Brothers Alexander and Danylo Fedoryka, who lead the band, are the children of Ukrainian immigrants. The brothers grew up in the hills of Virginia, and the band still resides in northern Virginia. So they incorporate the music of their parents' homeland with the traditional folk music of the American Southeast. All this is unusual because they are primarily a Celtic band. The brothers explained the relationship between Ukrainians and Irishmen: "We are basically cousins," they explained, because both peoples have suffered oppression, both enjoy music and a good time and both eat lots of potatoes.
And just to confuse us, they began their Sunday evening concert at Chicago's Athenaeum Center with a whaling song. The sea shanty "Wellerman" went viral two years ago, thanks to a Tik Tok video, and Scythian performed the harmony vocals exquisitely.
Danylo plays guitar and accordion, while Alexander plays fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. They are supported by Ethan Dean on bass and Johnny Rees on drums. Each member is excellent at his instrument, but they particularly shine on their vocals, which they often sing in harmony with one another. Although the Fedorykas sang lead on most tunes, Rees stepped to the front for a beautiful rendition of "Danny Boy."
All four dressed in traditional Ukrainian costumes for the event. They mixed in a few Ukranian tunes, along with some Americana music, such as "Song of Sacrifice" and the traditional "Crawdad Hole," which they offered as a tribute to Doc Watson.
The night's performance included more than just music. During some Celtic songs, a local group of young dancers joined them on stage to perform traditional Irish dances. Most of these songs were traditional or traditional-sounding, but they showed off their arrangement of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Late in the set, the band's roadie came onstage to dance with a broom while the band accompanied him with an Irish reel.
I did not know what to expect when I arrived at The Athenaeum Sunday evening. I received everything.