South of the Dutch border and the Concert in Brussels,
Saturday April 15th 2006/ by Ineke Cornelissen /Sonja
Last year we attended the concert in Brussels together
with Gemma Korthoudt and her husband Nand. That same
day we were able to purchase tickets for the following year,
which of course we did immediately. Because we were
able to purchase the tickets so early, we had seats in the
third row, center, in front of the stage this year. Wow,
although it was our 8th concert, we never had seats so close to André and the JSO before!
Saturday morning we left The Hague for the 2 ½ hours drive to Gemma’s home in Belgium. We
loved to see our Flemish friends again. (Do you know that the Northern part of Belgium is called
Flanders. In history that part of the country belonged to Holland for a while, so people speak a
language which is related to Dutch, called Flemish. The southern part of Belgium is called
Wallonia, where people speak French. In Brussels people speak mostly French. Once I saw a
question in André’s guest book: What language do people speak in Belgium? So, the answer is:
There is no Belgian language. Belgian people speak Flemish (Dutch) or French, even some
German is spoken in the Eastern part of Belgium.
Gemma and Nand live in Westerlo, Flanders. They have a lovely house, with fields of their own.
The four grown up children live close by, with 9 grand kids and number 10 to be expected the
night of the concert! In the fields we saw two horses, a donkey, three dogs and a lot of chickens.
Gemma invited us to spend the night after the concert in her house and to join the family Easter
table the following day.
We prepared a nice present for her. My husband Ruud is an enthusiastic stamp collector,
specially stamps from Holland and Belgium. He knew about the possibility of
the Belgian Post Office to order “personal stamps”
printed with private pictures. Even I did not know Ruud
ordered stamps with the photo of Gemma and me,
wearing André Rieu concert scarves, until he showed me a
few weeks ago! Ruud was afraid the Post Office would refuse that
picture because of “illicit advertising”, but they did not…… When Ruud had to do business in
Brussels, he bought on my request 20 picture postcards from Brussels, so I had time to write
them to all my fan friends in Denmark, Belgium, Germany, USA, Holland, and….. to the Rieu
family of course! The Rieu’s had to receive the postcard first of all, at the time that André was
still home, before his trip to Miami. (I know I will never get an answer, but I don’t mind). The
stamps had to be posted in Belgium, so we crossed the border once more for that purpose. The
postcards to the fans were posted on the day of the concert in Brussels. To thank Gemma for her
hospitality, we gave her two more sheets of stamps as a very personal present. She was so
There is a nice view on the horses in the fields from Gemma's big eat-in kitchen. And after we did
a lot of talking and catching up while drinking
one cup of coffee after the other with many Danish rolls in
that wonderful kitchen, we left for Brussels in the afternoon.
(1 hour drive) The venue VORST National is known for the
lack of parking places, so we wanted to be there very early.
We mailed the postcards, bought some famous Belgian
beer, and found a restaurant to have dinner. We also took
pictures in front of the André Rieu trucks.
The concert was great, as expected. Standing ovations for
Suzan’s “Don’t cry for me Argentina”. It was breathtaking.
Not only to see André so close by, but we heard every
instrument in the orchestra. “Ode to Joy” went all through my body and soul. What a musical
power has this orchestra! We had seen the program before, in Cologne, but
every time I get the goose bumps... Gemma and I put on our
red rose. I did not see anybody else in the audience wearing a
red flower. But I still like the idea. The rose is André’s favorite
flower and red is the color of love. We met other Dutch and
French fans during the encores. (They found us, because of the
flower. Wearing the flower surely makes sense). We saw Marc
in the audience and walking along the isles. We saw Pierre
taking pictures. We missed Lin Jong and Ruud Merx in the
orchestra (packing for the USA?). At home I had prepared a
plastic Dutch flag in which I had written in the white stripe:
“Have a safe trip to the USA” (in Dutch). That second Brussels
concert was the very last one of the European Tour. Soon they would leave
for the USA. At the end of the last song, the lullaby, I held up my flag. André made an extra bow
when he read it (I love to think that bow was special for me!). Some orchestra members read it
and put up their thumbs to me.
We waited to see the buses come from the indoor parking garage, to disappear into the dark
night and we waved our scarfs to say goodbye.
Next day in Gemma’s home. She prepared the Easter
Table for about 25 persons!! We were going to meet the
entire family! The very pregnant daughter was there, no
baby yet. Grandchild number 10 takes his/her time. That
same night of the concert my daughter Irene was
expecting the birth of her horse’s foal, so I was kidding
that I was becoming a grandma of a foal…. But also: no
baby horse yet! Easter with Gemma and her family was a
heartwarming and happy experience. We left for The Hague later that day, with a box of fresh
eggs from the family hens. Thank you Gemma and Nand. How lucky we are that we have met
you, thanks to André Rieu. We realize that our fascination for a Dutch violinist and his orchestra
brought us so many lovely friends in the last few years.
Update: April 24th: our foal has been born. Mr. Bojangles is the name.
Mother Kacerma and baby are doing fine.
Grandma Gemma and Grandpa Nand have a brand new grand daughter. She is Gemma's and
Nand's 10e grandchild.
Real Belgium Waffles.
MANNEKEn PIS FROM BRUSSELS
Now this has nothing to do with Andre, this is just for fun and those interested in the cities were he performs/Sonja
New York has the Statue of Liberty, Copenhagen has the mermaid
and Brussels has the ...... Manneken Pis. This statue of a little boy
in a somewhat compromising position has since several centuries
been a major tourist attraction in the city. When most people see
our 'manneken', the first reaction is always one of amazement:
"Look, how small he is! Why does everybody want to see him?"
The people of Brussels, however, accept him the way he is. After
all, it doesn't always have to be big to be beautiful. Imagine he
would be the size of the Statue of Liberty: Brussels would be
Nobody actually knows why the manneken is there. He is believed to be nothing more than a
decoration on top of a fountain, where people in the Middle-Ages came to get fresh water.
Already in the 15th century a fountain called 'manneken-pis' existed in the Stoofstraat/Rue de
l'étuve. The official origin can be traced back to the 13th of August 1619 when the city ordered
the sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy to make a new bronze statue of manneken-pis to replace an old
and withered one. During the course of the centuries our little manneken has often been hidden
to protect him against bombs of invading armies. He has also been stolen several times by
plundering soldiers and even by the citizens of Geraardsbergen, a city in Flanders that claims to
possess the oldest statue of a peeing boy in Belgium.
A lot of people do not know that the manneken-pis is very often dressed. At the moment he has
a wardrobe of more than 600 costumes, which are all preserved in the King's House, or City
Museum at the Grand-Place, the central market square of the city. He received his first costume
on May the 1st 1698. The governor of the Austrian Netherlands gave the costume on the
occasion of festivities organized by one of the guilds of Brussels. Many more costumes where to
follow. Even nowadays he still receives new gear when folklorist groups visit Brussels. To thank
them for the gift, the manneken offers the people of such groups beer which comes directly from
a beer barrel attached to the statue. Among the more special costumes are for instance: an Elvis
Presley outfit and a Mickey Mouse costume.
Helmut Lotti with Manneken Pis
(Helmut is a well-known Belgium
Singer, he too is on PBS at times)
Marc in Brussels
Ineke, Ruud, Nand and Gemma
Manneke even travels
PS. Manneken means little man.