Saturday morning opened with a beautiful vignette from our fearless organizer himself, David Johnson, then a fascinating lecture by Dr. Fred Woods of BYU. I was looking forward to this talk but it far exceeded my expectations. Dr. Woods told the story of Icelandic converts to the Mormon faith who left their families and homeland and emigrated to Utah. I had no idea there was any connection between Iceland and Mormonism until early last year. While I was waiting to find out if I had been accepted to the program, I came across the blog of a 2011 participant, a girl from Utah who is descended from some of those Mormon Icelandic pioneers. The topic was of particular interest to me since many of my close high school friends were LDS.
Dr. Woods was swarmed by a crowd after his talk, but later that day I finally caught him and thanked him for sharing with us. He recognized me from my presentation the day before and told me to “never lose my spark.”
After a short break, we enjoyed what was hands-down the most entertaining presentation all weekend. Dr. Donald Gislason, a Canadian musicologist, shared his impressions of Iceland Airwaves, which he dubbed “the hippest event on the planet.” His dry sense of humor and his proper, articulate speech had the audience captivated and amused. One of the most interesting points he made is that because music education is available to all students in Iceland (lessons are subsidized by the government), Icelandic kids feel freer to experiment and don’t particularly fear failure, resulting in a richly creative and prolific music culture. I can’t even begin to do justice to Dr. Gislason’s presentation, but thankfully you can watch it in its entirety here.
Saturday afternoon was wide open free time. My mom, aunt, and cousin Holly met me and our relatives Lyle and Audrey, who were also attending the Convention, at the hotel restaurant for lunch, then we walked downtown for a couple hours and did some shopping. After we parted ways, I explored the library some more, admiring its neon green elevator and eerie red hallway.
Saturday evening was the formal gala dinner. Amanda stayed home, but Sacha, Nonni and I sat together (that is, after Nonni finally convinced the hotel staff to add another place setting to our table). Dinner was quite tasty – fish, potatoes, salad, veggies, chocolate cake of some particularly rich and mousse-y variety. I’d give the entertainment mixed reviews – singer-songwriter Kevin Brown was just okay. Soprano Guðrun Ingimarsdóttir was fantastic, performing a medley of traditional Icelandic tunes, operatic arias, and American standards. She also led the crowd in singing a couple Icelandic folk songs, including “Á Sprengisandi,” which we learned at our kvöldvaka in Hofsós last year.
Raffle winners were announced, and the woman who won the grand prize of two tickets to Iceland actually fell down when she heard her name (she was fine!).
When the festivities in the meeting room subsided, the party moved upstairs to the bar, where people from all over North American and Iceland of all ages and life experience reveled in each other’s company until the wee hours of the morning.
By the time I made it downstairs for breakfast, all the food was gone (due to some sort of miscommunication, I think), but thankfully there was still coffee. There wasn’t much on the agenda for Sunday as people needed to start heading home and many had already left. Everett mayor Ray Stephanson said a few words, David said some thank yous, then opened it up for people to share their thoughts about the weekend. Many people were emotional, all were grateful for a memorable weekend.
After many a farewell, Sacha and I headed to Amanda’s apartment on Capitol Hill to meet up with her and Sean. The four of us had coffee at Liberty while we waited for a table at Coastal Kitchen, then tucked in for a cozy brunch. It was bittersweet – wonderful to be reunited, sad to know we had to part ways again. And of course it felt like something was missing – not only the rest of our group, but the land where we met and lived together and forged memories that will forever connect us.
“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes