That was 2011! ESC, We Love Music and So Many Incredible People

Photo ©Dietmar Morand for RhineBuzz

What an extraordinary year 2011 has been!
I've met some incredible people, made some exceptional friends and experienced many wonderful and emotional performances.

The 56th Eurovision Song Contest hit town in May and along with the delegations of 43 nations, 2500 accredited journalists from all over the world; (plus a whole lot that were not accredited) I was in the team that helped set up programmes and show them the gems our city has to offer. We were determined to give our absolute best, after all, the show reaches some 125 million viewers!!!

With Ken Bruce BBC, who has presented Eurovision for the past 24 years,
at the Uerige brewery house

My colleagues and I at Dusseldorf Marketing and Tourism worked our socks off in the run up to and during the festival. It was a unique time for the city when we could show the world the rich cultural variety and great internationality that we have here and yet also the deep Rhenisch traditions of the city. I was privileged to be commissioned to write two new tours for the international visitors we welcomed, 'Art in Düsseldorf' and 'We Love Music'.

Tim and I will be back with 'We Love Music'
in February!
The 'We Love Music' tour was originally conceived to show the astounding musical history of the city which is marked by such iconic artists such as Robert Schumann and Kraftwerk. William Cook, who was in town to write 48 Hours in Düsseldorf for the Independent was the first international guest to sample the tour with Dietmar Morand and myself, William greatly enjoyed Tim's enthusiasm and the modern way in which we presented the city - we were pretty much on a roll after that! The response from the international press has been so incredible that this tour is now part of the city's regular programme of tours. One of the nicest quotes I'd like to share with you was from Antenne Düsseldorf, the city's radio station 'Other cities have regular old city tours - but Düsseldorf has the 'We Love Music' tour...'

The public love the tour too, and for Tim and I there is nothing better then when Düsseldorfers tell us that they have experienced their city anew because of all they discovered on the tour. We love organising surprise guests and delight in giving away tickets to some of the best performances in town. The tour has turned into a real talking newsletter, if you don't know what to do in Düsseldorf come and join the tour!

'We Love Music' will be back every first Saturday of the month from February 4 at 3pm from the Tourist Info in the Altstadt.
April 7 at 5pm sees our first public tour in English.

At the press centre at the Eurovision Arena with Olan McGowan RTÉ Radio from Ireland
Tim and I worked on a piece about Kraftwerk that Olan and I are editing here

I've often been asked, 'What did the ESC bring for the city?' Well, the marketing value was immense. To put this into real figures - I took care of a Dutch journalist couple one afternoon in May. They wrote a double page piece on the city which went nationwide in the Netherlands. Had Düsseldorf paid for advertising space on this kind of scale, the bill would have come to €140.000. Multiply this times all the press that was in the city at the time, add the journalists that have already returned and you begin to get the picture.

Monika Günnewig, Eurovision VIP Volunteer and Mayo Velvo,
Düsseldorf Chansonnier in the Eurolounge

Many are surprised by what they find here, the many museums, the concert venues, the life-style, all offer a quality of life not at all anticipated by the press coming to see us. Again and again I hear 'A top venue' from those that were expecting something quite different. Maybe one of the best compliments was from Gary Bones, executive producer for the BBC Radio 2 Ken Bruce Show, (I helped put together the interviews for the 3 and 1/2 hour show they broadcasted from here), who said he'd love to come back with his other half. Considering the BBC was initially not at all keen to be in Düsseldorf, this is such a compliment for all that worked so very hard during that time. 

Düsseldorf icon Freifrau von Kö is interviewed by the BBC
©Bernd Ahrens Photography

I thought it might grow quiet after Eurovision, but in many ways it has grown busier. I'm booked to show such varied people around town, from retired folks who love the arts to a Chinese group on a round-the-world music tour.

On the roof of the Tonhalle with a group from China including 
top Chinese music producer Zhang Yadong 
©Bernd Ahrens Photography

So what's with RhineBuzz for 2012?
We are working on many new ideas and will have to expand with new freelancers in the coming year. My time is now so taken up by looking after international press not only in Düsseldorf but in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia that I've pretty much come to my limit time and energy-wise! I've also taken on a new role with a life style exhibition at the Messe Düsseldorf.  The RhineBuzz events have been a little neglected in 2011, I know, I'm sorry, but I'm doing all I can to bring you more and varied events in the New Year.

Our very fruitful partnership with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein will continue of course. Our first event will be Il Barbiere di Siviglia on February 5 and the AIDS Benefit Gala on March 3 2012. The new partnership in 2011 with the spectacular Tonhalle has also proved most enriching for the RhineBuzz community. We will certainly be building on this and we are greatly looking forward to the bi-annual Schumann Festival in May/June 2012.
As one RhineBuzzer wrote on facebook "Twelve months, a new year ahead...I do hope that my diary will show as many times 'wonderful evening with Rhinebuzz' as it did this year."

