Profile: Tim Ravalde, organist, pianist, choral director and teacher

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

Inspiring teachers, fortunate opportunities, and varied musical experiences. I have had so many wonderful and brilliant mentors and teachers that I would struggle to name them all here; I have learnt something from all of them.

As for my  family background, my mother is a piano teacher and my father a vicar, so for me to end up as a church organist makes some sense. Three organ scholarships were significant opportunities for me: Carlisle Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral and St John’s College, Cambridge.

I can still remember Angela Hewitt and Peter Donohoe coming to give piano recitals in Penrith and Cockermouth when I was young. It is a reminder to me now that all performances are important, even if they might seem to be in the middle of nowhere. You don’t know who is there and what effect it might have on them.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Cathedral organists learn on the job: because the ratio of rehearsal to performance is relatively low, we can end up making a lot of our mistakes in public, especially in the early days. And no amount of solitary preparation can teach you how to accompany.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

In making music with others we have to sacrifice some autonomy; in return, we achieve things that are impossible on our own. Like in any healthy relationship, you have to listen in order to contribute.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

No. I find the achievements of the greatest composers completely incomprehensible: the work ethic, imagination, control, and persistence are beyond me. I most admire those who can engage heart and mind simultaneously: Palestrina, Bach, Brahms.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I can’t remember!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Practise: the standard expected of professional musicians, quite rightly, is high. Get as good as you can at sight reading: this unlocks many opportunities. Be flexible: play, sing, conduct, write, teach, improvise, compose, arrange, organise. You won’t be equally good at all these things, but you might be pleasantly surprised. Most viable musical careers are based on a variety of activities.

How would you define success as a musician?

Wanting to keep doing it.

What’s keeping you busy at the moment?

I’m always practising for whatever is coming next. Right now it’s Messiaen’s L’Ascension for a performance in Chichester Cathedral and after that it’ll be preparation for a recital in a few weeks’ time. Teaching is a constant, as is thinking about and taking rehearsals for Fernhurst Choral Society.

Since 2010 Tim has been the Assistant Organist of Chichester Cathedral where he is responsible for accompanying the Cathedral Choir for the daily services, as well as all concerts, tours, recordings, and broadcasts. He also assists Charles Harrison with the training of the choir.

He is a busy and experienced teacher of organ, piano and music theory, and many of his students succeeded in exams and auditions. He is the Organ Tutor at the University of Chichester, piano teacher at the Prebendal School, and also teaches privately.

Since 2011 he has been Musical Director of Fernhurst Choral Society, a large and busy SATB choir which gives regular concerts in West Sussex and Surrey.

He is a frequent organ recitalist, and has given concerts in numerous places around the UK, as well as in France and Germany. He is an experienced piano accompanist and has played with a large number of singers, instrumentalists and ensembles. He also appears on various recordings.

He gave the first performance of Terence Allbright’s Toccata for Organ in 2018 and recorded it in 2019. He made the first recording of Salve Regina by George Haynes in 2020. As organ accompanist, he has taken part in the first performances of works by Gabriel Jackson, James Macmillan, John McCabe, Philip Moore and Frederick Stocken.

 He was educated at the Nelson Thomlinson School, Wigton, and St John’s College, Cambridge, where he studied music. He has held organ scholarships at Carlisle Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral and St John’s, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.

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