Faith & Fiddle

| Barb Ernster for The Catholic Spirit | February 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Scythian influenced by folk music, Catholic roots


The Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis will turn a bit Irish Feb. 25, when the nationally-touring Celtic band Scythian takes the stage with an all-ages, pre-release debut of its newest album.

The Philadelphia-based band, co-founded by Catholic brothers Alexander and Danylo Fedoryka, is celebrating 10 years of bringing audiences to their feet with high-energy, immigrant-rooted rock songs and Celtic dervish fiddling.

Scythian, named for Mesopotamian nomads with roots as diverse as the band’s musical influences, is a headliner for the Celtic festival circuit. The group has performed at the Minnesota Irish Fair over the past eight years, as well as O’Gara’s in St. Paul and the Caboose in Minneapolis.

The Dakota Jazz Club offers them a new kind of venue with its dinner-table setting.

“It’s a different type of interaction, but we were looking for a venue to have an all-ages show,” said Alexander, 39. “[The Dakota] was curious about the melding of the music — Irish infused with Eastern European/Ukrainian; Danylo and I are immigrants of that heritage. This was a real test for us. But there has been a great response to the show, so we’re very excited.”

‘Talents in God’s hands’


Danylo Fedoryka

The brothers grew up in a family of 10 in the Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia with a philosopher father and Juilliard-trained concert pianist mother. Their mother taught them how to play all their instruments — including fiddle, mandolin, guitar, accordion and piano — and inspired a love for art, especially classical art from their Eastern European roots.

“She always stressed that it was for the glory of God and for others,” said Danylo, 36. “People would say, ‘Are you a Christian band?’ No, we were attracted to folk and bluegrass. We try to live faithful lives as Catholics and we knew that would come through in the music. Irish music is so joyful, it just makes everyone happy. People have always commented, ‘I’ve never experienced joy like I have at your shows.’”

“The idea was that you develop in Christ as an artist and put your gifts and talents in God’s hands,” Alexander said. “We try to capture the joy and beauty, the panorama of emotions, which folk music does so well. The Holy Spirit will speak in his own way through the music. Over the years, our experience has been that you can make really incredible connections with people from different faiths, sometimes atheists and agnostics. You have to think to yourself, this is the Holy Spirit.”

Alexander and Danylo are joined on stage by close friend and co-founder, Josef Crosby, who plays fiddle and bass, and Tim Hepburn on drums and percussion. Their sister, Larissa Fedoryka, tours with the band in the summers.

The band’s new album, “Old Tin Can,” set to release on April 23, is a companion to the 2014 album “Jump at the Sun,” and a thank-you to fans who generously funded both projects.

The album is also a tribute to their roots. The songs are acoustic-oriented, with a mix of Irish ballads and music that inspired them to go down the folk path in the first place, Alexander noted.

“It’s fun to go back to those roots. We consider the CD to be a tribute to the people who inspired us, kind of like the ‘B’ side, the story behind the story,” he said.

All ages show


Dakota Jazz Club, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
7 p.m. Feb. 25
$25 tickets
For reservations, call (612) 332-5299

Visible passion

Scythian has attracted a broad range of age groups, performing at some 1,500 shows over the past decade. They once played for President George W. Bush, and drew waves from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 when they closed out the main stage at World Youth Day in Sydney, performing for a crowd of 300,000. Their Muslim-raised drummer at the time commented that Catholics were some of the happiest people he had ever met, Danylo recalled.

“It felt a little like heaven to see all the youth so happy,” he said of World Youth Day. “You knew that they were being moved in some way and there were tons of graces going around.”

Fauna Gille has followed the band since first seeing them perform at the Irish Fair on Harriet Island eight years ago The 31-year-old owner of Corda Mor, an Edina-based Irish dance school, uses a lot of Scythian’s music at the school and is bringing some of the dancers to the show.

“I’ve seen them every time they come to town. They do a really good job of getting everybody at their shows involved. You’ll see kids out there dancing and mixing in with the adults,” Gille said. “They really get you clapping and you find yourself all of a sudden on the dance floor; you just feel like you’re part of their show. You can see the passion they put into everything they do.”

St. Paul-based band Broken Spoke, an Irish-trio founded by Gordon Bratt and Christopher Hollister, will open for Scythian. Bratt is a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary in St. Paul and has known Scythian since the beginning. His older sisters went to school with them at  Christendom College in Virginia. Bratt often visited and would see the band play.

He found it serendipitous for the Elk River-based Irish Music and Dance Association to recommended that his band open for Scythian.

“It’s going to be an awesome show, super high energy because that’s what we bring — a lot of rousing vocal harmony, driving energetic music — ­ and Scythian does the same thing, so it’s going to be a fun, fun show,” Bratt said.  “I’m interested to see how the Dakota reacts to it; it’s an awesome venue.”

The Fedoryka brothers like to spend extra time in the Twin Cities to visit friends and Danylo’s goddaughter. They said they enjoy the small-town, friendly atmosphere; beautiful architecture, including the Cathedral of St. Paul; and the area’s interesting history.

Being descendants of the Eastern European culture, Danylo added, “It will be one last pilgrimage to Nye’s Polonaise for us,” as the Northeast Minneapolis restaurant and neighborhood icon is slated to close this year.

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Category: Featured, The Last Word