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Memorable Manitobans: Jon Fridfinnsson (1866-1936)

Composer, musician, educator, farmer.

Born at Iceland on 16 August 1866, he moved to Canada with his parents in 1876, farming in the Riverton School District and living in Winnipeg until 1883 when they moved to the Rural Municipality of Argyle and settled in the vicinity of the Bru School District. He farmed for 20 years while studying music and taking instruction via correspondence from noted teachers in Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as from Rhys Thomas in Winnipeg. He was also the organist of the Grund Church.

In 1905, he and the family returned to Winnipeg, residing at 627 Victor Street and later 622 Agnes Street. He took a full-time interest in music, publishing works in 1904 and 1921. His 1930 composition of the The Millennial Cantata, a celebratory work for the 1930 millennial of the Icelandic parliament set to accompany a poem written by David Stefannsson, and was regarded to be his most notable music score. It was performed by large choirs abroad and in Winnipeg. In honour of his achievement, he was presented with a Morocco-bound copy of the cantata.

On 22 November 1887, he married Anna Sigridur Jonsdottir Johnson (1867-1940) at Winnipeg and they had eight children: Fridfinnur “Fred” Fridfinnson (1888-1974), Vilhjalmur William “Bill” Fridfinnson, Jonina Lilja Fridfinnson (1892-1989, wife of Gudmundur Kristjan Stephenson), Dorothy “Dora” Fridfinnson (1894-?, wife of W. Berry), Emelia Gudrun “Emily” Fridfinnson (1895-1970, wife of Halldor Baldwin and later Olafur Olafson), Fridsteinn Fridfinnson (1896-1927), Kristjan “Chris” Fridfinnson, and Wolfgang Walter “Wally” Fridfinnson (1902-1956).

He died at the Winnipeg General Hospital on 17 December 1936 and was buried in Brookside Cemetery.

Sources:

Birth, marriage, and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1911 & 1916 Canada censes, Library and Archives Canada.

“Jón Tónskald Fridfinnsson,” Lögberg, 30 April 1936, page 1.

“To sing cantata by Jon Fridfinnsson, pioneer, composer,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 May 1936, page 14.

“Large audience hears cantata by Jon Fridfinnsson,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 May 1936, page 11.

“Aged Icelandic farmer scores with cantata,” The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 9 May 1936, page 27.

“Jon Fridfinnson noted Icelandic musician is dead,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 December 1936, page 5.

“Many friends attend funeral service for Jon Fridfinnsson,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 December 1936, page 4.

Obituary [Anna Sigridur Fridfinnson], Winnipeg Free Press, 27 August 1940, page 2.

Obituary [Walter Fridfinnson], Winnipeg Free Press, 2 March 1956, page 34.

Obituary [Emelia Gudrun Olafson], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 December 1970, page 28.

Obituary [Fridfinnur Fridfinnson], Winnipeg Free Press, 19 June 1974, page 43.

Obituary [Jonina Lilja Stephenson], Winnipeg Free Press, 10 March 1989, page 38.

Come Into Our Heritage: R.M. of Argyle, 1882-1982 by the Argyle Centennial History Book Committee, 1981.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 15 May 2014

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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