Alice & Friends: Here I come, Tacoma!

As André often says, “Music brings people together”, this is exactly what I experienced as André Rieu & JSO had their US Tour over the past few weeks.

It's been over 4 years since I last wrote a “novel” on Harmony Parlor. I thought I was due for some updates, but now that I attended the Tacoma concert, I didn't know how to write my report...just so much happened over the weeks...before I even got to Tacoma! This report is not about which pieces were played in the concert, but more about how André's music unites people. And if you had read my previous novels, you would know I seldom talked much about the concerts, but they're more family and friends events.

It was March 2013 when I last went to a beautiful concert of André. Dad loved asking “Is André touring anywhere?”, “When are they coming again?” We thought they had a push pin for Canada in 2016...but nope...we had to wait! When the US Tour 2017 was officially announced, we thought Canada would be included as well...but nope...we had to wait!

Earlier this year, some of my Aussie and Kiwi friends told me they're planning to come to a few concerts of the US Tour, still, I wasn't planning. My dad was sick, he's not in shape to travel anywhere, thought I would just wait for Kiwi Kathy to come visit me in Vancouver. We had never met since we knew each other over 8 years ago! Edwina (or Mrs. Ed, we called) would be coming back to her beloved second home with her husband Jeff (or Mr. Burger) and Liz. I had not seen Liz in her Aussie headband since Maastricht 2009, this gave me something to look forward to.

Sadly, something came up that changed my life forever. My dad wouldn't make it to the next concert. Our beloved Charlie passed away in April, mom and I were not planning to travel anywhere, we had lots to do and not in the mood. One thing I'm thankful is that Charlie had fond memories to take with him. We were in Toronto 2007 for the World Stadium Tour, Ottawa 2008 for a concert and a visit to our capital city, Maastricht 2009 for the hometown concert experience, New York 2010 for supporting André “Live” at Today Show. Charlie did very well in his 80's. At the Celebration of Life, we were showing tons of photos of my handsome dad while playing André's music, with Toselli's Serenade looped the most, afterall, it's Charlie's most favorite piece since 1985, when he first listened to André Rieu & the Maastricht Salon Orchestra. Friends told us it was the most relaxed service they'd ever attended ... 
Life goes on! Back to the US Tour...it didn't attract just the “ANZACS”, but our Dutch webhosts too! Ineke and Ruud were planning to visit me in October and cheer me up! Yesss!!!

A few months passed by! One day I learnt that Kiwi Barbara would be going to Tacoma concert with her dad. I hate driving cross the border, but it'd be just a couple of hours drive once we pass it. Alright then! That's it! If 93-yr-old Billy boy could go, it'd be a shame that I didn't go. Besides, it's been too long since I last had any Rieu events. The last fans activity I participated was the virtual fan dinner we held on Harmony Parlor Facebook page in July 2014, that was a lot of fun with 108 members from 27 countries signed up, and enough virtual leftover food to last for a week, and it was sweet and lovely for a few years my dear friends brought “Laminated Alice” to Rieu events, but it would be nice if I could go in person. So.... Okay! America The Beautiful, here I come!

It was nearly end of September, the first Rieu birds Mrs. Ed, Mr. Burger and Liz arrived from Australia, I picked them up at Mrs. Ed's most favorite hotel and we had dinner buffet at my most favorite casino resort in town. It was a short but wonderful gathering. They were travelling to the Rockies and the States, and we were to meet again in Tacoma!

2 weeks later, our Dutch friends arrived! Ineke and Ruud were staying at a hotel very close to my favorite place in town, so guess what we had for dinner?? Yep! Buffet at same place again! Next day, our Thanksgiving Day, was a full day “Alice Tour”. I took them to Richmond Olympic Oval, where the Dutch team proudly scored a few medals in the 2010 Winter Games. I even brought a few orange jackets with me for photo opportunity. Although Ruud had a little difficulty zipping up, he made it eventually...and he looked good! 

We also went to several other places, including a visit to the beautiful temple, where a memorial tablet of my dad was placed, and I showed them the venue in which André played his concerts. I'm glad the weather was nice as they had only one day in town, then the two Rieu birds continued with their busy itinerary and headed down to meet other friends in US, and of course some André's concert to attend.

I was working, my sister was in town, I was going to Tacoma....very occupied. Kathy was very thoughtful and suggested if I was too busy we would just meet up in Tacoma and not Vancouver... No Way!! Kathy and Rhonda were here just for the night and we had been looking forward to it for soooo long, we must meet!! Although our Plan A for dinner didn't work as I had other engagement, thought I came up with a nice Plan B, but nope!!! Oct 26, their flight was delayed for two hours, still, I thought we would meet up regardless, even for just 10 minutes at the airport...until something very important came up (details to follow) and I didn't find time to go meet them. I knew I would regret if I didn't meet them in Vancouver, afterall, it's Alice in Vancouver, so it's confusing and wouldn't sound right if they met Alice in Tacoma...our friends might go “Who the (beep) is Alice in Tacoma?”