I will certainly try my very best to fulfill this wish!

Thank you, thank you :) to all the wonderful folks I've met in 2011 from all around the globe. You have enriched my days, and I'm very lucky to have met you all. I hope that you do return to Düsseldorf as promised and that I have another chance to show you around.

I wish you all, our readers, our visitors, my wonderful colleagues, photographers, writers and the extraordinary artists I've met in 2011 a very peaceful, fulfilling and happy 2012 and hope to see you around town soon! Keep buzzing! 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

If you are staying in Düsseldorf there’s quite a nice choice of things you can do if you don't wish to stay home over the festive period.

My top pick would be the Ballet on the Rhine, Martin Schläpfer’s b.10, which I’ve seen twice now - and I’d love to see it again! There will be performances on December 22 and 26, and a few tickets left for each evening.

My Opera Scout review is here.

b.10 Gert Weigelt 

If you want to get out and dance our favourite DJ Henry Storch is hosting a party on Christmas Eve at his Blue Note club on Kurzer Str 13 in the Altstadt with the Siam cocktail bar next door from 11.30pm.
You will be able to groove to a mixture of the greatest sounds on a couple of floor levels.

On Boxing Day, another RhineBuzz favourite, The Schumann Quartett are playing at the Robert Schumann Hall in the Museum Kunstpalast. This time with piano, it promises to be great!

So it simply remains for me to wish you all a wonderful Christmas!
If you are travelling, stay safe, I hope all goes well without delays and that you enjoy a relaxed and fun time with your loved ones. If you are staying in the city, enjoy yourselves! The Christmas Market is still on up until December 23, so there's still time for delicious goodies and maybe I'll see you around. I'm staying here and looking forward to friends, music and lots of rest after a crazy and exhilarating year. 
But more of that next week .... x

©Cindy Voss Photography

Classical Music for Beginners - Leonardo Mozart, Arkadi Shilkoper, Alphorn and Christian Ehring at the Tonhalle

Christian Ehring and Arkadi Shilkloper
©Susanne Diesner 

On Sunday December 18 at 4.30pm the Tonhalle will host another concert in the series "Ehring goes to a concert".
Christian Ehring is a much-loved Düsseldorf entertainer who says of himself that he is an 'amateur' classical music lover ...
So Tonhalle director Michael Becker thought he was the perfect person to invite along to host a series of concerts. The first we saw, a few weeks ago featured the music of Bach. It was a beautiful concert and Ehring's input were both funny and most informative.
Yes this is all in German, but I know that many of you are learning the language and is there a better way to learn than to both hear and see?

This Sunday, a very varied programme is given the chance to seep into our souls. Ehring will also introduce Arkadi Shikloper, a Russian alphorn player (?!) - intriguing stuff!!

Arkadi Shilkloper
Sergej Prokofjew
Symphonie Nr. 1 D-Dur op. 25 "Symphonie classique"
Leopold Mozart
Sinfonia pastorella G-Dur für Hirtenhorn und Streicher
Peter Warlock
Capriol Suite
Arkadi ShilkloperFolk Song

There are still a few tickets available, you can reserve here.

Hollywood Comes to Düsseldorf!!! Halle Berry Films 'Cloud Atlas'

©Bernd Ahrens Photography

So who was in town last night?
None other than the gorgeous Halle Berry who was filming all night at a top secret shoot for her upcoming movie Cloud Atlas.
Photographer Bernd Ahrens and I joined just a handful of journalists and photographers as filming began last night at 11pm outside the Dreischeibenhaus next to the city theatre. Despite the rain, all were in a jolly mood as we watched vintage USA cars pass by, re-creating a 1970's San Francisco.

©Bernd Ahrens Photography

Just how great is this for the city? Following filming in Spain and Scotland, Düsseldorf was chosen as the next location to shoot this movie which will also feature Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant. Coming up October 2012!

©Bernd Ahrens Photography

Rafael Aguirre Miñarro

Rafael Aguirre Miñarro plays as surprise guest on the 'We Love Music' tour

So how exactly do you respond when someone you've just met, says in a dark music club, 'you have to meet my friend .... he's one of the best guitarists in the world ....'?
A few days later Rafael Aguirre Miñarro offered to play his guitar on my sofa.
Time stands still when Rafa plays. 
You kind of see his hands, his facial expressions, the way he totally gets lost in the music he is creating and you do nothing but feel the sounds coming from his fingertips and sense absolute awe. And I'm not someone who uses that phrase 'awesome' much at all!
Defined as 'one of the most versatile musicians of his generation' it is not difficult to see why this charismatic young man is making huge waves around the music world.

