most were from the USA.) I thanked him for all he had done for André thru the years. A very special person.

And tenor Gary Bennett also came by. Noel had Sonja take a picture of me with Gary. He is most friendly. He walked by Gauchos one afternoon and stopped by to chat, telling us when he left Tasmania to pursue his musical career and other pertinent background. (He now lives with his family in Cologne, Germany.) Then on to the extraordinary Saturday night concert. We had wonderful seats in the 8th row center ... with Sonja, MaryAnn and Ruth from the states. Our friends, Susan & David Rosenzweig from Yonkers, NY had to cancel out with David's back acting up and I sold their tickets to Mrs. Ed and her friend from Australia. Attending with them was a thrill. The concert was absolutely outstanding ~ even with the heat. As usual, we went to the front for the many encores. With the possibility of rain, there were ponchos on every seat. (Noel's was missing) and as I had two American flags, a concert scarf and one of the flags that Alice Leung had made and sent over to decorate for the fan dinner, I left my poncho on my seat. Big mistake. Many encores and wildly popular Austrian, D.J. Otzi, was the featured performer. Then it began to pour rain and we were drenched. At least it cooled us off and the night was fairly comfortable.

I have attended 3 concerts other years, but this was the most varied ... Cafe, Vrijthof and Sunday ~ 1 p.m. at the huge MECC (Convention Center)

Because the Netherlands was scheduled to play Spain in the final soccer game for the championship Sunday evening, the city council decided to open the Vrijthof so fans could watch the game on the big screens. So-o-o, André moved the concert to the MECC at 1 p.m. We had heard that air conditioning would be available. If so, it was not turned on and I don't think I've experienced such heat in all my life. (Saturday was supposed to be 104 degrees, F.) and this was worse. Each chair had a fan on the seat and every 2nd chair had an "orange hat." Our row had blue fans, but many did have orange and gave a little relief.

This was our best concert & André went all out to make it special. The Berlin Comedian singers were encore's the first night and he included them in the body of the concert. So many fan songs were played in this concert and D.J. Otzi was the featured encore performer. It was so hot that the orchestra came in with orange fans after intermission, including André. Never, ever done before and they used them when they weren't playing.

To me the highlight of the concerts was the Hallelujah Chorus ... featuring the soprano's, the tenors, the Berlin Comedian singers and I'm sure both the women's choir and the men's choir (who stand behind the girls.) [They perform at the very large European DVD filmed concerts.] Absolutely thrilling.

Kimmy Skota's, "Ave Maria" is outstanding and received a whole hall standing ovation (as she did in Atlantic City) There was a South African segment included in the first half.

We got a European style indoor concert. The MECC is huge, modern & so much nicer than our stateside Arena's and the JSO staff had hung 98 gorgeous chandeliers from the ceiling. There were also (flat) replica's of the buildings around the Vrijthof erected. No confetti cannons, but they dropped balloons.

With the heat the Soprano's performed "Adieu" at the end without their hair extensions. They look equally good with shorter hair. And Mirusia came out on the floor to chat with us after the concert. As is often the case with Maastricht concerts, it was Sonja's birthday and Mirusia sang Happy Birthday to her. She, like the other girls, is so friendly and a joy to be around.

We drove Sonja and MaryAnn over to the MECC in our rental car. Our GPS stopped working and if we hadn't had Sonja with us to ask directions in Dutch, I think we'd be driving around over there yet trying to find the JFK bridge.

Upon returning, we went to dinner at the Chinese restaurant. Very good ~ with air conditioning. Bobbie & John de Jong along with John's sister Theresa were already having dinner and Chris & Siggy Plewa arrived along with their neighbor from across the street in Delaware and a friend from Colorado Springs, CO.

We could see the filled Vrijthof (standing room only), with everyone wearing orange. They watched the game on the big screens. Very well behaved. When Spain got their (winning) goal, Everyone began to leave. Quiet and very orderly.

Monday morning, we headed to Bastogne, Belgium & Luxembourg to see our historical monuments, cemeteries & museums. The U.S. lost 73,000 men in the Battle of the Bulge.

Wednesday was Bastille Day in France and most things were closed for the holiday. We stayed in Reims, France for two nights and the magnificent Reims Cathedral wan an unexpected thrill for me. My architect mother had paintings of two French Cathedrals hanging in our living room, one of them being Reims.

To our many U.S. fans and fans from around the world ~ if you want the thrill of a lifetime, start saving to go to Maastricht for a concert(s). There is nothing like it ... Laurie

Now, all we have to do is wait for the DVD to come out!