Ensemble performs with zest and romance

Campus Times
March 8, 2002


by Anna Roy
Editorial Director

An evening of romance and intimacy was delivered as Michael Ryan and his multi-talented ensemble of friends played concerts both Friday and Saturday night in Dailey Theatre.

"With putting the concert together, I wanted to perform with these talented musicians," said Ryan, a University of La Verne part-time professor of guitar. "We played a variety of music, including a lot of world music, so everyone related to something."

Ryan, who is also a nationally known guitarist, songwriter and vocalist had the idea to put together the concert last summer.

"Most of the musicians have performed together in other situations so everybody knows everybody," said Steve Biondo, who also performed percussion that night.

Friday night, the venue was full of music fans. One couple in particular flew in from Wisconsin. The set went a little over an hour and a half and featured songs written by Ryan himself, as well as friends of his and other musicians.

"Michael Ryan has the ability to captivate the audience by his mere presence, but once he starts playing he brings everybody in the room to a higher level of energy," said senior theater major David Rojas who is also a former student of Ryan's.

The concert began with a song written by ULV professor Steve Kinzie, who shared with the audience his tremendous vocal talents as a back-up singer, as well as Tracie Governatori, also a ULV employee and Ryan himself. The song "I Love You" set the tone for the evening, as one of melody with classical guitar.

Throughout the night, Ryan continually addressed the audience candidly and praise his fellow musicians good-naturedly, much to the audience's delight.

Ryan was well accompanied, with percussionist Ron Powell, who left the audience in awe with his charismatic and sudden improvisational performance. In the middle of "Brazilian Rain," Powell began to balance a tambourine down his arms and body while at the same time

letting the audience in on the fun by giving them a rain stick and some noise makers. The sounds that evolved were earthy and soothing.

Rain was the subject of several songs, with Ryan and friends performing both "Brazilian Rain" and "The Rain is A- Fallin'." Love, the other main ingredient for the night, was in the air with Ryan performing solo his own rendition of a Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love" following the intermission. One light beamed upon Ryan and his treasured guitar during the performance.

The audience particularly enjoyed some of the Latin-themed songs of the evening. The first song was off the "Mission: Impossible 2" soundtrack and featured traditional clapping under a red backdrop to add to the ambiance.

Ryan's ability to swiftly strum each intricate chord during this entirely instrumental song was amazing. His hands perfectly moved with the sounds.

"Kind of a crazy tune," Ryan commented to the audience afterwards with a smile.

The concert, geared towards a mature crowd, also featured a classical and passionate Spanish style song, "Magalena," which helped to clearly demonstrate Ryan's beautiful ability to play classical guitar.

All of the musicians' talents were evident, as indicated by their ability to make the switch from genre to genre.

The concert featured blues, Spanish, country and Calypso. It ended with a catchy and nostalgic Calypso inspired song, "Easy Come, Easy Go", that left the audience begging for an encore. Ryan gladly obliged.

The concert was a good example of what the music experience should be about: song-writing, sharing, encouraging and performing songs together with a friendly

camaraderie of sorts. Also performing that night were guitarist Ken Sunderland, who was a solid right-hand man to Ryan throughout the entire concert, as well as the talented ULV professor of music Reed Gratz on synthesizer piano. Governatori, as mentioned above, performed vocals, Hai Muradian on flute, Mark Bollinger of the Candlelight Pavilion also on guitar and Sam Graham on harmonica.

The visible collaboration of University of La Verne staff and faculty members on this night of eclectic music proved a success.