Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu's 70th birthday will be celebrated by a series of special screenings of his latest concert film 70 Years Young in cinemas across Ireland on January 4th and 5th. Below, the great man himself reflects upon a life in music, and tells us why Irish audiences are the best in the world...

Happy belated 70th birthday! Is there anything in the last few years that have stood out for you?

Thank you for your kind wishes! The last few years have been amazing in terms of touring! In 2018 and 2019 we toured all over Europe, South America, Australia, Asia and in 2020 we will return to the USA, and of course Ireland.

Also I think that the tradition of my Maastricht summer concerts is something, which makes me very happy and proud. We started giving these concerts in July 2005 and they have grown fantastically since then: last summer, 150.000 people from 99 nationalities were counted on the Vrijthof Square, people from all around the world travel to my hometown and that is really wonderful and unbelievable!

The Irish audience is my favourite because they are so musical, which you can see and hear inside the concert hall, in the everyday street life - musicians and dancers everywhere!

What do you think makes your event cinema screenings so special?

The cinema specials are a wonderful opportunity for people who are not able to join us live to experience the concert. I try to create a joyful atmosphere the people are invited to show all varieties of emotions at my concerts, and the same goes for the cinema screenings. I hear my audience is laughing, crying, even dancing in the aisles in between the chairs of a cinema. Isn't that great? It has become a tradition to show my Vrijthof Open Airs in the cinema during the summer, but we are now also putting on a festive cinema broadcast around Christmas or the New Year because the number of participating cinemas is increasing every year. Every detail you see is real, nothing is fake – that probably is the vital factor for the worldwide success of the cinematic concerts!

A packed house Maastricht

You have dedicated your life to classical music and leave audiences visibly moved time and time again. Can you tells us what it is that continues to drive and inspire you?

I reached the age of 70 on the 1st of October, but I don’t feel like that; it’s not a real job I have, more like a hobby because it gives me such a good feeling, day after day. But the reaction of my audience is something that keeps my engine running; all these happy smiles in front of me, whether in Ireland or Australia, Denmark or Colombia… in every city men and women seem to have a wonderful evening – and when they have a good feeling, I have it too. It is really gratifying when I realize, that I’m able to make people happy with my music! 

Andre as a young boy...

You could live anywhere in the world, please tell us what makes Maastricht so special to you?

It is the town where I was born 70 years ago; it is the oldest city in the Netherlands, its location is quite central in between Germany, Belgium, France and England… and the European Union has its cradle in Maastricht too. It has a lot to offer for its inhabitants but also for tourists: nice shops, beautiful surroundings, good
restaurants, cultural places for a visit (limestone caves, churches, museums, too much to mention). And most of all: the atmosphere is very warm, because of the friendly people.

You have a very loyal Irish following, can you recall a special moment in Ireland? 

One of the memories I cherish the rest of my life, is performing with John Sheahan, violinist of the Dubliners; he is very kind, friendly and a fantastic musician. The Irish audience is my favourite because they are so musical, which you can see and hear inside the concert hall, in the everyday street life - musicians and dancers everywhere! The Irish seem to breathe music and have such a great sense of humour. Dublin is one of the few cities on my European tour where I perform two concerts every year and I cannot wait to be back in April of 2020.

What can we expect from our 70th Birthday celebration in cinemas?

Director Mike Wiseman (who is responsible for the series on Sky Arts) made an outstanding compilation of the concerts we had throughout the past decades, in combination with countless backstage moments, interviews and other beautiful things. I really hope that a lot of people come to celebrate my birthday party in the cinema! It was filmed at my castle in Maastricht, so it is lovely to show people my home and invite them to share the highlights of my career once again with me.

Anything special you would like for Christmas?

I hope that my health stays with me for many years to come and that it enables me to perform for the same period. But also a happy family - both the big one, my orchestra, and the small one, my wife, sons and grandchildren) is important for me. They are already happy but I hope, both will stay happy! And I hope we will finally reach peace in the world. Maybe music can help a little to do so. Because music brings people together.

André Rieu: 70 Years Young screens at cinemas nationwide on January 4th and 5th 2020 - check with your local cinema for details.