My 50th birthday present from Jo, Steve, Hannah & Megan was tickets to see Andre Rieu & his Johann Strauss Orchestra on his Love in Venice tour at the LG Arena at the NEC.
Martin and I had taken mum & dad to one of his concerts a few years ago, as a Golden Wedding Anniversary treat and we had really enjoyed it, so we were really looking forward to seeing him again.
Because of illness the concert had been postponed and we ended up going on 23 December, which was a really nice start to the Christmas festivities.
You may not think that this type of concert sounds very appealing or that 'cool', but I have to tell you ... Andre and his orchestra really do make classical music exciting, colourful and real good fun.
Andre is from Maastricht in Holland and one of the 50 things I'd love to do before I'm 60 is to go and see him and his orchestra perform there. They regularly perform in an outdoor square and I am sure that the atmosphere would really be something else.
Our evening started with a visit to our local Pizza Express for a pre-concert tea, followed by our drive to the NEC.
As we arrived and parked it started to rain so we jumped on the courtesy bus, which just happened to be waiting very conveniently, for a short drive to the Arena.
Although we were pretty early the place was already busy, but we did manage to sneak down to the front of the stage to take some pictures of the set, which just looked magical.
We eventually made our way to our seats for a quick selfie before the show began. I have to say, that from a photography perspective, selfies just don't really seem to be my thing!
The show started with Andre and his orchestra entering from the back of the arena to Seventy Six Trombones. This is always a real spectacle with the whole of the orchestra, in their finery, marching their way through the arena, waving their instruments in the air, to climb the steps to the stage and take their places for the concert.
Watching the orchestra closely is a real treat. You can really see the fun that they are having and the love they have for what they are doing. It is most definitely not a boring, stuffy, black and white kind of orchestra. There is lots of larking about, which really adds to the overall entertainment value, without taking away any joy from the music.
I will apologise now for the overload of photos. It was just so colourful and beautiful that I took so many and struggled to pick my favourites.
The concert is a real mix. The atmosphere goes from raucous singing, clapping and stamping to so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. The backdrops are stunning, changing regularly to reflect whatever is being performed.
There is amazing music and singing, lots of colour, fun and laughter, balloons, Santa hats and even snow! And of course, there is the waltz.
The concert finished with the backdrop zooming in on the LG through Google Earth from space, ending up with images of the city in the background - that was pretty darn impressive, I can tell you.
After the concert had finished, following lots of encores, we sat and reflected for a while, waiting for the masses to clear before walking back to the car. The concert had been spectacular and had really put us in the mood for Christmas.
If you ever fancy a look at one of Andre's concerts, he can normally found at some time on Sky Arts. We would both definitely recommend having a look.