John Rech, who has been in the opderschmelz building for 12 years and working with the town of Dudelange for 26, says he already had a clear view of the cultural centre’s objectives when he took on the directorship.
Dudelange’s opderschmelz already has established its reputation as a bona fide cultural centre. Delano’s Natalie Gerhardstein caught up with new director, John Rech, to talk about secret gigs, plus the centre’s plans for 2022 and beyond.
For some locals, opderschmelz has always been synonymous with jazz. It’s a reputation that has been years in the making: former director Danielle Igniti was what Rech calls “a major jazz fan”, but he praises François Olivieri’s role for promoting the first jazz concert in Dudelange’s town hall years ago. “It was normal for jazz concerts to find their home here, and we’d be stupid if we didn’t [continue that] because we’ve built up our jazz reputation over 25 years, almost 30 now,” said Rech.
Rech, who has been in the opderschmelz building for 12 years and working with the town of Dudelange for 26, says he already had a clear view of the cultural centre’s objectives and its commitment to service to its audience, as well as artists.
The team had recently been preparing for the 8th edition of the “Like a Jazz Machine” festival, which runs 16-19 May. This will be followed quickly on 15 June by the Fête de la Musique--which Rech says will be “mindblowing”--featuring Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Coronas, Ryan Sheridan, plus a number of local artists.
This year’s Touch of Noir festival, taking place in November, will have Tim Burton at its centre. Rech says there will be a conference about the American filmmaker held with Paul Lesch, director of the National Audiovisual Centre (CNA), which has its home in the same building as opderschmelz. In addition, an artist who arranges music from Burton’s films will participate in the festival.
Rech says the team is also working on a new literature show to take place two to three times per year, which they hope to reveal by year end. The language of the show would be in the language of the book being presented. The Kannerbicherdag (children’s book day) has also been a highlight, and Rech adds that more and more, opderschmelz is receiving request from new partners, like Lucy Goosey.
2022 and beyond
As part of Esch-sur-Alzette's reign as European Capital of Culture 2022, Dudelange will play an important role in the region. “We’ve developed some concepts for 2022 and have already been working on a specific project we’ll be presenting very soon,” Rech said. “We’ve also though about how we can invest in the period after 2022.”
One of the concepts is establishing a creative hub behind the CNA's Waassertuerm, which houses Edward Steichen’s “The Bitter Years”. Rech says the hub will be “different because we are bringing in amateurs, or semi-professionals, as well as professionals. We want different levels to meet each other and exchange.”
As part of the concept, Rech says significant efforts are being made into the environmental aspects of the hub. “We’re going to try to get energy from the sun and collect rainwater,” he says. “Very often people say culture is just expenses, but we want to show that you can gather the environmental part into the project as well.”
They are bringing in artists at the very early stages of the project so they can help craft the site. “It shouldn’t be just run from the top.”
Rech also has a few surprises up his sleeve, the next being a secret “Dudelounge” gig lined up for May. The “Dudelounge” sessions, which began last year, are in a more intimate setting, where audience members sit comfortably on sofas with cushions to watch a performance. The series, which sounds like a similar concept to Sofar Sounds, has already been successful, Rech said. “It’s the atmosphere of your sitting room, it’s a very intimate gig with 50-60 people, and the audience seems to love them…It becomes something very personal again, which art is to me.”
And Rech should know: in addition to his new directorship, he is continuing his music project, Dream Catcher. “I guess I’ll be doing it a little bit less, but I’ll still be playing concerts,” he said. “To be honest, I need it… I still have a lot of fun going on stage, and I’m surrounded by fantastic musicians.”
He also continues to write Dream Catcher comic books, collaborating with Andy Genen, who does the illustrations. The most recent was “Postcards from Luxembourg” (“Postkarten aus Lëtzebuerg”), written in two languages, Luxembourgish and English. Rech says, “Most of the time I write comic books on holidays, or when my brain is getting rid of all the stressful parts, when it’s ready to embark on a creative journey.”
Whether it’s writing songs or comic books, Rech says he likes how his creative work “allows my brain to wander off”. Whether it’s a nearby park or a visit to the mountains, “it only takes minutes to be off and away.”