Emma Kok interviews Vrijthof- and Christmas concerts 2023.
The Limburger, July 14, 2023. By Pascale Thewissen. Translation by Ineke, edited by Alice Leung. After talent shows, Emma Kok (15) now sings with André Rieu: 'When she comes off the stage, she says: that was cool, tomorrow again'. Emma Kok (15) has traveled an unusual course. She won 'The Voice Kids', performs these days at André Rieu's Vrijthof concerts and she is an ambassador for people with gastric paralysis. She herself has been dependent on tube feeding for almost her entire life. She is well on her way to making singing her profession. Seemingly calm and confident, Emma Kok (15) from Kerkrade is performing for thousands of people these days during André Rieu's Vrijthof concerts and he has even asked her to join him on a world tour next year. In Maastricht, she sings the European Song Contest song “Voilà” with which the French Barbara Pravi took second place in Rotterdam in 2021. “Voilà, voilà, voilà, voilà qui je suis. Here I am, voila, this is what I am. Listen to me. Me, a beginning singer. Talk about me. With your loves, with your friends. Tell them about this black eyed girl and her crazy dream”. The text fits her like a glove. She has traveled an unusual path. As a child, Emma is bullied for being short and walking with a walker. The other children call her a leprechaun. She finds support from her sister Sophie, who is two years older and also her best friend. Because she did not grow well and normal eating is not possible, she has already undergone operations several times. When she was ten years old, she was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a stomach paralysis. She is dependent on tube feeding 22 hours a day, which she constantly carries in a bag or backpack. For a long time she had a hard time accepting her illness and everything that came with it. “But on stage I am not under the pump! I don't want that, because then the public's attention will be more on those pumps. The stage is my outlet. I feel at home there and I feel free,” she says in an interview with De Limburger. Portrait of the week Every week we present a portrait of someone who is or will be in the spotlight. What typifies him or her, what has been underexposed until now and why does that person do what he or she does? This week it is Emma. Go-getter “I am very proud of her and what she has achieved. She is a real go-getter,” says Anne van Goor, who also suffers from gastroparesis. The 19-year-old Meijelse met Emma a year and a half ago in the hospital in Maastricht. “It has a separate stomach, intestinal and liver clinic, where we both had an appointment. We already followed each other on social media, but that's where we met in person for the first time. Since then we have become good friends. We chat almost daily. She knows what she wants – especially being involved in music – and goes for it 100 percent.” When she was thirteen, she participated in The Voice Kids. She won the provisional last edition of the talent show. It's been going fast ever since. Emma Kok is asked to be an ambassador for Children's Research Fund Limburg and in this way tries to raise money for scientific research by the Department of Pediatrics at Maastricht UMC+. She will receive the Sjeng 2021 award for iconic musicians in Limburg. At the beginning of this year she also won the SBS TV program Ministars, in which children sing a virtual duet with their idol. In her case with Barbara Pravi. With the prize money of 25,000 euros, she set up the Gastrostars Foundation, for people with gastric paralysis and similar conditions such as a delayed or malfunctioning intestinal function. She sees it as her mission to raise awareness of the relatively unknown conditions and to generate more understanding for herself and her fellow sufferers. Warrior Her second single will be released in June this year. “Warrior” is about how life can be hard at times, but it will work out if you fight and keep your spirits up. She writes the song with Tjeerd Oosterhuis, who also produces her first single “Let me be a finder”. “It all comes very easily to her. When André Rieu says during rehearsals: maybe you should try this or that, then she has completely mastered it a day later. Very special for someone of that age,” says Frank Steijns, violinist in the Johann Strauss Orchestra. He has known the Kok family for many years. After all, Emma is not the only one in the family who is allowed to perform with Rieu. Her older brother Enzo (20) precedes her. He started taking violin lessons at a young age and in 2015 participated in the talent show Superkids, where he reached the final. It earned him the invitation to play with Rieu on the Vrijthof. Steijns: “He was still a little boy then. He sat next to me. He was about twelve years old and very touching. That's how I actually got to know the family. Emma is the youngest. She said: “I want that too. I'm going to sing”. Those kids really have a huge drive. Enzo recently graduated from the Amsterdam Conservatory with a ten.” He is regarded as one of the most talented violinists of his generation. “What is also very nice, is that the children really want it themselves. Talented children often pass by the Johann Strauss Orchestra. Not infrequently you see their parents pushing and shoving them. This is not the case at all with Nathalie and Vico Kok, the parents of Enzo and Emma. I've never felt their pressure in all the years I've known them. Those parents have three terribly talented children. They give them all the space they need to develop. They facilitate it, so to speak. In addition to Enzo and Emma, there is also Sophie. She prefers to stay in the background. I think she will study law, but she also sings classically.” “Harmonie” (a marching band) Music always played an important role in the family. “My husband and I got to know each other at Harmonie Sint Jozef Kaalheide (a band). We sat across from each other. He played the clarinet and I played the oboe”, mother Nathalie laughs. Emma initially started with violin lessons. "It didn't go too bad for her. But when Sophie started singing in the youth choir here in Kerkrade, Emma really liked that too. Then she went there. One thing led to another. She wanted to take singing lessons and participate in The Voice Kids. We thought: you will never hear anything about that again. But she won. Of course that was crazy. Then suddenly we received a phone call from Pierre Rieu, André's son, asking if she wanted to perform during the concert series on the Vrijthof. She immediately said yes.” On concert days, the family leaves Kerkrade for Maastricht around five in the afternoon. “And after her performance, in the interval, we come home. Otherwise it will be much too late.” She extremely likes it herself, all those performances. “When she is done and comes off the stage, she says: that was cool, tomorrow again." Fortunately, her school – she attends pre-vocational secondary education, the Waldorf School in Heerlen – was not a problem. “The test weeks are over, so it was no problem.” In September of this year she will be in Ahoy with stylist and presenter Fred van Leer. “Emma is a fantastic singer. So young, and already such a hell of a voice. I love it! Besides, Emma deserves a big stage and I'm glad we can give her that with “Fred & Friends.” Despite her medical condition, Emma continues to follow her passion. She is an example for young and old", he writes on his website. Mother Nathalie: “She enjoys it intensely. She wants to tell her story. And she does so in an incredibly beautiful and emotional way. As parents, we are very proud of that.”
The Telegraph, by Richard van de Crommert. July 21, 2023 Emma Kok (15) is allowed to go on tour with André Rieu: "I forget my illness while singing" André Rieu will give his now traditional Vrijthof concerts for three more days this year. One of the magical moments is without a doubt the performance of the fifteen-year-old singer Emma Kok who interprets the song Voilà by the French singer Barbara Pravi in an angelic way. She knows how to steal all hearts. Her performance is so successful that the next adventure is already beckoning. The orchestra master has now asked her to join him on a world tour from January: in Europe, to Bahrain and to South America. The Voice Kids Emma has managed to put herself in the spotlight in recent years. In 2021, when she was thirteen, Emma won the last edition of The Voice Kids on RTL TV. Less than a year later, the Limburg nightingale appeared in Mini Stars, another talent show, but on SBS TV. She won too. It is not the first time that Emma has performed the song Voilà. “Because I sang Voilà at Mini Stars, Pierre Rieu, André's son, called me and asked me if I wanted to sing a song during his Vrijthof concerts. Of course I wanted to. André is an icon.” The French language did not immediately come easy to her. “You have to practice for a long time before you can sing a song in French by heart. My French is bad. I know some words, but not many. I wrote everything down phonetically and paid close attention to how Barbara Pravi pronounced everything. Then it worked.” Every evening there are 12,500 people on the Vrijthof. “The first time we rehearsed, it felt very magical. The orchestra has made a fairytale version of the French song, with a lot of strings in it. They really bring it to the next level.” Black dress Emma is standing there in a fabulous long black dress. “Four dresses were made for me and I immediately saw that this was the one. André thought the dress should be black and dramatic, made of French black lace. When I wear it, it feels like I'm going to a ball. I feel very powerful in that dress.” Now she is confident on stage, but it wasn't always that way. Emma has had years of struggle, she was bullied a lot in primary school because of her stunted growth. The singer measures 151.2 centimeters. "In primary school I was called 'little one' or 'gnome'." she says. Emma was left out a lot and felt lonely. Rare disease Furthermore, the 15-year-old nightingale lives with a rare stomach disease, gastric paralysis, which means that she is tied to a tube for all her nutrition 22 hours a day. In the Netherlands, approximately 1200 people suffer from gastroparesis. Emma is open about it and has tremendous mental strength. “I am always chained, day and night,” she says. “Normally getting up in the morning or running to the front door when the bell rings is just not possible, because then I immediately have to take my bag with the tube feeding. In primary school I walked around with a children's walker and I was called 'grandma'. It has made me lose confidence in myself and in other people.” Her singing career has progressed quickly. When she started the adventure with The Voice Kids, Emma was still insecure about her voice. I didn't know if I could sing and I only just had five singing lessons. But from the blind auditions, her first performance, all four coaches' chairs turned. Since then her career has gained momentum, with the Vrijthof concerts as the absolute highlight. “It was actually kind of a joke to sign up for The Voice Kids. We thought we'd never hear anything of it again. There are probably thousands of children signing up. But suddenly I was allowed to show up and we went to Hilversum. I had never met anyone famous. My parents went along. They watched nervously from behind a screen.” Since then, the Limburger has been full of plans and she wants nothing more than to sing. “When I perform, I disconnect the probe. And that is liberating. While singing I forget my illness.”
Photo credits: Marcel van Hoorn and Han Scheuerman.
August 9, 2023. Guest star Emma Kok and André Rieu go viral!! During André Rieu’s Vrijthof concert series, July 2023 in Maastricht, 15-year-old Emma Kok covered Barbara Pravi's song “Voilà”. The images on YouTube have now been viewed more than 2,5 million times. In 2021, Barbara Pravi won the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of France with the song. On YouTube, Emma's version during André Rieu's concert is praised. Viewers indicate, among other things, 'I had goosebumps during her entire performance' and 'I didn't understand a word, but I cried like a baby when I saw this'. Emma Kok won the tenth season of “The Voice Kids” in 2021 and at the beginning of this year she also won the SBS6 TV-program “Ministars”. Barbara Pravi is impressed by Emma. On Instagram she calls the video 'amazing' and 'sensational'.
Duration: 7 minutes.
Meeting fans at a “Meet and Greet”
Telegraaf/Privé, August 9, 2023. Emma reveals: this is how I met André Rieu.
English translation of the French song “Voila”. Listen to me Me, the wannabe singer Talk about me To your loves, to your friends Tell them about this girl with black eyes and her crazy dream Me, what I want is to write stories that reach you That’s all Here, here, here, here I am, Here I am even if stripped naked I am afraid, yes Here I am in the noise and in the silence Look at me, or at least what’s left Look at me, before I hate myself What to tell you, that another’s lips won’t tell you It’s not much but all that I have I drop it there, that’s it Here, here, here, here is who I am, Here I am even if stripped bare it’s over It’s my mouth, it’s my cry, here I am too bad Here, here, here, here I am my dream, my desire, like I’m dying, like I laugh at it Here I am in the noise and in the silence Don’t go, I’m begging you stay a long time It may not save me, no But to do without you I don’t know how Love me as we love a friend who goes away forever I want us to love me because I don’t know how to like my outlines Here, there, here, here I am, Here I am even if exposed it is finished Here I am in the noise and in the fury too Look at me, finally, and my eyes and my hands All that I have is here, it’s my mouth, it’s my cry Here I am, here I am, here I am Here I am, here I am, here I am.
French lyrics: [Couplet 1] Écoutez-moi, moi, la chanteuse à demi Parlez de moi, à vos amours, à vos amis Parlez-leur de cette fille aux yeux noirs et de son rêve fou Moi, c'que j'veux, c'est écrire des histoires qui arrivent jusqu'à vous C'est tout [Refrain 1] Voilà, voilà, voilà, voilà qui je suis Me voilà même si mise à nue, j'ai peur, oui Me voilà dans le bruit et dans le silence [Couplet 2] Regardez-moi, ou du moins ce qu'il en reste Regardez-moi, avant que je me déteste Quoi vous dire, que les lèvres d'une autre ne vous diront pas ? C'est peu de choses mais moi tout ce que j'ai, je le dépose là Voilà [Refrain 2] Voilà, voilà, voilà, voilà qui je suis Me voilà même si mise à nue c'est fini C'est ma gueule, c'est mon cri, me voilà, tant pis Voilà, voilà, voilà, voilà juste ici Moi, mon rêve, mon envie, comme j'en crève, comme j'en ris Me voilà dans le bruit et dans le silence [Couplet 3] Ne partez pas, j'vous en supplie restez longtemps Ça m'sauvera p't'être pas, non Mais faire sans vous, j'sais pas comment Aimez-moi comme on aime un ami qui s'en va pour toujours J'veux qu'on m'aime, parce que moi je sais pas bien aimer mes contours [Refrain 3] Voilà, voilà, voilà, voilà qui je suis Me voilà même si mise à nue c'est fini Me voilà dans le bruit et dans la fureur aussi Regardez-moi enfin, et mes yeux et mes mains Tout c'que j'ai est ici, c'est ma gueule, c'est mon cri Me voilà, me voilà, me voilà Voilà, voilà Voilà, voilà Voilà
More about the 2023 Vrijthof concerts, click the menu button of “Maastricht 2023”.
August 14, 2023. Duration of the video: 20 minutes. This is a YouTube video by “KarisMa Performing Arts” from Johannesburg, South Africa. Johan Bester is the founder and director of this YouTube Channel. He is a professional vocal coach and he analyses Emma’s song “Voila”. He writes: “I am so grateful that this video popped up in my YT feed yesterday! What a delightful young performer we have here... So pure, so focussed, such a gifted performer! Join me as I discuss what made this performance of hers so special.