It's 10:30pm when I asked if my visitors were in pyjamas yet. “Come now!!! Room 3xx...”, so off I go! Quickly dropped everything and popped into my car, heading to meet the two Rieu birds. “Hellooooo!! OMG!!! You're here!!!” Sorry if there's a little bit of screaming at the hotel lobby at 11pm, but after knowing each other on social media for over 8 years, we finally met! We had about 80 minutes of quality time together and had to say goodbye after a photo with A RIEU, but we would meet again in Tacoma, so that's not too sad.

And now, what was it so important that killed my Plan B with my dear friends? I was online checking for flight updates of the Rieu birds, but as I checked my emails, I saw a name in my inbox and go “WHOA!!! Oh Boy!!” and had to reply immediately and made arrangements as we had less than 2 days. Ineke mentioned to me a few days earlier, that a TV producer following André in US for a new road soap might email me, as he was looking for special fans, but not sure if he would still find time for a filming of my car with the special plate A RIEU. I wasn't sure if I would be driving A RIEU to Tacoma, as my brother was going to take his Caravan so we could all sit comfortably, and even so, should I be on TV myself?? I was not very photogenic...think I looked nicer in person..(yeah, right...) But Ineke said “Come on Alice. Present yourself as the proud car owner!” She's right!! I should do it, do it for Charlie, or as how Kathy and Mrs. Ed would put it, “I did it for the team!” , or else, I would regret for the rest of my life! Besides, I had 4 new tires, a new battery and new brake pads installed recently, so A RIEU was all good to go when I received the email from Mike, good thing my friend could drive his own car to the concert. So, a BIGGG Thank You to Ineke!!!

Oct 27 evening, finally had to pack my stuff for the little trip. I realized I have quite an inventory of André T-shirts. Last year after I posed and posted about the Ladies' UK T-shirts on Harmony Parlor, the webshop ran out of the shirts immediately! Then I suggested they could order a Men's...then some Men's size ran out too! The fans said I should be getting commission. Too funny!

Oct 28 morning, the day of the concert, I dropped off my sister and her husband at the Vancouver airport, went back home to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law. All four of us, with my mom, were off to the US in A RIEU. With added security checks, it was quite busy at the border, and after about an hour wait, it was finally our turn. “Where are you going? For how long? What are you doing in Tacoma? Whose concert?” “André Rieu”! The officer saw me wearing André T-shirt “Okay! You can go!” Thanks André!!!

We crossed the border and had a quick lunch at the world's most famous burger chain restaurant (I suddenly thought it would be fun to have the world's most famous unknown artist doing a commercial for them). I asked my brother to drive as he's good with his GPS. I don't use GPS, and I found its instructions sometimes confusing, especially when it said “Make a legal U-Turn” even when you knew you're going the right way. Traffic was quite okay, just a bit slow around Seattle area, as expected. We checked in our hotel, quickly connected to the world of free wifi, and set up a time and place to meet Mike Wiseman, the producer of “Welcome to my World”. Mike told me to meet at 6pm at the venue's parking lot. Thought we could get there at 5:45pm, but the highway was a little congested. We finally arrived at Tacoma Dome at 5:55pm but took us a few minutes to locate where they were. Finally! While I was still talking to Mike on the phone, I saw 3 guys standing at the top of the hill. Whewww!! Found them! Mike, Josef with the camera, and the sound engineer were waiting for us. Boy! It was fun waving at the camera several times, as they tried to film A RIEU from different angles, but the poor guys wondered why we had to drive so far away before turning back for another shot. 

Sorry, there was oncoming traffic so we just kept driving until we could “make a legal u-turn”. Interesting how I was asked to open up my orange jacket, exposing André on my chest for the second time in less than a month (Ruud took a little video of me and Ineke and I already flashed once in Vancouver). It'd better be good when it's edited. They also filmed the bumper sticker which Sue designed (sorry, I didn't have time to colour André's hair before our trip), and I mentioned that my car's insurance expires every year on September 30th, as I purposely picked up my car on André's birthday, October 1st.

After the interview, we had to get into the venue. There's a huge line-up but we got in, leaving sufficient time for the crew to film us getting to our seats. As soon as we finished our hot dog, my Aussie friends Mrs. Ed and Liz came over to say hello. Next we headed down to the floor to meet up with more fans, we said we would try to meet up and have a group photo before the concert. As soon as I walked up to the front, I saw Marilyn from Oregon right away. She had centre seats in Row 2, so there's no way I couldn't see her, and as I said, my goodness Marilyn, from all the photos of you I saw all these years, I had no idea you're so tall. Then the father and daughter from New Zealand were here. Hellooo Barbara!! Aloooha Bill !! At long last, so good to see all these fans in person! I asked my brother to help us take a group photo, but he started taking a little video instead, and it was so funny as he captured the scene when Barbara opened up my orange jacket to expose André. So, make that 3 times flashed in a month! I think by now I can be called “Alice the Flasher”!

