Tag Archives: Iceland

Icelander Víkingur Ólafsson Wows Toronto

Those of us who were able to sneak away last week for a lunchtime musical interlude were treated to a recital by Víkingur Ólafsson, Iceland’s award-winning rising star pianist. ‘The Idea of the North‘ was part of a season of free concerts and dance events at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson

Víkingur Ólafsson at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.  Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The piano virtuoso made his Toronto debut performing folk songs from his native Iceland. He also paid tribute to one of his great inspirations, legendary Toronto pianist Glenn Gould, in a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

As a small child, Ólafsson trained his ear by listening in on his parents’ music lessons at home. He learned to play piano before he learned to speak.

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson-2

Víkingur Ólafsson. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.


Víkingur Ólafsson in his native Iceland. Photo courtesy of the artist.

At just 30, the young pianist displays an immense talent. Outside the concert stage, Víkingur is the driving force behind numerous innovative musical projects – a television series, Útúrdúr (roughly translated as Out-of-tune); the Reykjavík Midsummer Music festival at the Harpa Concert Hall; and, his own record label, Dirrindí.

He is wrapping up a cross-Canada tour and his busy schedule has him hopping across the globe. Catch him if you can! In the meantime, have a listen to this sampling.

Artists from around the world share their talent and passion in six series –vocal, piano, jazz, dance, chamber and world music against an ever-changing city backdrop seen from the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. For more information on the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series, see here.

Art + Science in ‘Chasing Ice’

Toronto, a city whose cultural calendar packs in close to 70 film festivals a year, wrapped up the 13th annual Planet in Focus with a screening of ‘Chasing Ice,’ a stunning environmental documentary of a fearless photojournalist tracking the Arctic’s alarming rate of glacial recession as part of a global outreach campaign.

At the event’s Closing Night gala, international Eco Hero and National Geographic photographer James Balog shared the story of ‘Chasing Ice,’ a long-term photography project aimed at educating the public about the dramatic effects of global warming. And nowhere are they more visibly astounding than in mountains of ice in motion.

Accompanied by his Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) team, Balog leads expeditions to Greenland, Iceland, northern Canada and the USA to photograph glaciers and install permanent time-lapse cameras on-site in some of the Earth’s harshest conditions. To date, there are 40+ cameras dotting the globe shooting every half hour of daylight, year-round. After months at a time, the EIS crew returns to retrieve the images and assembles them into time-compressed video animations that illustrate a rapidly shifting landscape – a disappearing world forever caught on film. This scientific evidence is irrefutable proof of drastic climate change. The documentary features breathtaking stills that leave viewers agape and spellbinding sequences that garnered it Excellence in Cinematography at Sundance.

Armed with a background in Geomorphology and a fondness for the wild, Balog switched early on from a career in academic science to nature photojournalism, a craft he honed on his own. Assignments and personal projects have taken him to document endangered animals, old-growth forests and the aftermath of tsunamis. But he now claims to have found his mission in life:  polar ice.

Balog’s passion and need for ‘getting the shot’ override all sense of caution and that has led him to undergo knee surgery four times to-date. Adventurous to the bone, he physically positions himself in any which way to best capture the image: a close-up of an ice sheet or an aerial of crevasses. Throughout the film, Balog perilously wades through ice-cold water, or, donning crampons and a harness, he hangs off the edge of a precipice, or descends into a ‘moulin’, a shaft created by the force of cascading meltwater – in essence, an abyss.

‘Chasing Ice’ is a call to action. It inspires social change. And by marrying art and science, Balog has found what he’s truly meant to do.

Photos courtesy of James Balog. ‘Chasing Ice’ is coming in November to a theatre near you… See the trailer here.

Reykjavik II

Reykjavik I


Þingvellir National Park

Iceland’s Þingvellir National Park is an enormous geological rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates – one of the few spots in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge comes above water. The two plates are diverging, causing fissures, gullies, and dramatic cliffs throughout the region. In addition to its spectacular scenery, Þingvellir (“Parliament Plains”) is also central to the nation’s history, having been home to the first parliament in the world, and headed by none other than Icelandic Vikings.

West of Þingvellir, the coastal village of Stokkseyri is known for its black sandy beach but the lobster dishes alone from seashore restaurant Vid Fjöruborðið are worth the trip. Significantly smaller and more savoury than the North American variety, lobsters are baked in butter and garlic and paired with small potatoes and dense bread, ideal for dipping in garlicky sweet or tarragon sauces.

Kærar kveðjur (kind regards) from an Icelander and her dog.