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From Moelvi Comes Mitchell's Music Print-ready version

by Hilde Staalesen Lilleøren
Bergens Tidende
July 22, 2009

Translated from Norwegian by Rob Argento

Deep in Modalen, between the tall mountains, there is an old farm. It is known as Farestvelt Farm number one and has been the home of the family Farestvelt where they have lived and worked for centuries. The maternal grandmother of Joni Mitchell, or rather Roberta Joan Anderson which was her name at birth, emigrated, with her parents, from here to the USA, when she was only a few weeks old. The family of the jazz singer and teacher Linda Farestvelt also originates from here. Linda and Joni have more than music in common. They are distant cousins.


Linda has not been here since she, as a young girl, visited the place with her father. We have driven close to two hours on the narrow roads which wind further and further into the valley. Linda talks a lot about Joni, who she has admired since she was 16. She speaks of the album "Blue" which she sets so high that she, as a singer, has never dared to approach it. Then she tells about when the genealogist Arnfrid Maeland called her at work one day and told about his discovery.

"I had a hard day and wasn't in the best of moods when Arnfrid called to tell me of his discovery. But at that very moment nothing else mattered any more", says the jazz vocalist glowingly. Linda then called another distant cousin who today lives on the farm which Joni's Great grandmother, Brita Olsdatter Farestvelt, with her family left in 1882. Linda told Arthur Farestvelt, their common relative, the story of the connection of the world renowned singer and his farm.


Arthur Farestvelt meets us at the farm. He comes out from the newest of the yellow buildings with red trim which stand on either side of the road. He doesn't know who Joni Mitchell is, but tells us that the house on the opposite side of the road was the childhood home of Joni's Great grandmother. It was also Arthur's own childhood home and it is to here he and his wife will move when their daughter, Ann Jorunn (23) take over the new house, farm and barn. Ann Jorunn, herself a singer in a rock band, smiles when we tell her of her relationship to Joni Mitchell's daughter.

Arthur has lived on the farm his entire life. He tells about the name Farestvelt, which comes from the words "fare" - to travel over the "tveiten", the plain or meadow. He points to the mountains around us.

Kalsåsen (Kals ridge), Kvitfjellet (White Mountain), Daurmålsbotn - "dinnertime - in that when the sun is exactly over that spot, it is time for the midday meal. He shows us the plum and apple trees. He says that the three largest have always been there.


It was here that Joni's Great grandmother lived and ate her apples, milked her cows and had the midday meal ready when the sun stood over Daursmålsbotn. Then, one day, she suddenly left the farm with her husband and two small children. Joni's maternal grandmother was only an infant then.

Just before they left she was christened in Mo church with the name of Ingeborg. In the United States her name would be changed to Emma, and the family took the name Anderson after Emma's father.

And so in 1882 the family rowed their way to Bergen and from there took a ship to America. In the local records of Mo Valley we can read of the family's emigration, but nothing more. Arthur remarks that he never heard any other stories about Britta nor of her sister, Inga, who left later on that same year.

"My Great grandfather never mentioned anything else about these two women, which seems quite strange in that he spoke very much about other emigrants from the area." said Arthur


At the age of 14, Emma longed for a piano, which she never got. But her granddaughter, Joni Mitchell did - Joni who in several interviews is proud of her grandmother with the unknown origins.

In "Woman of mind and Heart" from 2000 she says that she has no doubts as to her musical roots. And perhaps now she will soon know that those roots lay in Faresveit Farm, where the waters of the Moelvi run, as they always have, down into The Mo valley.

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Added to Library on August 20, 2009. (2901)


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