Concert was about to start, let's get back to our seats before the 76 Trombones started. Although my brother was the one who bought the Serenata black vinyl back in 1985, he had never been to any André's concert before. His favorite from that evening was Bolero, and same for mom too. The fire blasting was just awesome!!! My friends from Vancouver loved the atmosphere of the concert. As for me, I had my emotional ones. As André was playing America the Beautiful, I had tears rolling in my eyes, I'm not American, but I've always found this piece very touching. I also remembered Ruth in her white blouse and pink jacket on the Radio City Music Hall DVD, for me to hear this piece LIVE, in America, was a memorable experience. André pulled me out of the emotion as he joked “Now I am hundred percent sure...”. We've seen his act before but I still found it funny! 

As they played “You'll Never Walk Alone”, I was weeping again. It was a song they played in Maastricht 2009, when I was there with my girls, Sonja, Sue and Jann. Sadly, we lost Jann in 2012. Grabbed some Kleenex and I had to visit the girl's room at intermission.

We all know when André said “Bye Bye”, it's only the beginning of a real party. I headed to the moshpit and my ANZACS girls were happy and said “You made it!” It's been a while since we did the swaying together, and I got some facial expressions from some of the JSO members, as if “Oh! She's here too!” The ANZACS had attended quite a few of the US concerts already, so I guess it's a little surprise that suddenly there's this Asian woman in orange joining them. Vincenzo gave me a sweet wink and Laura, my Charlie's angel, blew me a kiss. Laura knew I was going but we didn't have a chance to meet up before the concert. One minute I was happily swaying with my dear friends, next minute I was crying. As soon as they started playing Hallelujah, I knew it was coming. I couldn't hold back anymore. I missed my dad and wished he was there to see his most favorite musicians. When they played “Can't help falling in love”, Laura and I were looking at each other as we're singing together.

It was nice to see our Billy boy joining the moshpit too, and very lovely of the girls to throw him kisses when they came on the stage. Had to wipe my tears to get into the André's “YES-NO-YES-NO-YES-NO” fight! Ahhhhhh!! Why did it end so soon?? Oh well...everything has an end. Some of us said goodbye to each other, and some of us remained. Laura was to meet me after she got changed. And here came Mike again and did the last interview with me. Thank you soooo much Mike and Josef!! (Sorry, I never got the name of the sound engineer) We said goodbye and who knows...maybe someday he would come to film a road soap in Canada!

I asked my friends from Vancouver to join us in our group photos. It was very kind of Gary to find time and come take photos with us. Finally my Charlie's Angel appeared with her suitcase walking through the black drapes. I'd been waiting for this day to come...It would had been wonderful if Mirusia was there for a Charlie's Angels 10th anniversary photo, but Mrs. Ed did very good as stand-in. Thank You Edwina! We tried a few poses while everyone helped take shots from different angles. Laura asked if I was okay as she saw me crying...not sure if that's why I had awful eyebags...but Thannnk Youuu Laura!!! Not easy to walk in those high heels, but glad you found time for me! Mwaaa Mwaaa!!

Okay! Folks!! Guess we had to say goodbye! Rhonda would not be coming back to Vancouver so we exchanged hugs, while I could save my kisses for the Rieu birds who'd be visiting Vancouver again in a few days. We had to go get our cars before the parking lots closed. We spent the night in Seattle, did some shopping the next day before going back to Canada.

So the whole time I didn't get to speak to Boss himself, but it didn't matter anymore. We fans go to these concerts not just for the music or because we're hoping to get a high-five from André on the aisle, it's the experience and memories we get when meeting our new and old friends. If you do get a nice high five as bonus, then you're not sure if you want to wash your hand, leaving you just the other hand to use for the whole week (that's my excuse to make myself feel better anyway, as I had never got a high-five from any of them), so.....I think I'm good!

Oh no no no! Party's not over yet! It was Halloween and the Rieu birds were back in town, Mrs. Ed and Jeff, Liz and Kathy. I asked if they liked the same place for dinner as that was my Plan A for Kathy and Rhonda originally, “Yes yes yes yes!” I'm hopeless, we had buffet again. This time we took some photos at the resort before the sun went down. It was beautiful! 

