Overlooking the harbour, watching a white sailboat skimming the calm evening-dusky-blue waters, the fifth floor setting of Johnson Hall in the Betel Waterfront Centre was a perfect setting for the Pharmasave Music on the Rooftop.
In their first appearance together, the newly formed group Teegan opened the evening. The group included Teegan Walker from Gimli, Peter Frejek from Matlock and Sean Irvine, Marco Antonio Fiore, Peter Kowalchuk, and Alanna Fast, all imports from Brandon University.
This is a group that will do well on the jazz scene. Their set showcased their individual talents and versatility with various instruments. They were well received by a full house audience.
Richard Gillis introduced Björn Thoroddsen of Iceland and the other members joining them, Gilles Fournier, Scott Senior, and Will Bonness, before they performed their first number Dennis’ Inn followed by Ghent written by Björn and very Spanish in flavour and Anhelo written by Richard, again with a Spanish accent depicting in English – longing.
Changing the flavour, the next selection Visur based on Icelandic folk songs, was written by Björn who, it was declared, had done unspeakable things to the original melody”. Perhaps, but it reflected the remarkable talent of the writer.
Richard indicated that he has found that including local talent ensures a goodly number in the audience and he proved his theory with the inclusion of Teegan, Aurora Pieluck and Carly Welham.
Aurora [Rori] Pieluck first sang, I Want to Hold Your Hand followed by Oh Darling which she called her powerhouse song. A self-assured performer who is well known in the Gimli area, Aurora will continue to pursue her future in music.
Continuing the international flavour, the group presented Morgana’s Revengea medieval thematic then the Icelandic Krummi svaf í klettagjá (The Raven in a Gully Slept), Djolu, based on simple measures from Zaire with underlying rhythmic patterns, and Beagle Blues, written by Richard for his pet beagle.
Carly Welham delighted the audience with I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water and a plaintive, evocative Summertime. Her hometown audience expected and received a solid performance by this young talent.
The main group returned with Incantation and a then a sweet love song Querido in Portugese before all the performers gathered for the finale All the Things You Are.
The annual presentation of music on the rooftop annual presentation closed with a spectacular presentation of fireworks over the harbour.
Gimli Celebrity concert draws full house
The Celebrity Concert was held at the Gimli Composite High School on July 31 in front of a full house who awarded both local opener, Ari Jakobson and the headliner, Tom Jackson, with standing ovations.
Emcee Lovisa Davidsdottir introduced the opening performer, Ari Jakobson, originally from Arborg but now a resident of Gimli, as the son of Lynne Erickson and Otto Christensen. He is the son of the late Gestur Jakobson, grandson of Borga and the late Bjarki Jakobson and Steini and Louise Erickson.
Taking his first number, Adolpho, from the Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone, Ari presented himself as a Latin Lothario in a grey tuxedo with cream satin lapels, cream bow tie, cream trousers and white shoes. He delivered his interpretation in a strong baritone, vamping his way through the song with a 1920s flair to the particular delight of some young female fans in the audience.
He continued with a Dean Martin song Ain’t That a Kick in the Head and a medley of The Girl From Ipanema and Fly Me to the Moon, followed by Georgia on My Mind, ending with Michael Buble’s I Just Haven’t Met You Yet.
Ari’s very assured stage presence brings to mind the cliched term, up and coming rising star, but it suits this young performer perfectly. Rosalind Vigfusson confirmed that, as a member of the original Icelandic Youth Choir that she directed, he had been as much an absolute delight as he is now.
Tom Jackson walked on unannounced, clad in a classic white jacket with black embroidery on the left front and blue jeans. He opened with a corny joke warmup reminiscent of the early burlesque theatrical productions then switched to philosophic poetry/prose delivered in his deep bass voice, rumbling from a soft whisper to firm proclamation. Simply seated with his guitar on a centre-stage stool, Tom sang the classic Desperado followed by a song written for and about his brother Bernie, a pool player. At the time he was writing this song and others early in his career, he explained, he did not understand the term plagiarism so may have erred in that regard with this song, I’m a Beer-drinking, Song-writing Man and the following 4-line song, There Ain’t Nobody Gonna Take You Away From Me.
Water is Mother Nature’s life blood Tom said, as he described his policy of conservation and peace, which follows the teaching of First Nations Elders.
Following Ain’t No Use in My Crying, written by Paul Anka and made famous by Buddy Holly, Tom was joined by Kansa City Dave Cramer and Craig Bignell for a piece written by Hoyt Axton, Sweet Misery. Tom has sang that song in a performance with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The trio continued with Dance with the Devil Howling at the Moon and Ain’t Nothing Like Your Love Sets Me Free.
He served up his trademark style of recitation to a beat provided by Craig Bignell for Louisiana Dream and Hands of Stone, Heart of Glass, followed by a very understated I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, his poetry/prose presentation that we can put an end to war.
Back to songs, he sang Day After Day and Morning Too and then Save the Last Dance for Me before closing with a statement on water accompanied by the soulful mourning sounds of Dave Cramer’s harmonica: “We all need blue water, we all need to lead the way, I am just a poor boy that my story is sadly told. Love is a rose but you better not pick it, it only grows when it’s on the vine, a handfull of thorns.”
His encore piece was the classic oldie, Tennessee Waltz, which delighted the audience, many of whom remembered it as a favorite at the old time dance in the Interlake community dance halls.
