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Toronto Þorrablót: Food, Frivolity and Frábær(ity), greatness in abundance

Photo: Kara Schuster
Donald K. Johnson samples the hakarl ... is he in for a surprise!

Arden Jackson
Caledon, ON

Þorrablót in Toronto equals Food, Frivolity and Frábær(ity). Frábært is an Icelandic word meaning great, and we had greatness in abundance on Saturday,
April 14, 2012 at the
Estonian Club of Toronto.

An impressive winter celebration of Icelandicness happens here, late by Þorri standards, however, we trust we make our ancestors proud with an enormity of intention and purpose that is stunning, as all great things are.

Connection to our community of over 200 people in attendance happens through food, activities and many priceless moments. A Viking Challenge feast was piped in by a bagpipe-toting-and-tooting tartan-dressed handsome young viking, Kaj Sullivan. There was such a run on Skjalfti Icelandic Beer that not a drop was left within the first hour. Also quickly gone were vínarterta, harðfiskur, smoked trout and flatkaka made available for sale, even before we had begun to eat our feast.
The feast itself was so loaded and abundant that there were audible awes and groans of appreciation, and barely a morsel was left. There was swooping engagement of the crowd in the Silent Auction. Pictures and sweaters and cookies were matched against talents and trips. Children played and, with great smiles, swung newly made swords. People popped their heads into viking cut outs for pictures and pretended at ancient royalty for a while. An Icelandic princess sold chances to win photos of ancestral farms and was swarmed by all who wanted to reconnect with their home places. Young students were awarded with scholarships. Dignitaries were honoured with the first chance to taste the Viking Challenges. The kitchen swirled with creative and energetic effort to fill and then clean every plate, pot and platter. Charming vibrant women lead the crowd in appreciations and stories, short and sweet. Many, many great moments occurred, not the least of which was the sale of the remaining roasted smirking svið (sheep’s head) in shiny new cookie tins while others were enticed to share the last bits of fragrant hákarl (shark) and well soured hrútspungar (testicle).

Here’s a list of what we ate:
Viking Challenges: hákarl, harðfiskur, hrútspungur, lifrapylsa, bloðpylsa, flatkaka, svið, Ölvisholt Brugghús Skjalfti Beer.
Icelandic Canadian Buffet: hangikjöt (smoked lamb), smoked trout, Icelandic brown bread, gravlax, poached salmon, roast lamb, turkey, salads and buns, with cakes, squares, cookies, fruit platter, kleinur, mysuostur, pönnukökur, skyr, sætsúpa and vínarterta for dessert.


 

Birthday greetings to Almar Grímsson

Almar and Anna Björk
Traditionally, in Iceland, milestone birthdays are celebrated with greetings in the newspapers and we welcome the opportunity to thus honour Almar Grímsson on his 70th birthday in our own publication in the Icelandic manner.

Almar has always amazed me with his instant recognition of everyone, any acquaintance becomes a friend and any friend is always greeted with an all-encompassing smile, a hug or a warm handshake and a “takk fyrir síðast.”

Instrumental in the formation of the Snorri Program which brings young people of Icelandic descent to Iceland to explore their heritage, Almar has become afi to the many paricipants. He also worked with creating Snorri Plus and Snorri West.

So I say to him, Kæri vinur minn, til hamingju með sjötugasti afmælið þitt.
Elva Jónasson,
Lögberg-Heimskringla
 
Happy Birthday, Almar, from all your friends in America. We send special birthday greetings to you. We also send early congratulations to you and Anna Björk on your upcoming golden anniversary. Your leadership and friendship is immeasurable through your work with the Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga, INL of North America, and so many other initiatives.
We value your optimism, kindness, and grace. You are such a very special friend and mentor to all of us. My life has been significantly enhanced by your encouragement and inspiration. We thank you and honour you today and always. May God continue to bless your life and your family. Lifíð er dásamlegt! Bestu Kveðjur.

Sunna Furstenau, USA representative, INL of Iceland
 
Almar, Til hamingju með afmælið.
Almar – the ‘father of the Snorri Program’ – has been a good friend for many years. He’s a very personable and approachable fellow. I like to think of him as a friend, and very much hope that he might think of me in the same way.

When I was in Iceland in 2007, at the INL/Iceland conference, he and Anna Björk took several of us up to Hofsós. The intention had been for an overnight visit, but an early October snowfall closed the highways. The extra time was easily filled, the museum being so interesting, and we were taken up into the hills to see a horse round-up – a really wonderful experience. Thanks Almar and thanks for all you do for all of us. Happy Birthday vinnur minn.

