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Beck Lecture features Icelandic traditional music

Photo: Guðrún Ingimundardóttir (Rúna) Author: W.D. Valgardson, Victoria, B.C.

Dr. John Tucker and Dr. Patricia Baer are to be congratulated on arranging for Guðrún Ingimundardóttir (Rúna) to give a Richard and Margaret Beck Lecture on October 17 at the University of Victoria. Guðrun’s lecture and demonstration was on Icelandic traditional music.
Guðrun is the Chair of Rima, a traditional folk singers’ group in Iceland. She founded Stemma, a traditional folk music association. She is the first person to teach Icelandic traditional singing (kvesðkapur) in an official music school in Iceland, Tónskóli Fjallabyggðar.
It would be easy to deliver a lecture on a poetic form from the 1400s to the early 1900s and make it so dull that the audience falls asleep. Gúdrun did just the opposite. She electrified the audience. Not only was she able to tell the audience about the history of rímur and its importance for a country with a small population living on isolated farms, she was able to sing the examples of the various kinds of rímur.
The kveðskapur travelled from farm to farm like itinerant troubadors. This was before radio, telephones, film, TV, or the internet. In the evenings, after the day’s farm work was complete, people sat around the baðstofa, the main room of the farmhouse, and knitted or did various tasks such as mending horse bridles or clothes. To keep people awake and entertained, stories were read or told. If a storyteller came to a farm with new stories, he might stay for weeks or months. Many of the rímur were very long and might provide entertainment over the entire winter.
Eventually rímur were written down, but for centuries they were oral poems, told and retold, changing with the different tellings and the different tellers. Many, probably most, of the rímur, were based on classic stories such as the sagas and skaldic verse. Ironically, it is the survival of rímur that provides proof of the existence of sagas that have been lost.


Pönnukökur recipe as promised Author

Photo: supplied photo Author: Steinn Arnar Jónsson, Columbus, OH

When L-H printed the article about the 5th Annual Iceland Mystery Night, organized by the Scandinavian Club of Columbus, we did promise the recipes for lamb soup and pönnukökur in subsequent issues. Here’s the first one.
Icelandic Pancakes
(Recipe from Steinn’s mom)
I believe the following quantities make somewhere around 12-15 pancakes.
3 eggs
30 gr. sugar
8 dl. milk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
30 gr. margarine
250 gr. flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Víkingur captivates Ottawa

Photo: Paul Park Author: Paul Park, Ottawa, ON

A Viking conquered North America with his music, as Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson began his cross-country tour with a recital in Canada’s capital on October 26. The crowd of about 150 showed its appreciation for the concert, a collection of Icelandic and traditional classical music.
The Embassy of Iceland and member clubs of the Icelandic National League promoted the tour, which saw Ólafsson appear in Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Brandon, Calgary and Vancouver. The Manitoba concerts were conducted alongside the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
The Ottawa recital began on a somber note, as Friends of Iceland president Wendy Wynne-Jones asked for a moment of silence to remember Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who were killed earlier that week. Wynne-Jones then introduced Sturla Sigurjónsson, the newly-arrived Icelandic ambassador to Canada.
The ambassador told the crowd he first heard Ólafsson performing years before in Rome. The Italian audience was impressed by the young Icelander’s virtuosity.
The pianist introduced a selection of Icelandic folk songs arranged by Snorri Sigfús Birgisson: Ókindarkvæði “The Ogress”, Farđu ađ sofa fyrir mig “Sleep for Mama”, Þegar ég smáu fræ í fold “Where Life and Death May Dwell” (“My personal favourite,” Ólafsson said), and Skúli fógeti “A Hero At Sea”.
He followed that with an original composition by Birgisson, Eos and Selena, based on Greek myths. The musician reached back into traditional Icelandic music, playing Páll Ísólfsson’s Í dag skein sól “Today the Sun Shone” and Ave Maria by Sigvaldi Kaldalóns. He concluded with a suite written by his father Ólafur Óskar Axelsson entitled Reykjavik by Night.
Following the intermission, Ólafsson played Bach’s Goldberg Variations. He joked that it may have been a “foolish choice” since the piece is so closely identified with Canada’s Glenn Gould. The audience obviously disagreed, giving the musician a standing ovation at the end of the concert.
FoI past-president Jack Ives, in his concluding remarks, noted that Ólafsson had inaugurated the piano at the concert hall seven years ago. The piano, and the pianist, have both stood the test of time.

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