‘Spirit of Ireland’ is eclectic celebration of music and dance

Award-winning Irish folk dancers Bridgette Murphy, Lilly McAllister, Bethany Hutchins and Colleen Walker execute a stunning traditional dance in Morgan Auditorium on Sunday. The annual “Spirit of Ireland” concert showcased myriad Irish songs and performances. / photo by Chris Rodriguez
Award-winning Irish folk dancers Bridgette Murphy, Lilly McAllister, Bethany Hutchins and Colleen Walker execute a stunning traditional dance in Morgan Auditorium on Sunday. The annual “Spirit of Ireland” concert showcased myriad Irish songs and performances. / photo by Chris Rodriguez

Kamila K. De La Fuente
LV Life Editor

On Sunday the “Spirit of Ireland” concert featuring Michael Ryan and Friends, with other performers, played before a full house in Morgan Auditorium. 

Singer Hai Muradian performs an Irish drinking song in front of a packed house at Morgan Auditorium on Sunday night. The “Spirit of Ireland” concert was an evening full of traditional Irish songs that also showcased award-winning Irish dancers. / photo by Chris Rodriguez
Singer Hai Muradian performs an Irish drinking song in front of a packed house at Morgan Auditorium on Sunday night. The “Spirit of Ireland” concert was an evening full of traditional Irish songs that also showcased award-winning Irish dancers. / photo by Chris Rodriguez

Performers included father-and-son duo “Danny” on guitar and vocals; Dylan Oberbeck, on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Ken Soderlund playing guitar and mandolin; Hai Muradian playing the flute and penny whistle; Julian Johnson playing stand-up bass and singing; Mark Alfred on bodhran, a type of drum; and Kitty Tereszczuk, also known as Kitty Sycz, who sang. 

Part of the Sundays in the Morgan monthly concert series, the program was well-received with audience members singing along to some of the familiar tunes – in time for St. Patrick’s day. 

The program also included dancing and storytelling. 

Guests enjoyed bops like “Swallowtail Jig,” “Spanish Lady,” “Fields of Athenry,” “Four Leaf Clover” and more. 

Dancers in colorful costumes from the Tamora School of Irish Dance in San Dimas performed traditional Irish dance pieces set to “Riverdancish,” “Shipping Up to Boston,” “Coolies Reel,” and the Hornpipe Dance – a jig. 

“Once the show starts, that’s the joy of it,” said Ryan, professor of music at the University,  after Sunday’s performance. “It takes on a life of itself… the dancers, and everything. The uplifting feeling that I get from playing this music.”

Ryan added that sitting back and watching the dancers, he was amazed by their form and rhythm. 

Beth Gilboy attended the festivities to support her daughter, Keira Gilboy, and son, Conor Gilboy, who have been performing Irish dance with Michael Ryan and Friends for almost five years. 

“I just love watching them get up there on stage and doing what they love to do,” Gilboy said. Performing, embracing their Irish culture and getting to share their talents with the community.” 

Singer Kitty Sycz serenades the crowd in Morgan Auditorium during the “Spirit of Ireland” concert Sunday evening. The annual event presented traditional Irish songs and dances. / photo by Chris Rodriguez
Singer Kitty Sycz serenades the crowd in Morgan Auditorium during the “Spirit of Ireland” concert Sunday evening. The annual event presented traditional Irish songs and dances. / photo by Chris Rodriguez

“I love that the audience is able to participate with the band and sing along, it’s a wonderful venue,” Gilboy said. “It’s a great way to get into the spirit of the season of St. Patrick’s Day.”

Analiese Knight-Ward, a Claremont resident who attended the event, went to support her friend who danced in Sunday’s show. She said she loved the sing-along and audience engagement. 

At the end, musicians performed an encore piece titled “Black Velvet Band” before giving a final bow. 

Ryan founded the group almost 12 years ago. He said the defining moment in creating the group was when he played with Soderlund regularly. They wanted others who knew Irish music to join. Oberbeck and Johnson soon joined.

Ryan, who is half-Irish, earned his bachelor of arts music from the University of La Verne.

Johnson and Tereszczuk are also ULV music department alumni.  

“Music cuts across all cultures, and all people just love rhythm and melody,” Ryan said. “You can get people together and start playing music and there’s no politics anymore.”

Kamila K. De La Fuente can be reached at kamila.delafuente@laverne.edu

Kamila K. De La Fuente is a fifth-year senior creative writing and broadcast journalism major. She is currently the LV Life editor for the Campus Times. She is a dedicated broadcast journalist who is passionate about storytelling and community engagement. Devoted to a lifestyle of knowledge, service and vision, she is actively involved in her community as well as a fierce advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. She has previously served as an assistant editor and staff writer in Fall 2022.

Christopher Rodriguez is a senior photography major and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine.

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