The New York Philharmonic orchestra performed two new works, Aye Ni Llu (Life is A Rhythm), by Very Young Composer, Isai Rabiu, eleven years old and Lajania, by Marisol Estrella, thirteen years old.
The two works were part of the Young People’s Concert, The Age of Music: Romantic, on Saturday, January 21, 2017, David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center.
The program celebrated composer Antonin Dvorak and New York Philharmonic played selections from Symphony No. 9 E-flat minor, Opus 95, Symphony of the New World. The afternoon concert was a success. The program engaged the full house of children and adults. The production was written and directed by Kevin Del Aguila, Theodore Wiprud, Host/Narrator, Kenneth Overton, Baritone and Brent Bateman, Actor. Mr. Bateman portrayed an enlightening and entertaining Dvorak. Mr. Overton, sang beautifully Dvorak haunting melody Going Home.
In celebrating the music of the New World, America, the program made a point of stating that the authentic and true music of the America has roots in African American music, the spirituals. The narrator pointed out to the audience that Harry T. Burleigh a student of Dvorak introduced him to the spirituals. The influence of spirituals on Dvorak can be heard in the melody of Going Home from the New World Symphony. It was pointed out to the young audience, that yes, the roots of hip hop can be traced to African American melodies and rhythms of the spirituals.The concert progress and then the highlight, the music of the very young composers, Marisol Estrella and Isai Rabiu. As I sat there listening to Isai, standing in front of the New York Philharmonic talk about his composition, Aye Ni Llu (Life is A Rhythm), a young boy I have known and watch grow up, it was clear I was witnessing a child prodigy. I thought of just a year earlier during the Black History Month Program at St Paul Baptist Church, Harlem we listen to and celebrated Isai as part of the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers Program and we played the recording of his composition, Transflictional, that members of the orchestra played. As I stood with him on that Sunday in front of the congregation asking him questions, he was shy and reserved about speaking about his work. But, one year later on the stage of Geffen Hall with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, in front of a full house, he flawlessly articulated details about his composition, which included the special drum the Philharmonic brought in to play his new work. Isai stood there and followed his score as the Philharmonic played his composition. When the orchestra finished, Isai shook conductor, Joshua Gersen’s hand and received thunderous applause.
I ask Isai, what was the experience like to have the New York Philharmonic play your composition? He responded, “The experience of having them play my piece was exhilarating and it was really surprising for me to be able to write it and compose it and to actually be there on the stage. I kept asking myself ‘if this was really happening’ and once I realized that it was, then I remembered what I had to do on stage, like looking through my piece while they were playing it, and explaining my piece in the right way to the audience. When ask about his composition, Aye Ni Llu (Life Is A Rhythm-Yuroba translation ), he said, “In my piece I am trying to represent two things, Nigerian late party music, and that everything has a beat…” . Isai’s composition taps into his rich heritage, from his father Teofeek Rabiu and mother April Patrick-Rabui.
Isai is continuing his study of piano and percussions and performs in the Eastside Middle School Band. I have seen in just a few years the amazing talent, breath, scope and talent of Isai. The New York Philharmonic calls Isai Rubiu a Very Young Composer, I call him a child prodigy. I look forward to hearing more compositions from a gifted young composer, who at a 11 years old is speaking and telling us through his composition life is a rhythm.
Photo credit: 1( the author and the Isai Rubiu. 2) Isai Rubiu at school. 34) Isai Rubiu family members. 5) Isai Rubiu shaking hands with the conductor.