South African-born pianist, Ralston van der Schyff's reputation for sophistication and uniqueness has been echoed by many audiences who have seen and heard him perform. His style of playing produces just the right sound that is easy on the ear, a sound emboldened with rich, sometimes unconventional harmony, and subtle nuances of melodies and patterns, transforming each song into an inspiring musical journey.
He singularly composes, records and produces his own music in various genres including jazz, classical, pop, contemporary, gospel and of course, South African musical infusions. Although mainly specializing in jazz, being anything from swing, blues, funk, Latin, African and any other sub-branches of jazz, his repertoire expands into other styles including rock, pop, contemporary, country, R&B, gospel and also classical. His years of experience, technical musical ability and passion enables him to play in any format, ranging from solo performances, duets (accompanying voice or instrument), trios to bands, as a pianist, keyboardist and vocalist.
So where and how did it all start?
Ralston first took piano lessons from his father at age around 7. He fondly remembers those "John Thompson" lesson books. At age 10, he went on to pursue formal classical training at the Battswood College of Music in 1986 through till 1994 with music teacher, Cheryl Wesso. During those 8 years he also enrolled in the Royal Schools of Music examinations through till grade 8, obtaining distinctions in his practical examinations. In 1995, he started jazz studies with Cape Town pianist, George Werner at the Jazz Workshop, after which he then pursued a business degree. In 2001, he resumed his jazz studies at the Jazz Workshop with legendary jazz pianist and teacher Mertyn Barrow.
Ralston undertook a different approach to his musical career. He wanted to be involved in as many projects as he possibly could; not just for the experience, but simply because he loves the excitement of doing something different. He decided to invest alot of his performance time doing resident contract gigs at various international 5-star hotel venues, festivals and intimate concerts, as an entertainer with artistic flair.
"His skills are wide ranging, not only a great piano player but a well accomplished crooner in the Jazz and Blues styles of music.
As an individual he is a true professional and will endeavour to work with you to make sure that the music and quality that is delivered is second to none. His time keeping and his presentation is outstanding with no problems just total reliability. Ralston is definitely an artist I would love to work with again." - Arron Gwinnett (The Hilton)
"Jazz pianist and entertainer Ralston van der Schyff is a music genius and is now with us at Duke's." - Duke's Jazz Bar (The Langham)
"Then with the help of keyboardist extraordinaire Ralston van der Schyff, goes on to prove it with 'Song Sung Blue', melding into 'Sweet Caroline' - much to the delight of the audience who sang along lustily on opening night - The aforementioned Van der Schyff is a highlight with the way he lovingly caresses those romantic notes out of the keys." - Bianca Coleman (Cape Argus Tonight)
"The trio of musicians, led by Ralston van der Schyff on piano, are a revelation together...They handle all the songs, not only with panache but with an unselfconscious flair that provides the backbone to the evening. Grandstanding entertainment." - Independent Newspapers
"Ralston van der Schyff se klavierspel in 'Swart Koffee' is onverbeterlik." - Karen Breytenbach (Independent Newspapers)
"Van der Schyff se vingers wat rats oor die klawers hop - dit is die hart van swing." - Marlize van Taak (Independent Newspapers)
"Ralston is a highly talented pianist and arranger with whom I've had the pleasure of working on a number of occasions." - Graham Jacobs (Bassist)
"Ralston is a consummate performer and musician. I had the pleasure of working with him on quite a few productions as a Performer and Director. He is a talented and professional artist who always puts his heart and soul into everything he does." - Glenn Swart (Actor, Vocalist & Director)
"Ralston has worked with me as musical director and accompanist on various projects since 2003 and I can wholeheartedly recommend him for any production. He is a consummate accompanist that effortlessly switches between musical genres, albeit jazz (virtuoso performer), classical, opera or rock.
