Valdimar Jónsson (Valdimar Johnson) 14.05.1874-03.05.1968

Valdimar Jónsson er fæddur að Hofstöðum, Mývatnssveit, 14. maí 1874. Foreldrar: Jón Erlendsson, Sturlusonar , á Rauðá, Bárðardal, (Sturluætt), og Kristbjörg Gunnlaugsdóttir, Kolbeinssonar, (Skútustaðaætt). Erlendur á Rauðá var kvæntur Önnu Sigurðardóttur, hálfsystur Jóns Alþm. Á Gautlöndum (Mýrarætt). Erlendur var sá er við annan mann kannaðir fyrstur Nýja-(Jökul)dal árið 1845 (sjá Árb. Ferðafél. 1967).

Foreldrar V.J. Bjuggu fyrst að Hofstöðum, síðan að Brettingsstöðum, Laxárdal. Þar bjó síðar bróðursonur Jóns, Erlendur Sigurðsson, faðir Konráðs kennara á Laugum og þeirra systkina. ¬– V.J. missti föður sinn 2 ára gamall. Með móður sinni og seinni manni hennar, Sigurjóni Davíðssyni, fluttist hann í Skörð, þá í Granastaði, þá í Ytri-Skál. Heimaárin síðustu 2 var hann vinnumaður í Torfunesi (hjá Arngrími Einarssyni.). Hann man heimahagana vel. Fyrir því var honum ljúft og létt um að gera lagið við „Æskuminning frá Íslandi“. Hann fór til Kanada 1893, 19 ára. Átti 5 systur (sú yngsta hálfsystir). Þær fluttust allar vestur. Ein þeirra var Þuríður, húsfreyja á Geirbjarnarstöðum. Dóttir hennar, Kristín Jónsdóttir, húsfreyja á Granastöðum ílentist hér á landi ein alls þessa fólks. Eru niðjar hennar nánustu ættmenn V.J. austanhafs.

Snemma bar á sönggleði og músíkþrá hjá V.J. Þegar hann var í Torfunesi var hann eitt sinn vikutíma hjá Halldórsstaða-bræðrum (Kristjáni og Sigurði) að læra bassa í Passíusálma-lögnum. Mun hann þá í fyrsta sinn hafa kynnzt nótum. En vestra beið hans hrakningasöm og arðlítil atvinna, svo að til lítils var að láta sig dreyma um músík.

Nokkur ár liðu. Hálfþrítugur kvæntist hann (2. Des 1899) Margréti Bergsveinsdóttur (ættuð úr Laxárdal, Dalasýslu). Heimili þeirra var í Winnipeg. Hún var ljúflynd kona og ágæt. Skildi vel hljómlistarlöngun manns síns. Var hún að því í 2 ár með leynd, að safna í sjóð til að geta fest kaup á hljóðfæri. Einn daginn var píanó komið heim til þeirra, húsbóndanum óvænt. Mun hann ekki hafa dregið að fara um það höndum. En fé skorti til að kaupa kennslu. Þó fékk V. Nokkra tíma hjá Páli Dalman í Wpg. Svo bar það við kvöld eitt, að Jónas Pálsson píanókennari heyrði slaghörpuslátt í íbúð þeirra, þótti laglega slegið og kvaddi dyra. Hvatti Jónas V. Til náms, lét hann hafa við vægu gjaldi 20 tíma fyrst, seinna 6. En svo girtu veikindi og fátæktarbals fyrir frekari hljómlistarnámi. 1906 nam V. Land í nýrri Íslendingabyggð við Quill-vötn („Vatnabyggð“ Wynyard). Í Sask. –fylki. Þar kynntist ég V. Og fjölskyldu hans mætavel á árunum 22-30. Börn hjónanna voru 5, sum að verða uppkomin, þegar ég kom í byggðina, 2 dætur, 3 synir. V. Var ötull og hagsýnn bóndi, smiður góður. Hann söng í kórum, en snerti sjaldan á píanóinu. Hendur hans voru heldur ekki þess legar, eftir mikið skógarhögg og akurgerð. Járnsmíðin hafði líka leikið suma fingur hans grátt. Stundum tókst þó að nudda honum að hljóðfærinu. Lék hann þá lög, sem hann hafði lært utanað á Winnipeg-árunum, allstór lög, hröð og klingjandi. Þegar hann var búinn að þukla á þeim um stund og „kominn á lagið“ var verulega gaman að hlusta á hann. Minnti hann þá á gamlan gæðing, sem kemst í glaða samreið, gleymir því, að hann hefir verið gerður að kerruklár og fyllist fjöri og kappi.

Haustið 1957 vorum við hljónin gestir hans um tíma. Kona hans var þá látin fyrir allmörgum árum. Hann var ogðinn 83 ára. Börn hans, dugandi og listræn höfðu tekið við búrekstrinum. Nú gat hann lesið góðar bækur, ísl. og enskar, og haf hugann við ljóð og lög. Er vel kunnugur ísl. aldamótaskáldunum og kann margt kvæða og vísna. Hikandi bauð hann mér að heyra lag, sem hann hefði samið! Lagið skrifaði ég upp og raddsetti – eftir minni getu. 1-2 árum síðar söng Kirkjukór Húsavíkur lag þetta og lét vel af. – Nú er V. 93 ára en er andlega heill og hress. Ljóð og tónar eiga eflaust sinn hlut í að viðhalda lífsvilja hans, og – vöku. Á þessum árum hefir hann samið lögin, sem birtast hér. Vonandi gjalda þau þess ekki mjög, að hann fól mér, gömlum sóknarpresti sínum og vini, að raddsetja þau og uppskrifa fyrir ljósprentun. Þau koma út í fáum eintökum aðeins. Þess er vert að geta, að starfslið sjúkrahúsanna hafa yfirlett látið sér mjög annt um þenna íslenzka öldung. Upp úr þeirr reynslu eru sprottin lögin við kvæði Stgr. Arasonar, í ágætri þýðingu eftir Páld Bjarnason. (Odes and Echoes, bls. 85)

Hálsi, í des. 1967 Friðrik A. Friðriksson.