Garry Oddleifson
 
It is a great pleasure to wish a very happy 70th birthday to a remarkable friend of the Icelandic Canadian people in New Iceland, Mr. Almar Grímsson. Through his tremendous work of the past many years with the Snorri Program, and his involvement in bringing tour groups from Iceland to Manitoba, he has played an integral role in strengthening the ties and friendships between people living in the Icelandic settlements in Manitoba and those in Iceland.

Dedication to his Icelandic heritage and the heritage of the Icelandic people in Manitoba and the rest of North America is admirable, and it is work like his that will ensure the preservation of this heritage for years to come. Til hamingju með afmælið kæri vinur!

Joel Friðfinnsson


INL of Iceland holds AGM

Photo: Almar Grímsson

From left: Rögnvaldur Guðmundsson secretary, Þorvarður Guðlaugsson treasurer, Halldór Árnason president and Svavar Gestsson chair of the AGM

Almar Grímsson
Hafnarfjörður, Iceland

The AGM of Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga (ÞFÍ) – INL of Iceland was held in Þjóðmenningarhúsið – The Culture House in Reykjavík on April 11th 2012. Svavar Gestsson chaired the meeting.
 
Halldór Árnason president of INL Iceland gave a report on the activities last year. There have been held promotional meetings, in Akureyri, Vopnafjörður and in Reykjavík. Consul general Atli Ásmundsson was the main speaker at these meetings. About 50 new members have joined.
 
According to a survey made among members there seems to be a general satisfaction with the work of INL Iceland and its furture directions. The Snorri Program continues to get the high scores. There has also been a survey among members to find a new Icelandic name for the organization but keeping “Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga” as subtitle. This will be further reviewed by the new board.
 
Einar Benediktsson former ambassador gave an excellent speech on his experience and views of the collaboration. He also recalled the start of the Snorri Program in 1999 when the Millennium Commission of Iceland gave a substantial contribution to launch the program.
 
Halldór Árnason was re-elected president by acclamation.
There are a few changes in the board. Elin Hirst, Eydís Egilsdóttir and Hjálmar W. Hannesson are new in the board. Alexia Björg Jóhannesdóttir, Helgi Ágústsson and Guðríður Sigurðardóttir did not seek reelection. Svavar Gestsson, Þorvarður Guðlaugsson and Rögnvaldur Guðmundsson continue. So does Kent Lárus Björnsson but new alternate members are Jón Trausti Jónsson and Sigrún Björk Jakobsdóttir from Akureyri. Eric Stefanson, Winnipeg and Pam Sunna Olafson Furstenau continue as US and Canada representatives on the board. Almar Grímsson who stayed on the board as immediate past president for one year left the board after 13 consecutive year’s service.
  

L-H documentary to premiere at Núna (now)

Photo Courtesy Bedroom Community
 
When an organization has over a hundred and twenty-five years of history behind it, there’s surely going to be an interesting story to tell. So went my reasoning when I pitched a documentary film on the long saga of the very newspaper you’re reading right now.
 
MTS, the organization receiving my pitch, is the Manitoba Telephone System, but they also run a TV network, and because of a little-known codicil in their telecommunications license they finance and broadcast documentaries on Manitoba-centric subjects.

Evidently L-H fit that bill, because the next thing I knew, I was elbow-deep in research on the newspaper’s illustrious past.
 
Of course I was familiar with much of the story already, having spent some time as the editor of the paper myself. But to make a comprehensive and accurate movie it was important to move well beyond my own experience and knowledge of the organ and to enlist the help of experts, associates and previous editors, as well as contributors and just plain readers.
 
The resulting movie is simply titled The Icelandic Paper. If it had been called “The Saga of Lögberg-Heimskringla” or something along that line, it no doubt would be mistaken for a foreign film more often than not, and dutifully ignored by many people who might otherwise enjoy a local tale such as this. The interviewees range from well-known personalities such as filmmaker Guy Maddin and good-time rock-and-roller John K. Samson to historian Nelson Gerrard and current editor Joan Eyolfson Cadham. There is also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from the increasingly famed Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.
 
The film was shot in a fairly wide-ranging array of locations for a small-scale doc-umentary: Winnipeg, Gimli, Riverton and several areas in Iceland, including the famed Þingvellir, home of the actual Lögberg itself. The Icelandic scenes stand out in the film as they are black-and-white, and I must here admit that this was the result of a camera malfunction rather than an aesthetic decision. I think it actually worked out quite well, and I think you’ll agree that the mothership looks just as beautiful in monochrome as it does in full colour. In any case, a little black and white is always appropriate for an historical documentary, since, as I’ve  been informed by some of my older relatives, the world itself was not colourized until some time in the mid-1950s.