August 22, 2023: Latest news: Emma will join the Christmas Concerts in the MECC, on 9, 10, and Fri. 15, Sat. 16 and Sun. 17 December 2023.
October 24, 2023. The Limburger, by Jules Coenegracht. Photocredits by Marcel van Hoorn. Translated by Ineke, edited by Diana D. Le André Rieu and Emma Kok, authentic and uninhibited In case you didn't know: André Rieu is a world-famous violinist and orchestra leader, and fifteen-year-old Emma Kok is well on her way to becoming a world-famous singer. Especially after her rendition of the song “Voilà”, last summer during Rieu's concerts at the Vrijthof in Maastricht, viewed millions of times online. The day after André's birthday, on October 2, they gave their first joint interview. We would like to take away one scoop from this for you: they were both born in Maastricht. And, oh yes, they will go on a world tour together in 2024. To get ahead of the storm: yes, Emma is from Kerkrade, she has lived in that city all her young life. But she was born in Maastricht, just like André Rieu. Playing was fun, but studying….. When Emma was six, she started playing the violin, following her brother. She liked playing, but studying... Her sister sang in a choir, so she tried that and she liked it. So good that she took singing lessons. A month after she started those singing lessons, she signed up for “The Voice Kids”. “That was out of boredom. It was corona time and I had nothing to do, so I signed up.” The rest is history, you could say: the then thirteen-year-old Emma won“The Voice Kids” and then also the TV program “Ministars”. André Rieu: “I was having my face made up for a concert when my son Pierre showed me a recording of “Ministars”. I said, 'Wow! Bring her on'." World stars Question for Emma: It seems like you became a global star overnight. Does it feel that way too? “Well, world star is a big word. I'm experiencing a lot now, which is very cool. It still needs to sink in a bit, I think. The moment of realization has yet to come. But that is the goal: to become a world star.” The latter comes out authentic and unapologetic, without swagger. Just as the answer to the question of whether they will go on a world tour with André Rieu is exciting. Exciting, of course, but also exciting in the sense of a little scary? “Exciting... I'm really looking forward to it. I'm very curious to see what it will be like, you just have to let something like that come to you.” Laughing: “It's fine!” André: “She doesn't say it herself, but Emma is well on her way to becoming a world star. She knows that, I told her that. Why do I think that? When she is on stage, you see and hear why.” André Rieu himself hardly knows any better: he has enjoyed worldwide fame for so long. “I can put that into perspective. Putting it into perspective is one of the most important things in life. When I come back home from a concert in Toronto, I just go to the local supermarket here and buy cheese. I love that and no one bothers me. There is of course a business side to it: the more people know me, the more tickets are sold for my concerts. But otherwise: fame is in people's heads. It is what it is." “We were all crying” Preparations for André Rieu's Christmas concerts are in full swing, Emma will also sing there. What is she going to sing? Emma looks questioningly at André: “Can I say it? I sing ‘Voilà’ and two Christmas carols.” André: “And she sings it very beautifully. We rehearsed them and then we were all crying.” Emma's mother Nathalie, also present at the conversation, laughing: "Don't ask me anything." André: “Yes, she does that very nicely.” Emma's mother is also going on a world tour and when it comes to school, Emma says firmly: “Yes, I can combine that. I'm going to the Worldschool.” The Worldschool offers distance education to children abroad. Shuffling on the dance floor In June this year, Emma released the song “Strijder” (Warrior) which she wrote together with Tjeerd Oosterhuis, Trijntje's brother (Trijntje is a well-known Dutch singer). In a studio session they came up with the melody together and they also wrote the lyrics together. André Rieu's new album will be released in November. It's called “Jewels of Romance” and it contains songs like “The Sound of Silence” and “Nights in White Satin”. Why this album? “It's almost all music from the 60s, the music we were shuffling to in a youth hostel at the time.” And, surprise for both André and Emma: Emma's mother Nathalie's favorite song is also included: “Everything I do, I do it for you” by Bryan Adams. Nathalie Kok: “That was dad’s and my song from our first date.” Emma: “Ohhh…” Seriously working André Rieu is not 15, he just turned 74. Concerts, world tours, how does he keep that up? André Rieu, dryly: “I exercise every day. With a trainer, for an hour. Not just anything, but strength training with weights.” Anyone who seriously wants to see the maestro at work can find the video that his son Pierre posted there on his Facebook page using the keyword “fitness”. Voilà, a strong ending.
More about Emma Kok and her first concert of the world tour with André Rieu, the New Year’s Concert in the Ziggo Dome on January 6th, 2024. Click HERE.
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