Square sentiments: The moving presence of religious heritage in André Rieu’s musical performances

  • Irene Stengs Meertens Instituut & Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Keywords: affective space, emotions, magnification, iconic


This paper investigates the revaluation of the Christian past as heritage in settings that are generally regarded as secular and entertaining. Empirically, my focus will be on the roles given to the Saint Servatius Basilica in Maastricht and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in the musical performances of the world’s ‘King of the Waltz’, André Rieu. By incorporating religious heritage in his concerts, Rieu taps into the nowadays well-established conviction that such heritage is relevant for society as a whole. ‘Moving presence’ is intended in both senses. The churches move along with the orchestra through the transnational space of the André Rieu performances, which is, as I argue, an affective space: the churches tend to move people in one way or another, generating affective or emotional involvement. Asking whether the emotive potential of religious heritage taps into different sentiments than that of other forms of heritage, and to what extent the local or transnational iconicity of the heritage displayed matters for an overall international audience, the paper shows how Rieu’s ‘technics of magnification’ work in tandem with the maestro’s affective recollections of his own religious past, to create a performance that is both spectacular and persuasive.