Allan J. Ryan in Performance
Excerpts from Archival Reviews

Once he steps on stage there is an explosive transformation. Suddenly his whole being is alive, outgoing, compelled by a driving energy that is born of a deep desire to communicate – to share his experience – to be vulnerable to others. His recent Rock Review was an event of rare communication.
–Tom Harpur, The Toronto Star

Ryan is a showman with a unique style. The audience couldn’t help but warm to the man.
–Mona Ferguson, The Ryersonian

Allan J. Ryan is a fine performer—he has stage presence and a lot of it. He also has a philosophy of entertainment, something to say, and the experience and talent to couch it within good music. His material has a great deal of variety in terms of mood and style, and his backup people deserve the highest praise. Their contributions were subtle, yet extremely competent and inventive. … His show was smooth, polished, flawless, and professional, and it was the most popular and successful event at the Festival.
–Doug Buchanan, The Campus, Bishop’s University

Ryan lived up to the moment, giving a superb performance. He has put together some striking material bridging the gap between his favoured medium of rock and roll and modern folk.
–Jim Smith, The Hamilton Spectator

The relationship Ryan builds up when he is on stage is so personal that you feel as if you should excuse yourself before leaving the room.
–Jim Clements, Kitchener-Waterloo Record

I couldn’t help making some comparisons of Allan to Lightfoot, Arlo Guthrie, and Bruce Cockburn. I can’t help but feel that like all three of them we’ll be hearing a lot more from him. I sure intend to catch him live the next chance I get and I hope you’ll do the same.

Sometimes his music, although it remains very personal and unique, joins with that of Tom Rush in excellence, quality and sensitivity. And he writes beautiful lyrics.

The lights came up to reveal Allan J. Ryan, one of the finest talents Brock University has presented. Ryan was the archetype of what one should expect to hear in a university atmosphere. He was topical, witty, at ease with his audience and Canadian. His music flowed out into the audience like fine wine. His material was hand made and his performance had a comforting touch of home cooking to it. His patriotic anthem for Canada did not contain one reference to beavers or maple syrup. However, it did contain a lot of joy and love, and so did Allan J. Ryan – may the Lord preserve him!
–Brock University

Allan J. Ryan comes across as a singer with a considerable dramatic flair. His voice has some of the usual folky hush about it, but it also boasts a more theatrical quality.
–Jack Batten, The Globe & Mail

May I first offer my condolences to those people who were unable to attend Monday night’s concert with Allan J. Ryan. It was perhaps the warmest, most human evening’s entertainment Brock has had in a long long time. Never before at Brock have I seen a closer audience/performer rapport. Ryan rapped about the reasons he wrote some of his songs as if he was sitting in front of his own fireplace talking to some close friends. All his songs were superb. His material was topical, satirical, and just plain enjoyable. He’s coming back, so for God’s sake don’t miss him! Check your almanac; watch the phases of the moon; perch upon your sundial but don’t miss Allan J. Ryan again.
–Brock University, return engagement

Allan J. Ryan is a man of many moods; all of them entertaining. He reacts to his audience like a performer who loves his work and, as a consequence, has a complete, tight control of that audience. And that’s good, because Allan J. Ryan is a man who has something to say.
–Queen’s University Journal

Allan J. Ryan is a singer, a songwriter, a commentator, a musician and a comedian. Above all, however, he is a performer – and an extraordinary one at that. He has the rare ability to positively captivate an audience with his song and speech. His music ranges from rock to gentle folk; but in the end it is simply music – moody and diversified—as changing as the experiences upon which his lyrics are based. … AJR kept his audience sitting in one hot and crowded room for a good four and a half hours, and loving every moment of it. That sort of thing doesn’t happen in a club unless something very special is going on. And it was. This performer’s every breath was expended in order to reach his audience; and in return the audience could not help but involve itself in the proceedings. Allan J. Ryan is a man who gives you much more than music – he gives you life. This life is merely one life amid the lives of many; but it draws and mingles and takes from some to give back to others.
–Carol Sokoloff, Beetle Magazine

by Barbara Elve
University of Waterloo Gazette, September 16, 1998

I know the Lord loves
A cheerful giver,
So I’m givin’ my heart
And my lungs and my liver:
I’m going back to university
When I die.

Although those lyrics were penned by song-writer Allan J. Ryan some 30 years ago—before the advances in computer technology that created virtual reality—people are still “going back to university” by donating their bodies to schools of anatomy.

And in spite of the best computer simulations, “computers will never replace cadavers,” predicts Dr. Don Ranney, UW anatomy professor emeritus. After 20 years as head of the school of anatomy, he has yet to find anything to replicate the experience of using cadavers to “teach students to work in the real world as scientists. Even the best 3-D picture is only a picture, not the real thing.  “In the anatomy lab, students remember better what they have learned because they see it and are involved in the process. They learn to appreciate individual variations, that it’s not always as taught in a textbook. It teaches students to be doubters, to prove it for them-selves.”  Some of those students are from the school of optometry, but most are kinesiology stu-dents, taking classes in human anatomy of the limbs and trunk, human anatomy of the brain, head and neck, directed study in anatomy (usually involving internal organs), and other related courses.

The use of cadavers has also contributed significantly to graduate student research, said Ranney, a former orthopaedic and hand surgeon, whose own current research focuses on biomechanics of the hand and industrial repetitive strain injuries of the upper limb. “We’ve published more than a dozen papers based directly on testing of tissues, for example.”  While some students “have a certain amount of dread going in, most feel the lab is their best experience,” he said. Actual dissection is performed by Hugh Scoggan, senior lab demonstrator. Students just “move things apart, look underneath.” They sign a code of ethics before beginning work in the lab, and while working with the cadavers, wear lab coats and gloves. No hats are allowed.

“We drum this into them: treating the body with dignity,” said Ranney. “We’re very respectful at all times, only uncovering the part being studied.” The key to handling dissection is mentally compartmentalizing the work in the anatomy lab, he explained. “If you’re studying the foot, you uncover the foot. The body has a tag with a number on it. Nobody knows the name of the person. They’re just studying tissue.”

Besides, he added, the bodies are embalmed, giving them “an air of unreality. They don’t look real.” Bodies cannot be used by the anatomy lab if organs (other than the eyes) have been donated, or if they have been badly mutilated, as in a motor vehicle accident. After donation, the bodies are brought to the school of optometry where they are embalmed on-site by a local funeral home in a special process which takes several days. The cadavers are then used for two years by the anatomy lab, which usually has four bodies, cut in half lengthwise, on eight tables for use by 24 students.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of people willing to donate their bodies to science. Some, said Ranney, make the decision based on a special feeling they have for the university. A staff member who has worked at UW for most of her life told him she would like to help the university in her death. “Others just want to make the world a better place.” During the summer, a memorial service was held at Parkview Cemetery in Waterloo for two of those whose bodies had served as learning aids at UW for the next generation of orthopedic surgeons, physiotherapists, rehabilitation therapists and others in a variety of medical careers. Relatives and friends who had mourned their passing, as much as a year or two before, gathered again for the final interment, attended as well by the teachers, researchers, and lab demonstrators who had worked with the cadavers at the university. In a shady grove under a linden tree at the cemetery, a large memorial stone pays tribute to the generosity of both the deceased and their families: “The greatest gift of all is to give oneself for others. We here commemorate such gifts to all mankind through the advancement of science.”

Ranney, who established the school of anatomy for students in kinesiology and optometry in 1978, retired in July. Taking over as head of the human anatomy dissection laboratory is Dr. Jim Frank, chair of the kinesiology department.