Craftsman from Lviv makes hurdy gurdies


Culture of Ukraine

A sculptor from Lviv used his skills to craft himself an otherwise unattainable musical instrument. It is called the hurdy-gurdy and it was a popular instrument in Ukraine in the 16th through the 18th century.

Hordiy Starukh was only 3 years old when his mother took him to a concert where he heard a hurdy-gurdy for the first time. When he decided to buy one during his student years, the rare instrument turned out to be well beyond what a student could afford. So Starukh decided to make a hurdy-gurdy himself. The first one took him 2-and-a-half years to complete.

“I began doing this because of the cost of these instruments. I aim to make it more affordable without sacrificing the quality of the instrument so that regular students like I was once could afford to buy one, instead of having to build it themselves. Because by the time you finish, you may lose the will to play, Starukh said.

Starukh makes these ancient instruments in his grandfather’s Lviv workshop.
A spiral crank handle, in place of a wheel-shaped one, is a trademark element of Starukh’s hurdy-gurdies. It has keys instead of frets, and a small wheel acts like a violin bow. Sound-wise it resembles bagpipes.

Yuriy Bil bought his first hurdy-gurdy from Hordiy two years ago. Since then, he’s mastered the instrument and plays it at concerts.

“This is my workhorse,” Bil said, holding his hurdy-gurdy. I played it in the 35-degree heat and in the pouring rain, when water went everywhere, both on me and on my hurdy-gurdy. It even survived the minus 17-degree cold and performed well while doing it.”

Together with his friends, Starukh put together a band which experiments with sound and instruments. They even tried installing electromagnetic pickups on a hurdy-gurdy.

“I met Hordiy when we were about 16 or 17. Now we’re both 30 and we play in a band together. We’ve been through thick and thin together and I don’t know where else life is going to take us,” said Yuriy Dvornyk.

Starukh has just completed his 47th hurdy-gurdy. This one will be sent to a client in London.

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