His easygoing, laid back attitude, punctuality and friendly disposition makes him a pleasure to work with. Ralston cares about his work, is a perfectionist and an asset to any production." - Charl van Heyningen (Promoter, Producer & Voice Artist)
The First Lady Of Song
Towards the end of 2003, Ralston teamed up with drummer Herschel Mair, bassist Graham Jacobs and vocalist, Zolani Mahola (lead vocalist in the band FreshlyGround), with Geoffrey Going as sound engineer. Together they produced the jazz cabaret "The First Lady of Song - A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald", having sold-out performances at venues that included On Broadway Theatre in Table View, Evita Se Peron in Darling and the showcase Vodacom Sounds Of Summer at the V&A Waterfront. The show received rave reviews from various press houses.
Hooked On Swing
The year 2004 saw him team up with vocalist, promoter and producer Charl van Heyningen, vocalist Sarah Theron, Herschel Mair and Graham Jacobs again, where they did a once-off performance at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch. Vocalist Beverly Rinkwest took over from Sarah, where the show continued receiving rave reviews for their performances at venues in South Africa such as On Broadway Theatre in Greenpoint and the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn.
Later that year, Herschel left the show to take up residence in the US. He was replaced by drummer Keith Bauwer-Schmidt, and the show continued to make appearances at the Gariepfees in Kimberly, the Barnyard Theatre in Plettenberg Bay, Macufe Festival (DownStage Theatre) in Bloemfontein and the Windhoek Arts Festival (Warehouse Theatre) in neighboring country, Namibia.
In 2005, the show made another appearance at the Slaley Jazz Festival (Barnyard Theatre) in Franschoek, South Africa. Later that year, he went on to tour China.
In February 2011, Ralston returned to South Africa and the band got together again to perform the show at the West Coast Classical Music Festival in Darling.
Drift Away & Get Back
In 2004, he worked with vocalists Charl van Heyningen and Beverly Rinkwest, bassist Graham Jacobs again, guitarist James Kibby and drummer Roy Davids in the rock show "Drift Away" at the festivals Woordfees in Stellenbosch, and a year later in April 2005 at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn.
Woman In The Moon
The beginning of 2005 saw Ralston as musical director and pianist for the cabaret production "Woman in the Moon", directed by Glenn Swart and starring Ilse Klink from South Africa's television series "Isidingo", for which the show received rave reviews. The venue was On Broadway Theatre in Greenpoint, and on drums was Roy Davids and bass Jan Hough. Bassist Eldred Schilder also made a one night appearance in the show. Sound engineer, Geoffrey Going made the production sound even greater!
In July 2005, he performed as piano accompanist for UK cabaret artist, Christopher Green in the cabaret production "Tina C's Rhinestone Cowgirl" at On Broadway Theatre in Shortmarket Street, Cape Town. Let's just say this show was not for sensitive audiences. Sound engineer, Geoffrey Going was again on sound.
Romanza & Per Amore
Ralston also worked as piano accompanist for vocalist, promoter and producer, Charl van Heyningen in the operatic productions "Romanza" & "Per Amora".
