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From the mouth of Mo River flows Mitchell's music Print-ready version

by Hilde Staalesen Lilleøren
Bergens Tidende
July 22, 2009

Translated from Norwegian by Pat Coughlin.

On a small farm far up in Mo valley, the world famous singer and songwriter's grandmother was born.

Far up in Modalen (Mo valley), between the high mountains, there is an old farm named Farestveit farm number one, and it is here that the Farestveit family has cultivated, lived and built for centuries. It is from here that the grandmother of Joni Mitchell (or Roberta Joan Anderson as she was originally named) emigrated to the USA with her parents when she was only a few weeks old. This is also where the family of the teacher and jazz singer, Linda Farestveit comes from. Linda and Joni have more than music in common. They are third cousins.

The day is saved

Linda hasn't been here since she visited the place with her father as a young girl. We have driven almost two hours on the small road that twists and turns further and further into the valley. Linda has talked about Joni, who she has admired since she was 16. She's talked about the album Blue, which she thinks so highly of that she as a singer has never dared approach. Then she tells us about the day the genealogist, Arnfrid Mæland, called her at work and told her of her findings.

"I had had a slow day and wasn't in the best mood when Arnfrid called to say that I was Joni Mitchell's third cousin. After that, nothing else mattered," beamed the jazz singer.

Then it was Linda's turn to call another third cousin who today lives on the farm that Joni's great-grandmother, Brita Olsdatter Farestveit, left together with her little family in 1882.

Linda told Arthur Farestveit, who is both Joni and her third cousin, the story of the world renown singer's connection with his farm.

The farm between the mountains

Arthur Farestveit greets us in his farmyard. He comes out of the most recently built of two yellow houses with red trim that stand on each side of the small road. He doesn't know who Joni Mitchell is, but says that the house on the other side of the road was Joni's great-grandmother's childhood home. It is also Arthur's childhood home, and both he and his wife will soon move back in to it while their daughter, Ann Jorunn (23) takes over the new house, the farm and the cows. Ann Jorunn, who is a singer in a rock band herself, smiles shyly when Linda tells her that she is the daughter of Joni Mitchell's third cousin.

Arthur has lived on the farm his entire life. He explains that the name Farestveit, which comes from to travel (å fare) over tveiten, which means plain or flat stretch of land. He points to the mountains around us: Kalsåsen, Kvitfjellet, and Daurmålsbotn. Daurmål means midday, and when the sun is in the middle of the gap here, it means that it is time for the midday meal. He shows us the plum trees and the apple trees. He says the three largest of these have always been there.

When the sisters left

Joni's great-grandmother walked here and ate the apples, milked the cows and had the midday meal ready at twelve o'clock when the sun was at its highest over Daurmålsbotn. Then one day she suddenly left the farm with her husband and their two small children. Joni's father's mother was only an infant at the time and just managed to be baptised Ingeborg at the church in Mo before they left. In the USA, her name was changed to Emma, and the family took the name Anderson after Emma's father .

In 1882, the little family rode to Bergen, where they took the boat to America. The parish of Modal has records of the family's emigration, but nothing more. Arthur was surprised that he was never told of either Brita's or her sister Inga's emigration, who also left that year. "My grandfather never mentioned these two aunts of his, which is very strange since he talked so much about other emigrants from the area," he says.

Music from Mo River

As a 14 year old, Emma Anderson wanted a piano that she never got. However, her grandchild, Joni Mitchell, who in several interviews talks proudly about her grandmother whose origins were unknown, did.

In Women of Heart and Mind from 2000, she says she has no doubt about where her musical roots come from. Soon she may also get to know that those roots remain at Farestveit farm, where the Mo River gurgles down Mo valley as it always has done.

* Translator's note: Emma's father's father would probably then have been Anders Farestveit. Her father then would be Anders' son, or Anderson. Note that Arthur's last name is still the name of his farm.

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Added to Library on September 5, 2009. (3407)

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