After dinner, we held a mini Maastricht concert at my place. I put on the 2014 Love in Venice and the ANZACS were waving the little paper flags I made for fan dinner in past years. We even did the Snow Waltz “Everybody 1-2-up” act. Hilarious!! Next day, I did the “Alice Tour” with them and we had lots of fun. We took a photo especially for our dear friend Lily, who runs a Chinese restaurant in Maastricht. We were lucky to have nice weather for a few days and the autumn leaves were beautiful. The following day was a different story. It was raining and we did some indoor shopping, but we had fun singing along Rosamunde, Heidi, and Sjeng aon de geng in my car, and we each had an éclair for afternoon snack. Yummie! We even found a shop named Muse, which is special to our friend Eri in Japan. In case you haven't noticed, yes, quite often we're thinking of our André friends around the world!

Next day, time to say goodbye! We had a little chat at the airport and took a few more selfies before the Rieu birds had to proceed to the boarding gate. Adieu! My friends!

All Rieu birds have gone home after the US Tour, everything is back to normal for me in Vancouver... my hometown...where I live...

We'll Meet Again!


Click on Photos To See Full Size!

The End and Thank You Alice For This Special Report!









Kyles Rieully Musical Adventure


Hello everybody! Most of you might know who I am from the Harmony parlor, Ineke's Movie site or the german group André Rieu and friends. But for those of you who do not know me, I would like to take the time to introduce myself. 

My name is Kyle Craft and I am a 24 year old american, a hardcore Rieufan since 2004 and a passionate violinist since I was 5 years old. I invite you all to come along and join me on my rieu musical journey ... this is my story.

When I was 4 and a half years old, I was inspired by waltzes and Polkas by Johann Strauss to play violin, but I was never serious about making music until 2004, when my mother came home with the DVD Live in Dublin from a man named Andre Rieu. She bought it as she thought I would enjoy it. She called my name but when I was young, I hated doing new things. But she made me watch it and boy am I glad she did. I sat myself on the couch and the concert started. When Andre came on with a smile on his face and I saw the well dressed Orchestra, my jaw opened. All of these pieces from Vienna I immediately recognized but did not know the names, and the way the music was played, I was just mesmerized. When the Danube came, I immediately jumped for joy. Before this, I wasnt seriously about becoming a musician but then, I immediately took the violin out and started to practice.

In 2005, as my mother was flipping through the tv channels one night, she came across Romantic paradise on PBS, personally I think one of his most beautiful specials Andre ever made. She recorded it and we watched it together the following evening. She came across the special in the middle so the first piece was Barcarolle sung by Carmen and Carla. It gave me the goosebumps. Then the one and only trio: Carmen, Suzan and Carla sang the famous piece: The Rose. Their passion, musicality and the scenery, I was mesmerized. Then at the end when Andre played his piece he wrote, I could immediately feel that he plays straight from the heart. He played it with such grace, emotion and passion. I was weeping. Then PBS started doing the pledging and advertisement for his christmas tour 2005 in California. I pestered my mother: Can we go????? The tickets through PBS were a bit expensive, so after doing some research, she found tickets on December 15th 2005 at the Sacramento Arco Arena.

I still remember this night very well. My whole family and I went. We go into the arena and to our seats. We were up in the high levels sadly but that did not matter to me. My aunt asked me: are you excited? That was a stupid question, but I did not know what to expect. Then the lights dimmed, the Entry of the Gladiators started and when the orchestra and Andre went onto the stage, I was blown away. The whole night was amazing, the waltzes, marches, classical, popular tunes, and christmas music made it a night I still remember to this very moment. At the end I told my mother: I want to find out more about this man and follow him in his footsteps.

The Concerts

Over the years, I have made it a tradition to go to at least 1 concert per year with my grandmother who was raised with this music. I have visited up to 10 concerts worldwide, collected many of the DVDs, CDs, books, shirts, etc, which has made me a forever true loyal hardcore fan.

I have always wished to have friends in my life with who I could share my Rieuspirit with. I joined many groups on Facebook but there were 2 groups that made me feel very welcomed: The Harmony Parlor (English speaking group) and André Rieu and Friends (the german speaking group). In the Harmony Parlor, I started to post and was always amazed at the friendliness and hospitality of the members. I have made friends in HP who I am very proud to call some of my close friends. There is my adopted mother Sue, my big sister Ulrica, Chris, Christine, my brother Anthony, Ineke and Ruud, Sonja, Kay, Kathy, Edwina, Rhonda, Bill and Barbara, Angela, and Paul. It is like one big family. I love to post in the HP. Sometimes, especially during Maastricht time, I do live stream (violin) concerts which I thoroughly enjoy. I also help out Ineke and Ruud with german video translations to English.

In 2016, when the North American tour was announced after the Maastricht concerts, I got so excited to welcome them back to the US. After months of waiting, the concerts in San Jose and Sacramento were announced. I immediately booked the tickets. When I found out that some of my HP friends were going to come to the concerts, like Ineke, Ruud, Edwina, her hubby Jeff, Liz, Kay, her husband and daughter, Kathy, Rhonda, Bill and Barbara, the excitement was bigger. Then after a few months, the concert in Fresno was announced, I jumped for joy. 3 concerts in one week??? This cant get any better. So I of course booked for Fresno and got 3 rows from the stage right on the isle. High five night!!!!

