NOTE: After the concert video went online, we updated this blog post to feature the concert itself after Solomia’s essay. Scroll down to the bottom to watch it!
On Thursday, May 22, at noon, in the Library’s Whittall Pavilion (right next door to the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, which is 10 First St, SE), the American Folklife Center is pleased to present Gerdan, a group that describes its offerings as a “kaleidoscope of world music.” The group’s violinist, Solomia Gorokhivska, DMA, contributes the following guest post on Folklife Today:
Gerdan is the trio of Dr. Andrei Pidkivka, who plays a variety of traditional and ethnic flutes, Dr. Solomia Gorokhivska, violinist and vocalist, and Dr. Kalin Kirilov, accordionist and multi-instrumentalist. The trio is named after the Gerdan, a multicolored, intricately woven beaded necklace from the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine. Inspired by their native roots and heritage, this trio creates and performs its own special blend of world music that brings together the old and the new.
The creation of the Gerdan trio was inspired by the traditional folk music of the Troisti Muzyky (translated as trio musicians) from the Carpathian Mountains of Western Ukraine. The Troisti Muzyky traditionally played at social occasions in villages. Ethnomusicologists trace their appearance to the 16th century. The early trio ensembles consisted of violin or wooden flute playing solo part, the hammer dulcimer or cimbalom playing harmonic accompaniment, and the percussive buben, a bass drum with a brass cymbal on top, providing rhythmic accompaniment. This popular trio was sometimes augmented into a quartet with the basolia, a cello/bass. In the early 20th century an accordion was often substituted for the heavy cimbalom. This way, the trio was more mobile and could play at the most distant locations in the mountains.
In the Carpathian Mountains, the instruments and styles of music often differed from village to village. The traditional Carpathian mountain dances such as kolomyjka, arkan and hutsulka were played in a variety of tempi and arrangements. The Troisti Muzyky traveled to all these villages, and knew how to play the unique form of dance known in each particular location.
The Hutsuls of the eastern Carpathian chain have a well-known legend about the Troisti Muzyky ensemble:
Three musicians, a flutist, a violinist, and a cymbalist, fell in love with a lovely maiden. She was fair and kind, and had a charming smile and dark eyes. She liked them all but had to choose one for a husband. She suggested they have a musical contest. She said she would marry the player whose music was judged to be the best by the villagers. Each musician played his favorite melody equally well. The villagers could not choose one above the others. So the maiden asked them to compete again, but this time to play her favorite melody. They each played beautifully, and she could not decide among them. There was only one thing left for them to do: they must play the melody at the same time. When they did, they made enchanting music, and everyone was amazed that the competition of three musicians had added up to a great performance. The people decided it would be a sin to separate them. So for ever after, as the people desired, the musicians continued to play together.
The repertoire of Troisti Muzyky included wedding dances and songs as well as music for various seasonal celebrations. The musicians of the trios were greatly respected among the people because their music was the only source of entertainment at that time. Finally, the relationships between the musicians in Troisti Muzyky were collaborative and collegial. All three played significant roles in the ensemble because each had a particular function in the group.
Gerdan was created as a collaboration among Dr. Andrei Pidkivka (traditional and ethnic flutes), Dr. Solomia Gorokhivska (violin/vocals) and Vladimir Mollov (accordion) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their premier performance took place in April 2010 in Broward Theatre for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This collaboration was inspired by Pidkivka’s rare collection of over two hundred world flutes. From the archaic to the modern, these flutes allow music to be created that is unusually diverse, unique, and rich. In Pidkivka’s twenty-five-year professional career, his performances on world flutes have found their way into modern symphonic compositions, theatrical performances, ballet, and movie scores. He has been critically acclaimed as a preeminent performer, teacher, and maker of a variety of folk flutes of his native Ukraine, and he has attracted listeners and run educational workshops across the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. He has appeared in the American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series once before, as a member of Harmonia. He played the Pan-flute, the Turkish Ney, and the Ukrainian Sopilka in symphonic performances of the Lord of The Rings, of which the Seattle Times wrote, “Andrei Pidkivka owned the spotlight…Close your eyes and you’re in The Shire.”
This variety of world flutes with different exotic sounds is enhanced by Solomia Gorokhivska’s voice and violin. Solomia shares Andrei’s passion for traditional music from her native Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe. While enrolled as a doctoral student in classical violin performance at Catholic University of America in Washington DC, she found a way of keeping up and developing strong connections with the traditional music of her motherland, Ukraine, while also embarking on the artistic journey of Gerdan.
Originally, the Bulgarian musician Vladimir Mollov brought to the group the richness of harmonies and rhythms of the accordion. In 2011, Andrei and Solomia relocated Gerdan to Washington DC. As a result, they had to find a new accordionist. Fortunately, they were introduced to another virtuoso Bulgarian accordionist and ethnomusicologist, Dr. Kalin Kirilov. Kalin’s experience as an excellent performer and researcher of Eastern European traditional music has been a wonderful asset and complement to the artistry of the trio.
Gerdan has released one album: Gerdan-Kaleidoscope of World Music. It features traditional instrumental music from Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, and Moldova, as well as several folk songs from Ukraine. In concert, the group demonstrates contrasting musical styles from rural regions of Eastern Europe. Traditional tunes come to life with diverse and fascinating combinations of acoustic folk instruments. These skilled and experienced musicians reveal their passion for the modalities and rhythmic colorations that define Eastern European music. The musicians of Gerdan perform traditional music of Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Bulgaria. They breathe new life into many melodies, both familiar and forgotten. View the concert in the player below!