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Who are Simon Ravens?

Performer? Teacher? Writer? Hillwalker?

From where I sit, there is only one of me. But depending on why you’ve arrived at my virtual home, you might be looking for Simon Ravens the choral director, writer on music, piano teacher or YouTuber; maybe even rugby writer or hill wanderer. (One individual I’m delighted to say I’m not is the deceased English novelist Simon Raven; if you arrived here looking for that singular person, try knocking on this door instead.) As for me, you’ll find out more about each Simon Ravens by looking in the rooms above. So I’ll keep this brief…


Photo of Me

Although my Mum was a pianist, my first experience as a musician was as a singer in Leeds Parish Church Choir (now Leeds Minster). In some dusty attic there may even be a tape of me as a soloist on Stars on Sunday. I studied music at Aberystwyth, where I imagined that the piano would be my main instrument. I was also a singer, though, and as an undergraduate I was asked to conduct the University’s Elizabethan Madrigal Singers. This led to a very happy 30-year diversion from the keyboard. After graduating, in 1985 I travelled to New Zealand, where I found some fantastic young singers and formed The Tudor Consort. At the same time my writing career started, when I became music columnist of the Dominion Sunday Times. New Zealand also gave me a taste for wilderness. Oh yes, rugby too.

Returning to Britain in 1990 I set up Musica Contexta, with whom I performed and recorded for 20 very happy, very successful years. I also began musical research work which led to my first book – The Supernatural Voice. Although my wider musical research and writing work has never stopped, gradually my practical focus has moved back to the piano - and later music. With my wife Caroline and dog Shinty, I now live in Ilkley, where I teach piano to aspiring youngsters.

Music aside, I’ve completed two very different rounds of the Scottish Munros, written a book on rugby, and generally tried to work out what I’m supposed to be doing here. And if I am supposed to be doing something, who’s doing the supposing?

Performing

Although you’re now more likely to hear the current me playing piano duets with pupils, a past me has founded and directed two successful early music choirs - The Tudor Consort in New Zealand, and Musica Contexta in Britain. With the latter I did a series of critically acclaimed recordings for Chandos, appeared regularly on the BBC, and gave concerts in Britain and Europe.

Teaching

A big, loved part of my current working life is teaching piano. My pupils are aspiring youngsters from all around West Yorkshire. Yes, they win their fair share of trophies, and enjoy exam success. But for me a bigger mark of success is how many of them enjoy their lessons at the time, and go on to be creative and engaged musicians – and lasting friends – later.

Writing

My Supernatural Voice book was an answer to a question I kept having to ask myself when I was conducting choirs: who originally sang the higher mens’ parts? And how? Exploring that whole topic led me from Ancient Mesopotamia to Barry Gibb. It also led me into wider questions of performance – and my current writing project Ear to Ear.

Videos

Then there is the me who appears on YouTube alongside an eager-to-learn Martian called Martha. ‘Ear to Ear’ is an ongoing video project in which I want to show how differently classical music was created, performed and received in past times – and how this might inspire us to change things up in the future.

rugby

A real joy of living in Wharfedale has been its rugby club. It ticks every box, from a community spirit like no other, to high attainment and entertainment on the pitch. Oh, and the most beautiful sporting venue imaginable. How come that a small Dales village has produced a club that competes on a national level? To try and answer that question I wrote a book about it…

Hills

For one of me, civilisation has always seemed a poor substitute for wilderness. I’m lucky to live within a half-hour run from solitude on top of Ilkley Moor. Holidays have always had me heading north across the border. My second round of Scotland’s Munros was done largely by avoiding standard routes to the summits. With my reports on some of these quirky expeditions I’d like to encourage others to look round the back of the scenery.

Where I work
Ilkley, UK
Contact via YouTube