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Young at art: Preteen pianist performs original opera pieces

The kid’s alright: 12-year-old pianist Julian Raheb will play several songs that he wrote himself at the Regina Opera Company’s gala concert on April 8.
Brooklyn Paper
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Here’s listening to you, kid!

A Park Slope piano prodigy will debut three of his original tunes at a concert with the Regina Opera Company this weekend. The Company’s 48th Annual Gala Concert on April 8 will feature a collection of famous arias, Broadway tunes, and the world premiere of three songs from 12-year-old Julian Raheb. The preteen pianist blooms while in front of a keyboard, said Regina’s chairwoman.

“He’s shy except for when you put him in front of a piano,” said Francine Garber. “The keys fly off ’cause he’s so skilled.”

Raheb has played piano with Regina before, but the concert this Saturday will mark the first time the company has performed the work of the junior composer.

His songs include a piano and flute duet, which Raheb will play alongside flutist Richard Paratley; a second piece with lyrics taken from the Langston Hughes poem “I, too,” with the pint-sized pianist accompanying soprano Courteney Wilds; and a third, orchestral tune based on the apocalyptic poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost. Raheb will also play a short piece by Chopin during the concert.

Raheb said he is most excited to hear his song of ice and fire performed by the company.

“I think the music I wrote really matched the poem,” said Raheb. “When I hear that poem, I can picture it in my mind.”

The first time he heard Frost’s poem, said Raheb, he was inspired to set it to music. His compositions begin with straight-forward tunes, he said.

“Usually I think of a simple melody, and then I harmonize it,” he said.

Garber describes Raheb as a “prodigy,” and said she was surprised the first time she heard his original compositions.

“I thought it was remarkable a young person wrote all that music,” she said, recalling the first time she heard his original songs. “For a young person, his music is quite interesting and melodic.”

She played Raheb’s music for the company’s orchestra without telling them who wrote it. They liked the tunes, she said, and were blown away when they found out that 12-year-old Raheb was the boy behind the notes.

Raheb, who credits Chopin and Bach as influences, developed his songwriting skills with help from the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers Program, according to his father Jeff. The younger Raheb dreams of someday playing solo in that famed concert hall, but said that for now, he is happy to finally showcase his own songs for a Brooklyn audience.

“I like other people hearing my music,” said Raheb. “I see what I accomplished and all the hard work I put into it.”

Regina Opera Company’s 48th Anniversary Gala Concert at Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help school auditorium (5902 Sixth Ave., between 59th and 60th streets in Sunset Park, (718) 259–2772, www.reginaopera.org). April 8 at 3 pm. $15 ($13 in advance).

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 5:46 pm, July 9, 2018
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