Kerstin Cornelis, "Lady Luck was shining upon me.”
English Translation © by Ineke and John
She runs her legs out from underneath her body for him, knows his plus and weak sides, knows which foods he likes best, and she is no threat to his wife. Kerstin Cornelis has for nine years been the silent force behind super star André Rieu. The pretty Belgian woman says in an exclusive interview with ©"PRIVE": "We’ve never had a hell of a fight" and "I sing totally out of tune, but André does not mind!"
The Vrijthof in Maastricht was for five concerts her work location. 55.000 cheering people, not a chair to be had. "At 9.30 AM I was already here running around in my sneakers". No one knows Kerstin Cornelis (41), but André Rieu would not know what to do without her. For nine years she has been his shadow, the buffer between the super star and the rest of the world when the orchestra goes on tour.
"I am not his secretary, but on tour I am his right hand ", says the blond Belgian woman who reveals details about her special relationship with the big orchestra leader in the book ©"The Boss, the boss" by Ria Harmelink, (published by Haystack) and in Privé.
No, André's wife Marjorie is not consumed with envy. She was not involved in the hiring process. "I met Marjorie for the first time after I had accepted the job. First I had a conversation with two gentlemen and they felt they needed to introduce me to André. When I met him for the first time, he had just returned home from his tennis lesson. He was still wearing his jogging outfit. We talked with each other for about 15 minutes I think, and then we were done. A week later I started the job.
I think it is important for Marjorie to know that her husband found someone he can get along with in his work. She is a wonderful lady, the other half of André. They do everything together, she is always there. They are like two peas in a pod. Marjorie writes his texts. Everything he says on stage is hers. That she does not always join us on tour is because she does not like to fly.
Most of the time Kerstin wears a black suit, in which she looks professional and secure and that is meant to be that way. "We give 120-130 concerts per year. Almost the entire year we are on tour. I need to create an image. André needs to concentrate on the concerts". She admits: "André is a handsome man with charm and charisma. He is a real romantic. That's why lots of women feel attracted to him. There are those that would want to crawl under the fences, but they don't succeed. Those ladies are removed in a proper way. André does not let that bother him. In fact the fans are his living. No fans, no performances. My intuition says that he secretly loves all the attention.
Contact with the press is not always pleasant. It touches her when they publish negative articles about her employer. Recently an article appeared on the front page of a German magazine, a picture of André arm in arm with Princess Mette-Marit of Norway. That was a Photoshop, because André had never met her. The headline insinuated that they had a relationship and I found it to be horrible. I was shocked, but André says, "As long as they don’t accuse me of murder or child abuse, I will not react. We know better!"
Kerstin, the mother of an 11 month old daughter, is seldom at home. The entire month of November 2008 we performed with a 60 person big Johann Strauss Orchestra in Australia. In December we toured through Holland and Belgium. In January and February 2009 Germany and France, in March a week in Japan, and in April, May and June two and a half weeks in North America. Next year we are going to South Africa and André also wants to perform on the North Pole. That is no joke. There have already been some casual discussions.
This is not a nine to five job. I think you have to be enthusiastic for what you are doing. Otherwise you will not survive. From day one there was a connection between Kerstin and her employer. That was for us the criteria to work together. You find each other in happy moments, but also when you are very tired. Emotions come to the surface. André can react very swift and decisive. You have to cope with that. No, we never had a drag out fight and I was never very angry in the way of, "Don't ever talk to me like that again…!" But there were moments when I had to swallow….. He notices that immediately and corrects himself by saying, "You are not angry are you…?" We know what we have in each other. When I am tired I can also be somewhat grumpy. André has a very direct side, but also a very soft side.
Thankful: "At first I was not going with the group to Australia. Two months prior I gave birth to my daughter Ayko and I was still nursing. I said: "I am not leaving her home for five weeks". André reacted spontaneous: "Then you will bring a nanny along on the tour". Everything went fantastically well. The flight took 23 hours, and not a peep.
A boss with many sides? André is not easy, but also not difficult. He is a perfectionist and a boss who demands respect. And therefore you can expect more. He is certainly open to suggestions, but when he has a certain vision in his head, he stands his ground, and when there are decisions to be made, he is really THE BOSS. But he'll never explode to anyone.
A lesser trade? André is impatient. He admits that himself. He prefers to have things done yesterday. I learned to cope with that.
Is it nice to have dinner with him? That varies. Sometimes he is text messaging or calling all the time when we are having dinner with the entire group. But he can also enjoy his meal very much. I always have to arrange the restaurants. André prefers Italian food, but he also likes Japanese or Chinese food. As long as it tastes good.
Is he a Burgundian? Oh yes, but when he has to perform that night, he takes that into account. He loves a glass of wine. Andre is a real lover of Bordeaux wine, but never too much. He is also vain, he does not want to gain weight.
Is it hard to give him a birthday present? October is the date again. No idea what to buy, he has everything. But two years ago I had a surprise for him. André loves the Starbucks caramel macchiato coffee. There is no Starbucks in Maastricht, but there is one in Aachen (Germany). My husband works in Aachen, so I called him to order a caramel macchiato and said, I'll meet you. At the border I took the still hot coffee from him back to Maastricht. You should have seen André’s face!!
Kerstin says she has a dream job. I was very lucky, I love this job so much, I am proud to belong and be part of the group.
Are you musically gifted yourself? I was raised with classical music, but I don't play an instrument and I sing totally out of tune. Last week I sang a song for my daughter. When I stopped she protested, I had to continue singing ...
Later I said to André: "This was the first time in my life that somebody asked me to continue to sing" ...
Article from weekly, "Privé" July 2009 Written by: Barbara Plugge Photography by: Albert Den Iseger and ANP. Translated © by Ineke and John