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Andre Rieu waltzes his way to Nassau Coliseum

Dutch violinist Andre Rieu performs on NBC's

Dutch violinist Andre Rieu performs on NBC's "Today" at Rockefeller Center, Wednesday. (June 16, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

The "King of Waltz" is back in town. But he's playing a different tune. Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra perform "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." That's from "You Raise Me Up," Rieu's latest CD. Then there are songs of inspiration from "You'll Never Walk Alone," his other recent CD. Can you imagine "Nearer My God to Thee" as a waltz?

"Actually, that came about when we were touring Australia during the big fires," Rieu, a violinist and orchestra leader, said by phone from his Dutch home in Maastricht. A grandchild fussed in the background. "The money went to help the victims," he said, excusing himself to attend to the child.

"Where were we?" Rieu asked on his return. "We just got back from South Africa. We came home just before the World Cup."

Well, that's not where we were on his itinerary, but OK.

SHE RAISED THEM UP

Another disaster occurred just before the arrival of Rieu and his orchestra in South Africa. A former apartheid figure was murdered, allegedly by a black servant. The tension was palpable between black and white communities, Rieu said. "I decided to bring a black singer I found in Cape Town. I wasn't sure how this would go over with my almost all-white audience. But from the first note, she had them cheering."

The singer, Kimi Skote, will join Rieu and company for their latest U.S. tour, starting Friday at Nassau Coliseum.

Whatever the song list, waltz is still king at an Andre Rieu concert, where many of the musicians are women in colorful gowns. Though he renounces the crown - "others have called me the king of waltz" - Rieu has been enamored with that lush style of classical dance music since he was a toddler, listening as his father conducted. "He played them as encores. I could see the audience around me changing when they heard a waltz. Suddenly, they woke up and became human again instead of just listening so serious and stiff."

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Do this day, he finds many classical interpretations intolerable. "This morning, my wife and I were listening to classical radio. 'Oh, my God, you should play this!' she said. Change the tempo," Rieu recalled, thinking aloud to himself. "Now I'm glad to have the opportunity to make each night an evening the audience will never forget."

WHAT Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale

INFO $39 to $149; ticketmaster.com, 631-888-9000

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