It is my hope that the movie will help spread the word in some small way about this remarkable community newspaper, at least throughout Manitoba, where it will be broadcast on demand through the MTS network beginning in early summer. It will have its world premiere as a part of the Núna (now) festival when it screens (along with the Bedroom Community film Everything Everywhere All The Time, see sidebar) at Winnipeg’s glorious Cinematheque at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29. Tickets and additional information can be had by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Bedroom Community hits the screen
The beloved Icelandic recording collective and record label Bedroom Community, several of whose members enthralled Winnipeg this past January as part of the New Music Festival, have hit the screen. Everything Everywhere All The Time, is an impressionistic film portrait of the label from director Pierre-Alain Giraud. The hour-long movie des-cribes in visually lyrical terms the creative process behind composers such as Ben Frost, Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon and BC founder Valgeir Sigurðsson.

Both Sigurðsson and Muhly had works performed in Winnipeg this past January as part of a special Bedroom Community evening held by the New Music Festival, and here is an opportunity to hear more of their music in the company of some beautiful Icelandic imagery and shots of the musicians at work in their Reykjavík recording studio. The film screens once only as a part of the Núna (now) Icelandic Canadian cultural convergence: it can be seen, along with the L-H documentary The Icelandic Paper, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29 at the Cinematheque in downtown Winnipeg. Fur-ther details may be found at nunanow.com, or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Núna (now) provides Icelandic entertainment to Winnipeg, Gimli, Riverton
The Núna (now) festival is stacked with Icelandic and Canadian treats again this year. The full schedule and all necessary information is available on the internet, but some of the highlights include the North American debut of The Island, the fantastic performance collaboration from Canadians Arne MacPherson and Freya Björg Olafson and Icelanders Friðgeir Einarsson and Ingibjorg Magnadóttir (June 1 and 2 at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film); a night of musical entertainment at the First Lutheran Church in Winnipeg, featuring Iceland’s Lay Low, Toronto’s Leif Vollbeck and Winnipeg’s Christine Fellows (May 25); another such night at the Gimli Theatre in Gimli, featuring Lay Low, Vollbeck and local favourites Mise En Scene (May 27); and Debbie Patterson’s fantastic performance piece Sargent & Victor, a must for anyone interested in the history of Icelanders in Winnipeg, which can be experienced May 31 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. And there’s more on top of all this. Further details may be found at nunanow.com or on the Núna (now) Face-book page. Tickets may be booked by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 

Exhibit now on Internet

The art exhibition, “Fabulous Iceland: From Sagas to Novels”, chronicling the literary inspiration of Iceland, which opened at Lincoln Center on April 1, is available on the Internet, at http://www.icelandnaturally.com/about/photo-album/album/26
 
Through a series of interviews, the journalist Petur Blondal asked 25 contemporary Icelandic authors to describe their relationships with Icelandic literary traditions and the influence these traditions have on their work. The result is an Icelandic literary history, distilled into individual short stories and coupled with portraits taken by Kristinn Ingvarsson.
 
Iceland’s rich narrative tradition dates back to the Middle Ages and is often apparent in contemporary Icelandic literature. Iceland has managed to maintain its literary traditions due to the consistency of the Icelandic language over several centuries, along with the vast archive of characters, stories, narrative techniques and imagery found in traditional Icelandic literature. These influences leave an abundant literary repository for new texts to draw upon.
 
“It has always fascinated me to hear of the places that writers seek inspiration,” said Petur Blondal. “In the Icelandic literary scene they may reach back many ages to the Icelandic Sagas or to the works of Nobel prize author Halldor Laxness from last century. Or the colorful and lively artist parties at their childhood home could have made all the difference. In diverse voices, all of these authors stories flow from one generation to the other and hopefully they become an inspiration for new authors.”
 
The exhibition features 23 Icelandic authors who have told their story of literary inspiration, which is depicted as text beneath their portraits. This exhibition provides visitors with a view on Icelandic contemporary literature and the roots of its inspiration as well as an insight to the Icelandic Sagas and Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature. In New York City, the exhibit was housed at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at Lincoln Center.
 
Iceland Naturally is a cooperative marketing organization that promotes the tourism, services, products and culture of Iceland. It represents the true essence of Iceland, its creativity and spectacular natural wonders. The group is comprised of Icelandair, Icelandic USA, Inc., Islandsbanki, Reyka Vodka, City of Reykjavík, Icelandic Glacial Water, 66° NORTH, Blue Lagoon, Keflavik International Airport (KEF), Landsvirkjun, Promote Iceland and the Government of Iceland.
Information collected from the press release

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