The sounds of lively and traditional Irish tunes filled Morgan Auditorium as Michael Ryan and Friends presented “Spirit of Ireland” as they were joined by dancers from the Larson Academy of Irish Dance and performed to a packed room on Saturday.
The group was brought together by Adjunct Professor of Music Michael Ryan, who collaborated with the Claremont-based Irish rockabilly band Craic Haus and other local musicians he has played with over the years.
Although Ryan joked on stage that he was the only performer with an Irish last name, the group of talented and vivacious musicians put on a show worthy of any Irish celebration.
“Irish music is so varied, from quiet, majestic Celtic to the lively contemporary pub songs,” Ryan said. “They are just fun and you also get some really great songs with beautiful poetry.”
Throughout the night the band played a variety of songs, from gorgeous traditional tunes about love and patriotism to upbeat takes on beloved songs like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Galway Girl” from the movie, “P.S. I Love You.”
The audience was fascinated to see and hear the wide array of instruments on stage which included guitars, a flute, mandolins, a penny flute, various percussion devices, a keyboard that served as an accordion and a huge stand-up bass.
Gabrielle Ontiveros, senior speech communications major, said she saw Michael Ryan and Friends perform before at the Candlelight Pavilion in January and wanted to watch their show again.
“I like the fact that they brought Irish traditions here,” Ontiveros said. “I liked the dancers a lot too because they have a really good rhythm, it’s not like regular tap dance.”
One of the dancers, 22-year-old San Dimas resident Tasha Straszewski, said that Ryan found her at the Larson School of Irish Dance and she has been dancing with the band ever since.
Although Straszewski is not Irish, she has been performing river dance for 13 years.
“I found out I like Irish dance from watching river dance,” Straszewski said. “I used to take lessons and I thought ballet was boring so I started to do Irish dance and I loved it and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Throughout the performance the large audience participated by clapping, singing and humming along. Ryan jokingly prefaced the Irish pub songs with a warning that the school does not condone drinking.
However those songs, particularly “Bottom of a Guinness,” were crowd favorites.
“My favorite songs were the Irish drinking songs because they’re funny and they make you want to sing along.” Ontiveros said. “During the show they all look like they were having a good time and it was definitely enjoyable to watch again.”
Marlena Mlynarska, freshman speech communication and political science major, said she was impressed by the band’s use of unique instruments.
“The show was captivating and incredibly entertaining.” said Mlynarska. “My favorite part was their rendition of ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’ They even threw in a line about Mainiero (Hall).”
For more information about upcoming Michael Ryan and Friends shows, visit michaelryanmusic.com.
Katie Madden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.