Amid the ongoing existential threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty and identity, Ukrainian cultural traditions stand as a rebuttal to the Russian incursion, and a testament to its distinctive culture. Representing Washington D.C.’s sizable Ukrainian community, Gerdan is mounting its own determined response, through music, dance, relief efforts, and community resolve.
Gerdan was co-founded by Andrei Pidkivka, a Ukrainian immigrant residing in Silver Spring. For over 20 years, Andrei has studied, mastered, and promoted the sopilka, a flute that is a symbol of national pride and identity. Originating from western Ukraine, this simple looking yet nuanced instrument is part of Eastern Europe’s woodwind family. The sopilka has five variations, each different in pitch and range. Their craftsmanship, however, is identical—hand-carved from single pieces of wood, ideally the same tree, to achieve the perfect harmony of sound. The delicacy of the sopilka’s craftsmanship is second only to its playing technique.
Born and raised in Lviv, Ukraine, Andrei began learning the sopilka at age five, and apprenticed under several sopilka masters during his classical music training at the Lviv State Conservatory. Migrating to the United States in the 1990s, and determined to retain the warmth of home and heritage, Andrei began to craft his own flutes while performing at numerous community events. Eventually settling in the Washington D.C., area, and connecting with the region’s Eastern European and Ukrainian diaspora, Andrei met fellow musician Solomia Gorokhivska, his Gerdan co-founder. In 2019-20, he received a Folklife Apprenticeship Award from the Maryland State Arts Council.
Named after an intricately woven, beaded necklace from the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, the quartet portrays the diversity and complexity of Ukrainian traditional music. Since its inception in 2011, Gerdan has provided hundreds of educational workshops, and performed in the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, and various Eastern European embassies in D.C., becoming true ambassadors for Ukrainian heritage. Gerdan presents original arrangements of Ukrainian folk melodies, often with live dancing that demonstrates the music’s variety of movements and rhythms. Andrei’s sopilka playing, central to Gerdan’s sound, offers melodies that weave together Solomia’s violin and vocals, Kalin Kirilov’s accordion, and Graeg Watkins’s bass.