Gary Ryan June 2006

Gary Ryan

On a lovely early summer evening some 80 people were present at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park for a Tapas and Guitar evening.

Home made tapas and wine was served first, I particularly liked the chorizo and mushroom, followed by a recital by Gary Ryan lasting just over an hour, probably the perfect length for performer and listener.

The performance ran more or less chronological in terms of composer's date of birth and was started by Alsonso Mudarra's Fantasia X.

This renaissance piece started simply with an opening theme repeated an octave higher and then embellished with more complex chords and some simple harmonics. As the piece developed further it began to sound much more modern, almost avant garde, before returning to the original renaissance feel. Gary carried straight on into Dowland's Fantasia number 7 in Emajor not as described in the programme. It opened with a high single line intro developing into a very Dowland lute sound with an ordered structure and strong Gavotte rhythm. I liked particularly the way that Gary was able vary his tone at will without it sounding contrived. As with the previous piece the resolution of this fantasia sounded almost modern as it finally resolved in an Elizabethan manner.

Gray then introduce us to Mauron Guiliano a composer not the ex mayor of New York. Guiliano was a great fan of Rossini and was very influenced by his music. This particular piece, Grand Overture, was definitely a guitar version of a Rossini style overture and almost sounded like a min symphony as it was vaguely written in Sonata form. There was the traditional statement of the first theme with the guitar playing a duet with itself. At times I wanted to check there was only one performer present as the movement developed. It is such a shame that the guitar is limited by its number of notes otherwise we could do away with the orchestra altogether and enjoy the missing Scherzo and trio sections. That said the colour and tone brought out by Gary was superb and the performance deserved the applause at the end.

Yuquijiro Yochoch's Sakura Variations came next with the guitar being asked to mimic the Koto. John Williams made this piece popular and I can honestly say that this young man lived up to John William's standards as he embarked on a haunting solo reminiscent of the opening of the television series Tenko. The slow ponderous vibrato added to the eastern feel just before we entered a much more energetic section the tempo of which was calmed by some delicate harmonics. The feeling became much more guitar like fleetingly prior to returning using an unusual harmonic technique stretching the strings in the head to produce a vibrato effect which lead us back east to the calming but haunting close.

What a change as we entered the Tango world of Astor Piazzolla and his Verano Portenta. The hot sultry weather that we had been enjoying for the last week was perfect as the lilting South American Tango rhythm had me wanting to get on my feet, just as well I didn't as I have two left feet. The spirit of Piazzolla was captured in an almost lazy laconic way without dispensing with accuracy.

The evening was due to end with Gary's own composition, Scenes from the Wild West, and we discovered why a spare guitar had been sitting alongside him all evening. The first movement, Railroad, used an unusual tuning and the second guitar was brought into force. Although this was called Scenes from the Wild West I certainly heard echoes of Scotland and a Pibroch as we opened. This soon transformed into a banjo style and slowly but surely we moved from Scotland to America.

Back to number one guitar as we heard Across the Plain This started in a mysterious mood and developed through a Scottish catch by way of some inventive harmonics.

The third movement, West Coast Breeze, was a lively deep south fingerpicking style opening which developed through a square dance rhythm to a more modern upbeat sound to return to the square dance to finish.

The fourth movement, Rockweed, started dramatically leading to a haunting period which brought to mind all the movies we have seen with the Sheriff sitting with his feet up, hat back and smoking moodily with the tumbleweed rolling past the saloon and the sound of the railway horn in the background. Suddenly the mood was broken by a boogie woogie rhythm becoming more and more frenzied with interesting sound effects followed by the square dance being brought back to overlay the boogie and bring the movement to a finish.

The final movement, Rondo Rodeo was a straight forward hoedown that was only just short of a few Yehaaws and a caller. Gary told us that this was a fun piece to play and it certainly seemed it as well as extremely good fun to listen to.

All in all we were entertained royally and the insistence on an encore and long queues for CDs afterwards were testament to the quality of playing both technically and musically.


Steve Ledwick- Greenwood Classical Guitar Society