INTERVIEW: Altino Brothers bring holiday spirit to Riverside Church

The Altino Brothers — Nerva and Robenson — will bring the holiday spirit to Riverside Church for a piano/choral concert. Photo courtesy of the Altino Brothers.

The Altino Brothers — Nerva and Robenson — have seen their piano skills catapult them to the top echelon of the music world. They have played Carnegie Hall, and now they are ready to bring their holiday-themed concert to the famous Riverside Church on Manhattan’s West Side. Helping to support their musical efforts will be the 100-voice Altino Brothers’ Concert Chorale.

The vaulted ceilings of Riverside will surely be ringing with the holiday spirit when the brothers perform “Hallelujah, Joy and Praise” Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.

“Fans can expect just about everything,” said Nerva Altino, whose family comes from Haiti. “There will be gospel, classical, traditional.”

Nerva said the evening can be challenging to program because there are so many excellent Christmas-themed songs. Deciding on the right one can be a chore. The evening will feature both the classics (“O Holy Night,” for example) and some original compositions as well. Each one will be accompanied by the resounding chorus of singers.

“If the music moves me, then I feel it will move people,” Nerva said about the selections he and his brother made. “I’ve selected some of my favorites.”

Of the highlights, Nerva said audiences will enjoy “O Come All Ye Faithful” with the full backing of the choir, and he believes Riverside’s acoustics are particularly “tremendous” for the set list. Add in one of the largest pipe organs in the world, which the brothers will play, and the notes should feel both triumphant and transcendent.

Beyond simply selecting the songs, the brothers have also rearranged many of the classics, adding their own flair to the well-known tunes. Beyond their piano playing, which can be awesomely furious and beautifully subtle, soloists will pepper the air with their powerful vocal instruments.

Riverside Church is an impressive stage for the Altino Brothers, but they are used to the pressure that comes with large venues. They have played both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and have enraptured audiences around the world. They are comfortable in these theaters and churches playing gospel and classical, all the while respecting the traditions of the original composers and adding their own uniqueness.

The weeks surrounding Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays provide a special time for the brothers to exercise their musical talents. “I love Christmas music no matter what form it’s in,” Nerva said. “There’s a kindness in the air. … People seem to be nicer, and music plays a role in that.”

The Altino Brothers have played many historic venues, including Carnegie Hall. Photo courtesy of the Altino Brothers.

The Altino Brothers have had an abiding interest in music ever since they were children. Their father, who comes from Haiti, influenced their passions and ensured that the brothers respected the art form. From a young age, they were tasked with appreciating classical music, and the interest never faded. Nerva remembers at 13 years old hearing a pianist play, and he and his brother were hooked.

“I’m living my dream now,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to tour the world, but I do have a lot more goals to pursue.”

One of the more immediate goals is for people to enjoy Dec. 9’s concert. “My goal is to have people leave happy,” Nerva said. “We’re all going through different things. … The concert will help people for a couple of hours, to focus on being moved by music. … I want them to feel the holiday spirit in their souls. I hope it moves them to tears and to laughs.”

By John Soltes / Publisher /

The Altino Brothers and the Altino Brothers’ Concert Chorale will perform Saturday, Dec. 9 at Riverside Church in Manhattan. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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