Biography

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, and its this reputation that has been part of his musical identity.  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.

Ralston singularly composes, records and produces his own music in various genres including jazz, classical, pop, contemporary, gospel and of course, South African musical infusions. In 2012 he released his first classically jazzical EP album "Red Lanterns" and the end of that same year the comical goema single "I Won't Be Home For Christmas Alweer! (A Cape Christmas Carol)". In December 2015 he released a new Christmas single titled "Rudolph Is Uit Asem", another comical goema tune. Both Christmas songs as well as "Red Lanterns" and "Audrey's Waltz" were featured on South Africa's Zone Radio Hill And Dale No Hoops Required showcase.

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 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 performs both as a solo act, as well as in various ensembles and productions.

SOLO ACT

At the beginning of 2013, he performed as a solo piano/voice act at the Hilton Tian He Hotel in Guangzhou, China.
"His skills are wide ranging, not only a great piano player but a well accomplished crooner in the Jazz and Blues styles of music." - Arron Gwinnett, Hilton Tianhe - Mar 2013

Immediately after his Guangzhou contract, he went to neighboring city Shenzhen to perform at The Langham Hotel's Duke's Jazz Bar.
"Jazz pianist and entertainer Ralston van der Schyff is a music genius and is now with us at Duke's." - Langham Shenzhen - Apr 2013

One of the highlights of his career came in December 2013 when he was invited to perform for Nelson Mandela's Memorial Service at the South African Consulate in Shanghai, China, where he played legendary pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's composition "Mannenberg" and other South African freedom songs.

In that same month, he was invited to perform at Nanjing University of Science & Technology where he played his original compositions "Audrey's Waltz" and "Water City".

Another highlight was when he shared the stage with one of South Africa's legends, the late Zayn Adam, while performing with the Glenn Robertson Jazz Band in January 2015.

THEATRE PRODUCTIONS

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.

Press Review: "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 - Aug 06, 2004

Press Review: "Ralston van der Schyff se klavierspel in 'Swart Koffee' is onverbeterlik..." (english translation: "Ralston van der Schyff's playing in 'Black Coffee' couldn't have been played any better...") - Karen Breytenbach, Independent Newspapers - Apr 10, 2004

Press Review: "...Van der Schyff se vingers wat rats oor die klawers hop - dit is die hart van swing." (english translation: "...Van der Schyff's fingers that effortlessly hop over the keys - that is the heart of swing.") - Marlize van Taak, Independent Newspapers - Aug 10, 2004

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

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.

Voorkamer

In September 2004, he performed as a duo act with vocalist Beverly Rinkwest at the Voorkamer Festival in Darling.

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!

Press Review: "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 - Feb 18, 2005

Rhinestone Cowgirl

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".

The Latino Cowboys

In May 2007, he got together with bassist Lionel Beukes, guitarist Dave Keifer and vocalist Maria and performed at the Shanghai International Music Festival in Shanghai, China.

ENSEMBLES

The Jazz Workshop Biggish Band

Back in 2001, Ralston had the opportunity to perform in his first big band ensemble called the Jazz Workshop Biggish Band, under the leadership of trombonist Jannie Van Tonder.  The band performed at various venues in and around Cape Town including the University of Cape Town, the Armchair Theatre in Observatory and the Cape Town Jazzathon at the V&A Waterfront.

The Blue Monks

At the beginning of 2002 he met saxophonist, Paul Salvage who introduced him to bassist, Deon Morris and drummer, Herschel Mair, and formed the jazz quartet The Blue Monks.  The band performed in and around the mother city at venues such as the News Bar in Long Street, Frieda's in Bree Street and The Crypt Jazz Restaurant in St.Georges Cathedral.  They also performed at festivals such as the Bastille Festival in Franschoek and at the Johnny Walker Jazz Impressions Showcase at the Green Dolphin Jazz Restaurant.

The Band Octave

At the beginning of 2003 he teamed up with bassist Edgar Syce, as keyboard-player for the band Octave. Edgar had been in the music entertainment business for years, and provided Ralston with numerous opportunities to perform at various restaurants and hotels in Cape Town.  The band also had a stint at the Cape Town Jazzathon at the V&A Waterfront.

Zoot Suits

In 2004, he teamed up again with drummer Herschel Mair, bassist Rob Stemmet, guitarist Andy Murray and vocalist Graham Burton, where they performed at various venues in and around Cape Town.

Passport Trio

In 2005, he teamed up with bassist Eldred Schilder and vocalist Beverly Rinkwest and did a 7-month contract at the Hilton Jing An Hotel in Shanghai, China.

Three's Company Trio

In 2006, Ralston was asked to stay at the Hilton Jing An Hotel and was joined by vocalist Tracy Town and bassist Lionel Beukes, where they performed in the Lobby Jazz Lounge for 3 years.  In 2009, Ralston's cousin and vocalist Lezil Hendricks took over from Tracy and the trio continued at the Hilton in the Penthouse Bar for another 4 years.

Sapphire Duo

Towards the end of 2012, Ralston met UK vocalist Davinia Vincent and performed at the Hilton Tian He Hotel's T-Lounge in Guangzhou, China for 3 months. He was again asked to stay behind and perform as a solo act.

The Keepers Of Swing Trio

Towards the end of 2013, he took a break from the hotel scene and teamed up again with bassist Lionel Beukes and American drummer Ronnie Williams to perform at Myth Jazz Bar in Nanjing, China. American vocalist Kokoh made a guest appearance at the bar for 1 month.

Four Generations Quartet

In 2014, the band at Myth Jazz Bar changed, and he and Lionel were joined by vocalist Helene Joseph and drummer David Parker, both also from South Africa, for a 6-month contract period.

Midnight Blue Duo

Still at Myth Jazz Bar, Ralston performed as a duo act with Lionel Beukes, until March 2015.