André Rieu has been described as the most popular unknown musician in the world. While not perhaps in the mainstream musical consciousness, within his own realm he is the undisputed king. He has sold around 40 million albums and his tours bring in colossal sums of money, regularly placing him amongst the highest-grossing tours of the year. In July, André will be celebrating his first love, the waltz, with Shall We Dance? Returning again to host the show as it is broadcast from Maastricht to cinemas nationwide is the Good Morning Britain and Classic FM presenter, Charlotte Hawkins. We caught up with her to find out what to expect from the Dutch impresario and whether she’ll be tempted to put her dancing shoes back on.
How did you first become involved with André Rieu?
They asked me to come and do the first concert in Maastricht that was going out to cinemas back in 2011 and I absolutely loved it. Ever since then they’ve asked me back every year to come and host the concert that’s shown in cinemas. It’s such a privilege to do it because not only do you get to see the concert but behind the scenes as well, then I get to interview André as soon as he steps off stage at the end.
Was it something you had a passion for before?
I’ve always loved classical music; I grew up surrounded by it because of my dad, who would play it at full blast at every available opportunity – that was kind of the soundtrack to my childhood. I’ve got my own show on Classic FM now as well, so it’s been lovely to be able to play some amazing pieces of music through that. I think I knew about André, I’d heard about him, but actually going to see him live is such a phenomenal thing, you just get swept up in it. So I feel really lucky that I get the opportunity to go back and see him every year. But for those people who can’t travel to Maastricht, it really is the next best thing to go and see him in the cinema, because you get the best seat in the house, on your own doorstep.
The best of both worlds.
Yeah, we bring a whole load of atmosphere, the buzz of the concert, the reaction that you get from the audience, you see people clapping and singing and dancing in the aisles – there’s not another concert like it. It’s a really special experience. He continues to beat box office records, which is just amazing – the New Year’s one that we did in Sydney had the biggest opening weekend for a music concert in cinemas.
What is it about André’s shows that make him so enduringly, globally popular?
He’s not only a phenomenal musician but such a talented showman and entertainer. You get the wonderful blend of amazing music and the rapport between him, his orchestra, singers and performers. It’s done with so much humour – he has this amazing rapport with the audience as well, they’ll be absolutely eating out of the palm of his hand. If one of them is late back from the interval then he’ll be teasing them as they make their way back to their seat. It’s a really interactive experience from that point of view, he breathes new life into that genre where he takes all different types of music and puts it on so incredibly. He’s had so many special guests appearing over the years as well – one year I went he had David Hasselhoff singing along – you never quite know what you’re going to get next. There are always quite a few surprises up André’s sleeve, but you definitely know you’re going to get an entertaining show and some incredible music.
Classical music can sometimes come across as a bit formal and dusty, do you think it’s important to try and show that it can be bright and fun?
One of the things that drives André is putting out great music, but music that people are going to love listening to, even if that wouldn’t naturally be their genre – I definitely think that’s important to do. On my Classic FM show each week I have a young classical star slot where I feature a young artist or composer talking about the next generation of musicians coming up through the ranks. The really encouraging thing is that more young people are listening to classical music – whether it’s while revising or just helping them to chill out and take a moment from the craziness of modern life. I also think we should single out the artists like Tokio Myers, who did the crossover with Debussy and Ed Sheeran, for example. I think a lot of people would listen to some popular music and think ‘Oh I recognise that tune’ and not necessarily connect where it comes from, but there are so many ways that classical music is involved in all sorts of different areas. We need to make sure that we keep driving to bring these types of music to life, and make sure they’re still relevant and still played.
Does it ever make you feel like you should get your dancing shoes back on?
They did make me waltz! In fact I did the macarena last year, which was probably less successful than the waltz. At least with the waltz you can kind of just sway around a bit. Because I wear such a long dress, people can’t really see what’s going on with my feet anyway, that’s what I was relying on. I think since Strictly they’re expecting great things from me on the dancefloor, so I like to keep my input brief. I try and focus on the presenting and the interviewing instead and leave the music to André and the dancing to the audience. This is the waltz themed one so I guarantee André will be making me dance at some point.
Is there something you’re particularly looking forward to for your backstage viewing of the show?
André always has a few surprises up his sleeve so I will be watching with great interest to see what the surprises are in this one. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll be playing my favourite waltz, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Waltz of the Flowers’.
Surely you can put a word in?
I probably should, shouldn’t I. Maybe I should try and get him to dance at the end – see if he’ll do a quick waltz. That’ll take him by surprise.
Shall we Dance? takes place on 27 & 28 July.
Find the nearest cinema showing to you here