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Translation of preface to „Seventeen tunes for choral singin“ by Valdimar Johnson, Wynyard Saskatchewan.

Valdimar Johnson was born at Hofstaðir, Mývatnssveit, May 14, 1874. His parents were Jón, son of Erlendur, son of Sturla of Rauðá in Bárðardalur (descedants of Sturla) and, and Kristbjörg daughter of Gunnlaugur , son of Kolbeinn (of the Skútustaða family). Erlendur of Rauðá was married to Anna Sigurðardóttir, who was a half-sister to Jón Sigurðsson, M.P., from Gautlönd (of the Mýra family). It was Erlendur who with one other man was the first to explore Nýja-(Jökul) dal („New Glacier Valley“) in 1845. (See Árbók Ferðafélagsins (The Yearbook of the Travel Association, 1967).

The parents of Valdimar Johnson lived first at Hofstaðir but later at Brettingsstaðir in Laxárdal. Jón‘s nephew, Erlendur Sigurðsson, father of Konráð, a teacher at Laugar, and of his brothers and sisters, later resided there.

Valdimar Johnson lost his father when he was two years of age. He moved with his mother and her second husband, Sigurjón Davíðsson, to Skörð, the Granasataðir, and finally to Ytri-Skál. During his last two years in Iceland he was a hired man at Torfunes, in employ of Arngrímur Einarsson. He remembers clearly his home community: therefor it was a ligth and plesant undertaking for him to compose the tune „Æskuminningar frá Íslandi“ (Memories of my youth). In 1893 he emigrated to Canada, then nineteen years of age. He had five sisters, the youngest of them a half-sister, all of whom emigrated to America. One of them was Þuríður, who was mistress of Geirbjarnarstaðir. Her daughter Kristín Jónsdóttir, mistress of Granastaðir, is the only one of his family that remained in Iceland. Her descendants are Valdimar Johnson‘s closest relatives on this side of the ocean.[in Iceland]

At an early age Valdimar Johnson revealed his love of song and longing for music. When he was at Torfunes he once stayed a week with the brothers Kristján and Sigurður of Halldórsstaðir learning the singin of the bass in the Passíusálmar (Passion hymns). That was presumably the first time that he became acquainted with notation in music. But in America there awaited him illpaid and ardous employment, with many vicissitues, so that it was in vein to dream of music. Several years passed. On December 2, 1899, at the age of twenty-five, he married Margrét Bergsveinsdóttir, whose family was from Laxárdal in Dalasýsla. They made their home in Winnipeg. She was an excellent, gentle woman, who well understood her husband‘s longing for music. It took her two years of saving in secret to make a payment on a musical instrument. One day, to her husband‘s complete surprise, there was a piano in their home. Doubtless he sat at it and began to play it immediately: but now he lacked the means to secure instruction. However, Valdimar did receive some lessons from Páll Dalman in Winnipeg. Then it happened one evening that Jónas Pálsson, the piano teacher, heard piano-playing in their recidence. He was so impressed with it that he knocked on their door. Jónas Pálsson urged Valdimar Johnson to continue with his musicals studies and gave him first twenty lessons and later six at a moderate charge. But then illness and poverty affectively precluded further musical studies.

In 1906 Valdimar Johnson took a homsstead in a new Icelandic colony by the Quill Lake (the „Lake District“), in the Wynyard district in Saskatchewan. There I became very well acuainted with Valdimar Johnson and his family in the years 1922-30. When I came to that community there were five children in his household, three sons and two daughters, some almost full-grown. Valdimar was an energetic and capable farmer and a good carpenter. He sang in choirs, but rarely touched the piano. His hands were no longer adapted to it, after lengthy toil in forest and field. Metalwork had also spoiled some of his fingers. Yet he could occasionally be coaxed to the piano. Then he played tunes that he had learned by heart in his Winnipeg years, rather advanced tunes, swift and melodious. When he had tried them for a while and had „found the tune“, it was a real plesure to listen to him. Then he reminded one of a fine old saddle-horse that joins the company of riders, forgets that he has been converted into a carhorse, and becames full of life and eagerness. In the fall of 1957 my wife and I were his guests for a while. His wife had died several years before. He was then eighty-tree, and his children, who are capable, and artistially inclined, had taken over the farming operation. Now he could read good books in both Icelandic and English, and occupy himself with poetry and music. He is quite familiar with the Icelandic poets of the turn of the century and knows by heart many stanzas and poems. Hesitantly he offered to let me hear a tune that he had composed! A year or two later the Church Choir of Húsavík sang his tune and expressed pleasure with it.

Valdimar Johnson is now ninety-three and during the last decade has frequently spent time in hospitals, but is mentally sound and alert. Music and poetry have doubtless had a good share in maintaining his will to live and his mental alertness. During these years he has composed the tunes that appear in this publiction. It is to be hoped that they have not suffered greatly through is having entrusted me, his old minister and friend, with making the arrangements for them and coping them out for lithoprint reproduction. They are being published in a few copies only. It is worth mentioning that in general the staff of the hospitals has shown great solicitude for this Icelandic patriarch. Out of that experience have come the tunes to the poem by Steingrímur Arason, of which there is an excellent translation by Pall Bjarnason („Odes and Echoes“, page 85). „The Nurse“.

Hálsi, December 1967 Rev. Friðrik Friðriksson Valdimar Johnson died May 3rd 1968.


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