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Gerdan Brings Ukraine’s Rich Musical Heritage to the National Folk Festival

Solomia Gorokhivska
Ukrainian folk ensemble Gerdan: Andre Pidkivka (flutes), Solomia Gorokhivska (violin, vocals), Dr. Kalin Kirilov (accordion), Greg Watkins (bass)

As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues to rage on, musicians from the Maryland-and-Virginia-based ensemble Gerdan use their music to spread awareness of the conflict and to keep their country’s vibrant culture alive.

Gerdan gets its name from a hand-made beaded necklace found in the Carpathian Mountains. Intricate and colorful, it reflects the multifaceted moods and rhythms of the band’s music.

The group was founded in 2012 by t Andre Pidkivka and his wife, Solomia Gorokhivska. Pidkivka, who has a doctorate in classical flute from Michigan State University, is also a maker and collector of the sopilka, a type of hand-carved wooden flute indigenous to Ukraine. In performances, he switches off between a family of different-sized sopilkas, pan flutes, Jews harp, and an Eastern European ocarina that closely resembles the sound of a cuckoo bird. The tone he gets from these instruments is haunting and perhaps it is no surprise that he is sought out to add the sound of his folk instruments to film scores like “The Lord of the Rings” or the HBO documentary “Chernobyl,” for which he won a Grammy.

Pidkivka is originally from Lviv, Ukraine, and his wife, Solomia Gorokhivska, is from another West Ukrainian city called Ternopil. A double threat on violin and vocals, she picks the group’s repertoire and tells stories about Ukraine’s struggles and resilience between songs.

The other members of the quartet include Bulgarian accordionist Dr. Kalin Kirilov, who teaches music theory at Towson University. The final member is American bassist Greg Watkins, from Virginia.

Gerdan will perform on the Maryland Traditions Folklife Area and Stage at the National Folk Festival. For more details, visit www.nationalfolkfestival.com.

Peter Solomon is WESM's Music Director and host of Morning Jazz Unlimited, weekdays from 9 am to noon on WESM. He joined Delmarva Public Media in August 2021 after 22 years as a jazz host for an NPR affiliate in Richmond, Virginia.