Rafael spends much of his time on planes jetting around the globe from one concert hall to the next. Next March his crazy itinerary includes the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York. When he played Carnegie Hall in 2010 he was obliged to give four encores, in Sao Paulo earlier this year nine encores!!!!
2011 has been an extraordinary year for me. I've met so many wonderful, wonderful people in this Eurovision year but Rafael has, without a doubt, a very special place amongst all the memorable characters that have passed through my life these past 12 months.

'We Love Music' guests are intrigued!
I'm privileged to say he has become my friend and along with his peers from the Robert Schumann School of Music, Luis Regidor (who won second prize for voice at this year's Montreaux Jazz Festival) and Mircea Stefan Gogoncea (winner of the Schmolz and Bickenbach 2011 competition, which Rafael won in 2007 as the first guitarist ever) and numerous other students and teachers of the school, RhineBuzz has grown into a group that includes some of the most gifted young musicians of our time. I truly am spellbound by this. If he is in town Rafael sometimes guests for us on the 'We Love Music' tour. Sitting on a park bench nearby we are delighted to introduce him as he suddenly takes out his guitar to the absolute enchantment of our guests who are just stunned by what happens next.

Tim D. Morand and I are treated to an one-on-one concert on 
Ratinger Strasse after the tour
photo: Patricia Baeza Céspedes 

Düsseldorfers have the extraordinary opportunity to experience this young musician, the Spaniard who has won the most guitar awards of all time, than any other Spaniard. On Sunday December 11 when Rafael plays in Düsseldorf at the Palais Wittgenstein. Tickets are just €8, as this concert is organised by the Department of Culture. You can only reserve tickets by calling 0211 89 96 294 or just be at the venue at 10.30am and hope for a ticket in this beautiful and most intimate hall. The concert begins at 11am.

I, and a whole bunch of RhineBuzzers will be there for sure!

I set up an interview for Rafa along with his professor Joaquín Clerch 
by BBC Radio Two's Ken Bruce during Eurovision week at Museum Kunstpalast 
©Bernd Ahrens Photography

Rafael Aguirre Miñarro on December 11 at 11am
Palais Wittgenstein
Bilkerstr 7-9
40213 Düsseldorf

Christmas Markets

©C. Ilsley Photography

Advent is just around the corner.  
The wonderful Christmas Markets in Düsseldorf 
opened on November 17 
and will remain glittery and inviting until December 23 
Mulled wine, gingerbread, potato cakes, burnt almonds, sausages and lots of other delicious goodies await us  - over 200 stalls of food and drink delights, plus crafts and gifts, including live demonstrations of glass blowers, woodworkers 
and metal smiths make for a unique Christmas atmosphere as only Germany can offer. 

Find your way around all the different markets plus information on 
transportation and accommodation here


Ute Lemper at the Tonhalle

The beautiful dome of the Tonhalle ©B Litjes

When Ute Lemper plays in London you'll be lucky to find a ticket. The German chartreuse has always been a great personal favourite, so I'm very happy that she is playing our Tonhalle tomorrow, Wednesday December 7 at 8pm.

This extraordinary German chartreuse has collaborated with iconic contemporary song smiths such as Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello to magnificent critical acclaim but it is her interpretations of Kurt Weil and Bertold Brecht that she returns to again and again. Her origins of Germany stay with her always despite her professional travels and personal choice of "home" which is New York City.
As she says herself: "I like to breathe and live inside the centers of chaos in the worlds of today and yesterday."
Tomorrow's programme reads simply beguiling when she performs "Lost Tango - An Hommage to Astor Piazzolla" which, as her website tells us, she plays with "the best and true Tango Musicians of Buenos Aires, partly the veterans of Piazzolla's original band".
Do I really need to say anymore?
Tickets available from the Heinersdorff Tickets
A concert I'm really looking forward to from long before my RhineBuzz days :)

Ehrenhof 1
40479 Düsseldorf

Kisses and Lies - English Theatre at the Tanzhaus

KISSES AND LIES PREMIERE 4. 12. - 5. 12. 2011 

DÜSSELDORF - The Sinclair Arts Theater Company present the world premiere of 'Kisses and Lies'. An original stage play written and directed by the Companyʼs founder and artistic director Colin Sinclair. 'Kisses and Lies' presents a fly on the wall perspective of six performers who have lost the meaning of friendship, loyalty and honesty.
The action takes place in confined space of the theater dressing room. As they prepare to perform on stage their already volatile and stained relationships become explosive.

Sunday 4 December is sold out! Tickets available December 5 here

Erkratherstr 30
40233 Düsseldorf