Anna Johnson Condie
Life and Work
Anna was born in Sweden in 1895. She came to the Wetaskiwin area with her parents, Lars and Ida Johnson, in 1901. She had three sisters, Ethel, Edna and Signe as well as six brothers. Her father was a carpenter and worked on the Wetaskiwin court house which was opened in 1908. He was also involved in building some of the furniture for the court house.
Anna's association with music began in her early life. She learned to play the violin and guitar from her father, a violinist. This was her first encounter with a musical instrument. Her father then purchased a piano, and Anna worked at small jobs to earn enough money to pay for lessons. Both her parents were active in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church and choir. Choir practice was held in their home which initiated her musical background.
Anna's young life was filled with many challenges including lack of sufficient farm equipment, uncleared land, and just generally not having enough to go around. However, her family surrounded themselves with music. