Composer Bill Ryan is well known for his founding of the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble in 2006, and their acclaimed recordings and success profiled by national media. The focus returns to his own work with the January 29 release of “Towards Daybreak,” a second CD from his ensemble Billband. An NPR Music columnist included the CD in a recent article, “In January’s Drought, Three Albums Worth Waiting For.”
Billband will give a free public performance at Grand Valley on Saturday, February 2, from 8-9:30 p.m., in the Dance Theatre, 1600 Performing Arts Center, Allendale Campus. Ryan and Billband will also celebrate the CD release at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on February 10.
“Towards Daybreak” (Innova) includes 8 tracks engineered and co-produced by Grammy-winner Silas Brown. It blends the precision and craft of the best minimalism with the humanistic interplay of a small chamber group. It also reflects on some very personal experiences in Ryan’s life, from the birth of a child to the sudden loss of his parents.
The recording is bookended by a pair of elegies. It opens with Simple Lines, in memory of Ryan’s father who died of cancer, and ends with a live version of Blurred, written after his mother died in an automobile accident. Throughout the disc, Ryan compels attention through the cunning opposition of elements, from hesitancy and forward motion, to somber tonalities and playful rhythms.
Ryan said that a lot has happened since the 2004 release of “Blurred,” his previous record with Billband. “This new CD draws deeply from my experiences of loss and grieving, but it is also a celebration, an appreciation and a thank you,” Ryan said.
Billband currently includes cellist Pablo Mahave-Veglia and saxophonist Jonathon Nichol, also faculty members from Grand Valley, in addition to cellist Ashley Bathgate, pianist Vicky Chow, violinist Todd Reynolds, bass clarinetist Michael Lowenstern and percussionist David Cossin of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Cellist Paul de Jong, formerly of The Brooks, appears as a special guest. Billband members have an astonishing list of performing credits, including working with Sting, Yo-Yo Ma, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Blue Man Group, and the Steve Reich Ensemble, among others.
For more information about the concert, visit www.gvsu.edu/music or call (616) 331-3484.