As the concert week was approaching, I realised that there were going to be alot of HP fans in San Jose. After speaking with Kay Berman, we decided to organise a fan dinner before the concert. After a couple of weeks, she and her daughter Jennifer found the perfect restaurant that was only 10 minutes away from the venue. (I wanted to serenade everyone during the dinner but the management would not allow it. Oh well).

A month before the concerts, I received a message from Ineke. She told me that Mike Wiseman, the producer from "Welcome To My World", contacted her and she told him about the fan dinner and me, how I am a huge fan, have tons of memorbilia and that I play violin. She added: if he is interested in you, he will approach you.

About 3 days later, I received an email from him at about one in the morning. I jumped for joy and immediately read the email. He said that he was interested in meeting superfans from the USA and asked if I was interested in being part of it. I immediately sent him a response with one of my performances. Then after another 4 days, he responded by thanking me for my response. He added: I would love to film and follow you at one of the concerts. Then he asked me if it would be possible to come to my house to see my whole collection, although he didn't know if it would be possible. I immediately said yes.

After about a month, I heard from him again. It was sadly not possible to come to my home and film me, but he was still interested in filming me at the San Jose concert. After emailing each other, I got the greatest news of my life. I was going to be filmed driving to the venue, showing my collection, interview me and hear me play!

On the day of the concert, Mike and I met at 3pm. Since I live 2 hours away from San Jose, I packed everything really early and left at 11AM to avoid traffic and to take the time to breathe and get ready for the filming. After a long, hot, trafficy 2 hour drive, I arrived at the hotel at 2pm, where we were all staying at. 

As I arrived, I immediately saw Mrs. Ed, Jeff, Liz, John and Bobbie in the lobby. I jumped out of my car and run into the lobby to introduce myself. We greeted each other with smiles and hugs. For some reason, I was shaking but that was probably because I was getting nervous about the filming. After hanging around, we decided to go on a walk to the venue which was only 10 minutes away by foot. As we went, Ineke and Ruud arrived. We waited for them. There came Ineke and she and I immediately started to chat. As we return to the hotel, there were my friends Kathy, Rhonda, Ruud, Ruth and Jim. It was so great to finally meet some of my HP friends. Then we took a photo. As we took it, Ruth asked me, if I was as good as André. I laughed. Then my family friend Elena arrived and I introduce her to everyone.

It was already 3pm so the tension was high. This man with a backpack comes in. I knew he was Mike. He came up and introduced himself to me. It was Mike Wiseman. I say goodbye to everyone and went with Mike to my car. He was surprised at the bumper sticker I have on my trunk, made by Suzanne and her daughter Heather. I still had all of my stuff in my car as I could not check in before 3pm. Mike was kind enough to let me put some of my stuff in his car. As he did that, Anthony writes me and wishes me good luck. I told him I was soo nervous but he helped me calm down. Then after cleaning up the car a little, I drove to their car and meet the 2 other filmers, whose names I dont remember sadly.

Then my moment started. We filmed me driving to a park near the venue. As we go there, we got ready to do the interview while driving. I answered some questions with great enthusiam. I kept speeding up which made their work at bit hard, which I felt bad about. I was worried about cars honking at me as we had to drive so slow. But then in the end everything was ok. After the interview, Mike was wanting me to drive around blasting music. I just so happened to have the cd, magic at the musicals in my car, one of my favorites. We decided to blast the Cinderella Waltz while driving around. I do that every night for an hour before going home and love it. Mike and his crew kept asking me to enjoy myself. I was so serious as I was so nervous being filmed for the first time, but then I started feeling myself. I conducted to the music, sang a little, swayed back and forth in ¾ time, and at stop lights played air violin. When I started to sing, Mike then asked me if I could sing. I just laughed and said no. 

We drove back to the park and got ready to film my collection. We unpacked it out of the huge suitcase and got the trunk ready. Then this part of the interview started. I opened it and there it was, my Rieu collection. I showed him my first tour program from my first concert, told him how many things I had. More than 60 cds, 25 DVDs, 10 VHS, scarfs, books, shirts, key chain and pillow. Mike was very interested in the shirts, especially the one designed by my friend Jaya from Australia with her slogan. I explained to Mike that I love to collect the clothing, especially the shirts. I always wear them to my violin lessons as they give me good luck ;) Then they filmed me playing. I selected one of my favorites, the grand waltz, Roses From The South by Johann Strauss. We filmed that twice. I was not happy with the stupid mistakes I made but I did it. Then Mike congragulated me. To finish the recording, they filmed me driving around and off to the concert blasting Get me to the church on time. There should have been a song called Get me to the concert on time! Then we were finished. Before I left to check into the hotel and go tot he fan dinner, I asked Mike if we were going to see each other again. I gave him my seat information and he added bring your violin. Then we said goodbye and see you later.

