Good Guitars make for a ‘Stringtopia’

Perhaps only orchestra directors and string players can fully appreciate the difficulty of performing the perfect plucking of pizzicato in unison. Newbies tend to be early or late on the beat, resulting in a mushy or scratchy sound for the overall ensemble.

Imagine, then, the problem of trying to synchronize the strokes of 180 fingers on 108 strings.  Yet Professor Jan Ryberg and his crew of 18 Richland guitar students pulled it off with near precision in their Nov. 22 concert in Fannin Hall. 

In a recital labeled “Stringtopia,” which was a shorter noontime version of an evening guitar show on the same date, Ryberg’s ensemble strummed works ranging from traditional Spanish to contemporary jazz.  It was for the most part a band of experts complete with seriously furrowed brows, a few tapping toes, a few bobbing heads, and several exhibits of the hair styles and colors that sometimes seem to be guitarist trademarks. 

Their first number, containing a definite Spanish flavor, was an arrangement of “Un Recuerdo/A Memory” by Cervantes. This was followed by three pieces of classical music by Prokofiev, Brahms and Shostakovich, which were adapted for guitar ensemble by Ryberg’s friend D. Kaemmerberg.  

Then Ryberg himself was featured playing his own arrangement of and variations on the well-known “Malaguena,” which he has dubbed “Surf Malaguena.”  Next came a fun version of “Cancion De Los Mariachis,” which included some spirited verses of almost undecipherable Spanish followed by a few clearly shouted “Oles!” and “Yahas!”  

The program ended by switching to a pair of electric guitars deftly played by Ryan Tamez and Tyler Davis.  Although the crowd was warned that their music might be a bit loud, it mostly wasn’t and instead included some intriguing “wa-wa” sound effects in the rhythm section as well as several smooth transitions into different keys and lots of agile finger work by both players.  This was the highlight of the concert and it received the enthusiastic accolades of the appreciative audience.