Afternoon Tea with Pianist Extraordinaire- Ralston Van Der Schyff

Read our interview with South African Pianist and Composer Ralston Van Der Schyff in our latest feature.

Ralston, an artist known for his jazz and classical compilations performs evert Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the exclusive Harrods Team Rooms in Shanghai.

We are delighted to speak to Ralston about his experience playing an Edelweiss, how the crowd have reacted in Shanghai and how he decides on his repertoire.

What brings you to Shanghai?

I came to Shanghai in September 2005 and was part of a Trio band at The Hilton hotel for seven years.

Last year, September 2021, I was recommended and then invited by Harrods Tea Rooms to perform for their afternoon tea. They officially opened in November and I started performing there from December, for 4 afternoons every week.

You have performed in theatres, at concerts and events.  How does playing at the Tea Rooms compare?

Besides musical ability, they needed someone who could perform at an ‘easy on the ear’ volume consistently. I do find intimate events enjoyable, but only if there is an acoustic piano, and also, I can be in more control of the ambient sound. Also, I can randomly choose songs as opposed to sticking to a certain setlist for a concert.

What are your thoughts on the Edelweiss Harrods Piano?

The Edelweiss baby grand-pianos are great for small-spaced venues.

The Edelweiss Sygnet, in particular, has a good bass-response considering the shorter bass strings and crisp sound in the upper register. The ivories are not too heavy and don’t cause fatigue on the wrists.

The butterfly design is really polished and stylishly sophisticated.

How do you go about choosing suitable music to play at afternoon tea at such an exclusive location?

I choose music from suitable genres and play it in a style befitting the venue. There are so many songs to choose from; the difficulty is choosing just one! My choice depends entirely on the room acoustics and ambience. For example, if the room is really quiet, I’ll choose any suitable song and play it in a slow stride-piano and sparse notes; if the room gets noisy, I can take the same song and play it abit louder in a classical arpeggio-driven piano style.

If you had to choose one piece of music for the Harrods Tea Rooms, what would it be and why?

I would say songs from two musicals, “Tea For Two” from the musical “No, No Nanette” because it’s high tea, and then segway into “Edelweiss” from the musical “The Sound Of Music” because I’m playing an Edelweiss piano

Listen to Ralston playing at the Tea Rooms here or see more about his music, composing and current projects here.

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