I immediately texted Kay to let her know that I'm on my way. They were all waiting anxiously for me. I rushed back to the hotel to check in. The traffic was getting on my nerves. After having checked in, I got ready and went. Anthony and I were conversing as we were trying to do a videochat at the fan dinner. I was already late and stressing so that was sadly not possible. As I arrive at the parking garage near the restaurant, I noticed there was smoke coming out of my car. I was like UGH SERIOUSLY? I realised that it was only because there wasn't enough water in the engine. That wasn't a problem as I could fix it right away. I got to the dinner at the last 10 minutes but that was ok. I can't eat that much before a concert. As I got into the room, everyone greeted me with a huge applause. I saw Bill and Barbara and immediately introduced myself. I sat next to John and Howard. We talked, I drank my coffee and ate some soup before we had to go. I took Rhonda and Elena back to the hotel so we could all walk together to the venue. It was already 7pm, doors opened at 6:45 and the lines were long. I had to meet Mike, so Ruud told me just to run down there. As I got there, the lines were long but it was going by pretty fast. I called Mike to let him know I was there. He said that he will find me either outside or inside.

Since I had my violin, I knew that this would cause a little issue at the security. As I arrived, people could see that I'm a true fan, with my scarfs around me and the button that my friend Ruth made for everyone at the fan dinner. At the security point, one of the workers said that I have to check it (violin) in. The plan was that I give Mike my violin to take backstage. I explained to her that I am a part of the behind the scenes "Welcome To My World" with Mike. She said I dont know who that is,  but you have to check it in. I said: no problem at all. Then as I go through security and into the building, I see Mike and the crew. I explained to them the situation with the security guard and explained why I needed to check in my violin. This all was making me a little frustrated and impatient, but then in the end, my fake strad was in Mikes hands and everything was ok. 

I asked them if I could go to the concession stand and see what they have. They said ok and we go there. I was hoping they would have new stuff I could buy and there was. I was so happy to see the falling in love scarf, the new album released for the US and a t shirt exclusively made for this tour. I immediately bought all three items. Mike filmed me with what I just bought. I told him: I bought the Shall we dance album, the t shirt to wear as my night shirt and the falling in love scarf which I will wear tonight ;) Now I had 3 scarfs around me and my button. I was getting thirsty, so I wanted to get some water. I asked Mike if it is ok. He said yes but time is running out. After getting frustrated with the long lines I just said forget it. Mike said he would get me some. 

Then he filmed me going into the arena and to my seat. When we got to my seat he asked me: how excited are you? I was shaking joyful. Everyone could see that I'm a huge fan with my 3 scarfs and button. I went to where my friend Elena was sitting on the isle and I wanted to be there. Sadly I was on the other end of the isle so I had to go to my real seat. After speaking to the fans right next to me, they said the end of the isle was open. Those people were late so they said just go there. So ha I stole the isle. Then the lights dim! The seventy six trombones start. I get goosebumps, I stand up and then the lights go up and the concert starts - Here we go! I got my first high five and he smiled at me!!! Wow!! Then after a few minutes the people at the isle arrive. We made eye contact to switch seats back but they said dont worry about it. Very nice people.

André greets the audience and I yell good evening back. Then Blaze away is next and I start clapping joyfully. Next Frederic comes on stage and the next piece was one of my absolute favorites - The grand waltz Tales from the Vienna Woods by Johann Strauss. This waltz was the waltz that inspired me as a little boy to play violin. When the waltz started, I got the goosebumps and swayed back and forth. The part when the choir sang with the whole orchestra to the waltz, that made me be in awe. At the end, I of course stood up. Then the third man came. This one always makes me laugh. Then the tenors came on stage and sing Maria, Mari. After André introduced the tenors, they sang the glorous aria, Da geh ich zum Maxim from the Merry Widow by Franz Lehar, my second favorite composer. Then they sang one of my absolute favorite, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz, you are my hearts delight from Lehars operetta the Land of smiles. This piece of music is another one of my favorites and they performed it more than great. It was more than I expected. They sang it with great power, passion, and love and seeing André conduct it, you can see how he feels the passion and power of the music in him, which is one things I love about him. This number made me weep at all 3 concerts. This of course deserved another standing ovation. Manoe played Hava nagila and everyone clapped along. Next, Andre tested our musical skills, and played America The Beautiful. I first stood up to get the audience to stand and sing along. It was a touching number. Then before the break, he talks about how singing together is good for your health. In school, I have to sing and I can just agree with him 100 percent. Before the break, they perform with Carmen, Donij, Anna and the Platin Tenors the stunning You'll Never Walk Alone from Rodgers and Hammersteins Carousel. I love their arrangement with the powerful brass in the beginning. This was the other number that made me so emotional. I of course stood up again.