Drífandi and Vefarinn appear in Riverton
Riverton has become a designated stop for visitors from Iceland with the Jonas Thor Tour groups, and the Riverton Community Hall was the ideal venue for both the Karlakórinn Drífandi and Vefarinn who performed for an appreciative audience on August 3.
Harley Jonasson as emcee introduced special guests Almar Grímsson and his wife Anna Björk, Choir director Drífa Sigurðarsdóttir and 21 year-old pianist, Leif Kristján Gjerde.
The 26 members of the Karlakórinn Drífandi (The Male Choir Drífandi) led by Drífa opened with Fljótsdalherað and continued with Þótt þú langförull legðir, Úr útsæ rísa Íslandsfjöll, Ég vil elska mitt land, then the traditional Eld gamla Ísafold before continuing the program with Ísland, Þér landnemar, Hver á sér fegra föðurland. Their final song in this set was Ég bið að heilsa with soloist Úlfar Trausti Þórðarson. Sung in harmony with much strength, it was a very dramatic and powerful presentation.
The dance troupe Vefarinn (The Weaver) from Akureyri swept onto the dance floor in full Icelandic þjóðbuningar wearing the traditional sauskin skór (sealskin shoes). This style of folk dancing is sometimes referred to as vikivaki in which the dancers provide their own music by singing the songs as they dance. Sometimes the songs describe the steps of the dance patterns but at times they tell a story or, you could say, weave a pattern.
Skirts flew, eyes sparkled, spirits were high as the light-footed troupe created pattern after pattern. Krummi, a song about a raven, translated itself into a lively dance that had the audience tapping their toes. Sailor’s Dance had a pair of dancers acting as a fisherman and his wife in a delightful, energetic dance reminiscent of a Sailor’s Hornpipe. After a set dance, somewhat like a reel or square dance, the audience was treated to the Saturday Dancing Man, a humorous tale about a couple of lovers. The finale, Vefarinn, is one of the oldest of folk dances in Iceland, in which the patterns of the dance emulate the weaving of fabric on the loom, truly a fascinating to watch.
Most of the singing by the Karlakórinn Drífandi was a cappella but there were some pieces with Leif Kristján providing the accompaniment. Highlights of the second set included White Cliffs of Dover/Yfir bænum heima in Icelandic and English, a finger-snapping light and lively Litla sætan ljúfan góða and the romantic Katarína. In response to a standing ovation the choir came back with a medley of Kvöldið er fagurt and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.
3,000 Invade Mountain
J. Peter Johnson
The population of Mountain North Dakota is 120. That number includes the 37 residents of Borg Memorial Home. On July 30, 3,000 people invaded Mountain to celebrate community, family, and Icelandic culture.
Huge Icelandic flags flew side by side with Old Glory from houses and businesses throughout the town. Every vacant lot and every park was converted to a parking lot. Friendly volunteers ushered vehicles into neat rows.
Lawn chairs lined both sides of Main Street. They were occupied by friends and neighbours from far and wide, late comers standing behind and kids in front, all eagerly awaiting the parade. The kids fidgeted with empty ice cream buckets and plastic bags, impatiently anticipating the showers of cellophane wrapped candies which would soon rain down on them.
The crowds were delighted with the procession of dignitaries, Shriners, merchants, giant tractors, antique tractors, horseback riders, family reunion groups, a pretty little girl leading a pet lamb, antique cars, and many more floats paraded by for more than half an hour, with participants throwing handfuls of candies to eager children who scooped them up like seagulls over a school of fish.
After the parade, people migrated toward the beautiful Vikur Church, the oldest Icelandic Lutheran church in North America, where the Ladies’ Aide fed hundreds of celebrants.
Visitor Steingrímur J. Sigfússon will have a special memory of the 2011 Deuce celebrations. He visited the Genealogy Center and talked to George Freeman and J. Peter Johnson. His great – grand parents had emigrated to North Dakota but he did not know for sure where they had lived. He provided their names and within just a few minutes, we were able to tell him where they were buried at the Gardar Cemetery. Steingrímur was then able to go see the graves of his great grandparents and many of their descendants who are buried at the Gardar Cemetery.
Icelandic folk dancers attracted about 200 enthusiastic fans on an impromptu stage set up on Main Street, while a number of vendors set up kiosks near the church to sell Icelandic woolen goods, Bill Valgardson autographed copies of What the Bear Said, and vendors sold T-shirts with slogans such as: Icelandic – Intelligent, Independent, Irresistible, Made in America – With Icelandic Parts, and Party Like an Icelander.
Heard around the town: “I haven’t seen you for thirty years.” “Where are you from?” “Seattle”, “New York”, “Minot”, “Florida” “Victoria”, “Fargo”, “Iceland”, “Cavalier”, “Toronto”, “Texas”, Moorhead” and dozens of other locations across North America. “Have you been to Iceland?” “Isn’t it beautiful?” “The people are so friendly.” “What part of Iceland did your ancestors come from?”, “I feel so at home in Iceland.”
A giant Viking half apologized. “I am only Norwegian.” Response, “We are all Icelanders today.”
More than 6,000 visitors, including 300 from Iceland shared the events of this festival. Only a few knew that The Deuce is a celebration of Jon Sigurdsson’s bringing a new constitution from Copenhagen to Iceland on August 2, 1847, a milestone in the progression toward Icelandic Independence. All 6,000 basked in the brilliant North Dakota summer sun, and all basked in the North Dakota friendliness and hospitality.
Well done Mountain, the Deuce is an Ace.