Showcases & Special Events
- JZ Jazz Festival - Wuhan, China
- Nelson Mandela Memorial Service, South African Consulate - Shanghai, China
- Solo Piano Concert, Nanjing University of Science & Technology - Nanjing, China
- Yezi Music Arts Collaboration, Poly Grand Theatre - Nanjing, China
- NIC Christmas Gala, Shangri-la Hotel - Nanjing, China
- Blues Christmas Gala, Crown Plaza Hotel - Nanjing, China
- Bayer Celebratory Gala - Shanghai, China
- International Gold Mining Gala - Qingdao, China
- Bling Bling Shining Night Appreciation Dinner, The Hilton - Guangzhou, China
- Shanghai Slow Food Fund-Raising Event, The Hilton - Shanghai, China
- China Wine Challenge Awards, The Hilton - Shanghai, China
- Akzonobel Awards Ceremony, Le Royal Meridien - Shanghai, China
- Peter Buffet Celebrity Dinner, The Hilton - Shanghai, China
- West Coast Classical Music Festival - Darling, South Africa
- ATP Tennis Masters Cup, Qizhong Tennis Center - Shanghai, China
- Solo Piano Concert, Shanghai Normal University - Shanghai, China
- Shanghai International Music Festival - Shanghai, China
- Shanghai Musical Instrument Exhibition - Shanghai, China
- Memorial Service for South African Consular staff - Shanghai, China
- Freedom Day Gala, South African Consulate - Shanghai, China
- Diamonds Are Forever Gala, The Longemont - Shanghai, China
- Slaley Jazz Festival - Franschoek, South Africa
- Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees - Oudtshoorn, South Africa
- Woordfees - Stellenbosch, South Africa
- Macufe Festival - Bloemfontein, South Africa
- Voorkamer Festival - Darling, South Africa
- Gariepfees - Kimberly, South Africa
- Windhoek Arts Festival, Warehouse Theatre - Windhoek, Namibia
- Vodacom Sounds of Summer, V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre - Cape Town, South Africa
- Cape Town Jazzathon, V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre - Cape Town, South Africa
- Johnny Walker Jazz Impressions Showcase, The Green Dolphin - Cape Town, South Africa
- 1515 West Bar, Shangri-la Jing’An - Shanghai, China
- Jazz Lounge, Shangri-la Jing’An - Shanghai, China
- River Wing Lounge, Shangri-la Pudong - Shanghai, China
- Long Bar, Waldorf Astoria - Shanghai, China
- Jazz Lounge, The Portman-Ritz - Shanghai, China
- JZ Club - Shanghai, China
- Mariana Lounge, Crowne Plaza - Suzhou, China
- Nanjing University Of Science & Technology - Nanjing, China
- Poly Grand Theatre - Nanjing, China
- Myth Jazz Bar - Nanjing, China
- Duke's Jazz Bar, The Langham - Shenzhen, China
- Kaleidoscope Jazz Cafe - Cape Town, South Africa
- T-Lounge, The Hilton - Guangzhou, China
- Shanghai Normal University - Shanghai, China
- Penthouse Bar, The Hilton - Shanghai, China
- Jazz Lounge, The Hilton - Shanghai, China
- The Mount Nelson - Cape Town, South Africa
- The Arabella Sheraton - Cape Town, South Africa
- The Cullinan - Cape Town, South Africa
- The Peninsular All-Suite - Cape Town, South Africa
- The Green Dolphin - Cape Town, South Africa
- Kennedys Cigar Bar - Cape Town, South Africa
- V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre - Cape Town, South Africa
- Evita Se Peron Theatre - Darling, South Africa
- Warehouse Theatre - Windhoek, Namibia
- Downstage Theatre - Bloemfontein, South Africa
- On Broadway Theatre - Cape Town, South Africa
- Baxter Theatre - Cape Town, South Africa
- Barnyard Theatre - Franschoek, South Africa
- Barnyard Theatre - Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
- The Crypt - Cape Town, South Africa
- The Blue Monks - with Herschel Mair, Deon Morris & Paul Salvage
- Octave - with Edgar Syce & Carl X
- The Hanepoot Big Band - lead by Jannie van Tonder
- The Zoot Suits - with Graham Burton, Herschel Mair, Rob Stemmett & Andy Murray
- Passport - with Eldred Schilder & Beverly Rinkwest
- Three's Company - with various artists Tracy Town, Lezil Hendricks, Wilson Chen & Lionel Beukes
- Sapphire - with Davinia Vincent
- The Keepers Of Swing - with various artists Ronnie Williams, Al Gordon, Kokoh & Lionel Beukes
- Four Generations - with Helene Joseph, David Parker & Lionel Beukes
- The Glenn Robertson Jazz Band - with Glenn Robertson, Andre Henry, Fabian Frantz, Didier Richards & special guest appearance by the legendary, late Zayn Adam
- Midnight Blue - with Lionel Beukes
- Long Bar Jazz Trio - with Frank Bray & the late Donald Jackson
- 1515 West Band - with various artists - Frank Bray, Cherry Brown, Monique Hellenberg & Lionel Beukes
- Solo Act - with Ralston himself on piano & voice