Intermission: All of us went up to the stage and I tested Ineke and Ruuds German for fun ;) Mike came up to me and said, I want to see you dance the Danube, so find a woman and before the last encore, I'm going to grab you. I asked Elena if she would dance the Danube with me and she said yes. As Cord Meyer started to tune, we all went back to our seats. Then the second half started.

The first piece was the emotional Ballade pour Adeline. This one brings me back memories from my first Maastricht experience in 2012. Then Anna came on and sang Think of Me. As the piece was announced, the whole audience was in awe. Anna sang it with such passion and feeling. Standing ovation again. Then they played the famous german sport palace waltz with all the whistling. I just faked it and then I realised my face was up on the video screens like 3 times. Next it was Carmen's turn. I knew she was going to sing one of my favorites and she did it with such emotion. At the end of the piece, that high A gave me the goosebumps and I immediately started to applaud. Then Donij came on stage and sang Lehars, Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiß. She played with some of the men in the audience. Then came my favorite of all, The Blue Danube. When André asked the audience to applaud for Johann Strauß, I immediately stood up to show my respect for this amazing composer.

Then the announcement of the Danube, I applauded the loudest. The music started and when the theme started, I immediately stood up and Elena and I started to dance. I got up to the stage and André smiled at me more than once. I was wondering where Mike was. Then André's bodyguard was giving me the signs to get over closer to the left of the stage so that Mike could film me. After the Danube, I went back to my seat. Then Bolero came on. This was a powerful number and at the end, you could feel the power of the percussion in your chest. André then announced the end, we said no, as he got louder saying no, we screamed LOL. Then as the Radetzky starts, I immediately get up and go to the stage and go in front of Andre so that I can listen to that strad. After the Radetzky march. I linked arms with Mrs. Ed and Kathy and that was a memorable moment. Then Libiamo is next and Manoe gets tipsy. Then the tenors come and the sopranos. Donij and Carmen waved at me. I messaged Donij a week before to see if we could meet and my friend Angela told Carmen and Octavio about me so that is how they knew about me. Then came Hallelujah, another goosebump piece. I loved to hear André play that strad passionately with the sopranos singing on top. It was a moment I'll never forget. Then Tutti frutti. I normally dont dance but I did tonight. Then came Can't Help Falling in Love With You and you could tell in André's eyes he loves it when the whole Arena waves the lights back and forth. Next came Stars and Stripes. I love this number and Andé jumping up and down at the end. And then came Adieu. I of course sang along. Again Carmen and Donij saw me.

Before the end, Mike gets me and we go backstage. I was like what is going to happen. Carmen is there waiting to greet me. I give her a hug, congratulated her on a great performance and she told me that Octavio told her about me. I wanted a pic but Mike said no there is no time. He tells me to get my violin out and go near the violin case. 

Then there he comes, the maestro, André Rieu. I get goosebumps. Mike introduces me to him and asks if he could sign my violin. André greeted me with: Hello Kyle. I could not speak at all until a few seconds later when I said: Hello Mr. Rieu. He signed my Violin and told me to let the signature dry. He jokes with me: Is it a strad? I said: It is my fake strad. Then he asks me: would you like to trade violin? I said no. Then I said this sentence: "I was inspired by Strauss waltzes to play violin and you have inspired me and still inspire me to become the musician I am today". He smiled at me. Then he asked: do you practice everyday? I said yes, my scales, etudes. Then he asked: and waltzes? To make sure im practicing the good music ;) I answered of course. Then Mike tells me to thank André for a great concert, I did and then I left. Carmen witnessed the whole thing.

As I leave, I see Vincenzo and we high five each other. When I got back out into the arena, everyone sees me and Mike, the crew and I go into one of the isles and he askes me live on camera. How are you feeling now? All I could say was I am speechless and so happy. Everyone around could see that I was on cloud 9. I met some fans and I played for them The Blue Danube, they were all impressed.

We all wanted to stay to greet the JSO and everyone, but his bodyguard told us we must leave. At least I got to meet Donij and get a photo with her. Then as we left, some JSO members come by, I say Hello to Anna but she didnt know who I was so she said, at least you know my name. That was funny. I didn't realize it, but André walked right past me with a smile. Then I play as the members go and Jennifer Hans says good job. As we were leaving, we ran into Laura Engel. Ineke was so kind to introduce me to her. I wanted a picture with her but she had to hurry along. We all went back to the hotel and chatted a little. I could not sleep this night at all. I was so in heaven, that I immediately messaged Sue, Christine, Anthony, Ulrica and Amanda all that I experienced. We all were and are still amazed at this whole experience. I only got one hour of sleep.

I was a bit worried as I had to drive up to Sacramento the next day. Then I realised that my drivers licence was missing and I needed to get water for my car. So instead of worrying about it during the night, I just enjoyed my unforgettable experience. After getting one hour nights sleep, I get up and go to breakfast. First thing I grab is 3 cups of coffee. Ineke and John asked me if I was able to get any sleep: I was like - No! We all ate breakfast and then said goodbye. I was waiting for Bill and Barbara as I had offered to transport them to Sacramento. We first get water for the car then go to the DMV to get a temporaray licence. Then I realised that I forgot to turn in my room cards, so back to the hotel we go and finally off to Sacramento. It was so nice to be able to transport Bill and Barbara. I loved it how Bill conducted and sang to magic at the musicals. When we arrived, I took them to the hotel and I went to In 'n Out for lunch before checking into my hotel. (As I was getting out of the car I found my real drivers licence in the pocket of the left door). I made the stupid mistake to book the cheapest hotel and didn't feel comfortable leaving my fake Strad there so I asked Mrs. Ed if I could leave it in her room. I got ready to go to dinner with some church friends and then go to meet everyone at their hotel.

We go into the arena and I realized they were selling magnets. I of course had to buy one. We went into the arena and found our seats. I wasn't too happy with my seat but I can't complain. I saw Ruth and went over to chat with her. She was not sure if her friend who had the isle was going to show up, so she said, if she doesn't come I can get the isle again. Well she did, so I return to my seat. The floor was packed. Everyone saw me with my outfit, so they all started talking to me. Another great concert! I danced the Danube again, but with Mrs. Ed this time. Then for the encores I rush out, stepping on someones toes and Ruth and I were the first ones up there. We both got smiles. Strauss and Co started - we all linked arms and swayed ... Oh well - it was another great concert. Off we go back to the hotel as we try to find the JSO no luck. I give Kathy her bumper sticker and say goodbye. I accidentally forgot my violin with Mrs. Ed, but I arranged to pick it up in the morning.

The next day was the last concert in Fresno, I get up, check out and go get gas and go to the hotel everyone was staying at. I say goodbye to Ruth and Jim, get my violin and head on out. I realised my car needed some attention so I had to take care of that before I go. I make one stop for lunch then head on down to Fresno. It was a nice drive.

I arrived early and waited for the others - we try to check in but our rooms weren't ready. After checking in, I decided to just relax until it was time to go. At around 6:20 I go into the lobby with my leftover sandwich and eat it. We go by shuttle. Doors were supposed to open at 7 but they didnt until like 10 minutes after. We were told that the soundcheck was still going on. I was like that's not normal, André is always on time. So we finally get to go in, I buy some stuff for Anthony and then go to my seat which WAS on the isle ;) Bobbie and I chat for a while and I chat with the nice lady next to me. As the lights dim and it becomes 8pm, John and I stand up for the grand entrance. Here we go, third and final concert. Another smile and high five. I say hello to all the JSO going by me. It was another successful evening. Although the arena wasn't that full, but the audience was very enthusiastic. As André tests our musical ability, this one man just screamed a note, made us all laugh and André said jokingly: you shut up LOL. I again dance the Danube with Mrs. Ed, then the encores. Again I rush up there ... We had a few Mexicans in the audience and they kept screaming for Clelito Lindo. So instead of playing Marina, André played Clelito Lindo, one of my favorites.

The last concert :/ but we all had a blast. We all go back to the hotel by foot and then we all plan to meet up early to have one last breakfast to say goodbye. I get up at 7pm, get ready and then I receive a message from Mrs. Ed to hurry up as I'm always late (haha) As I rush down to the breakfast room, I run into Frank Steijns and his girlfriend. He recognises me and we get to talking. As we go down to the lobby, Cord and Marcel join us and we talk. They asked me if I was also going to Tacoma. I responded: sadly no, but I will be in Maastricht. Then I go into the breakfast room and see other members. What a surprise. At one moment I saw André's bodyguard come in getting some cereal. He was probably getting breakfast fort the boss. We finished breakfast, go pack, and check out. We all said goodbye after an exciting week.

I give them one last wave as I get into my car and head back home. On the way home I had to get more coffee as I was falling asleep. After 3 long hours behind the wheel I arrive home exhausted. So to wind down, I watched my favorite, the Schönbrunn concert together with my grandmother.

To end my report, all I can say is just wow. I never thought that in my lifetime, I would get a huge chance like this. My 3 minute meeting with the boss changed me forever. I will remember it forever. His music plays a huge role in my life and and always will. I promise him in this report, that I will practice my scales, etudes and waltzes everyday. I must thank Ineke and Mike for everything. I am so looking forward to celebrating my birthday in Maastricht at the fan dinner and first concert. Im so happy and very proud to be the Rieufan I am.

 I hope you all enjoyed my novel.
Greetings from the third Strauß ;)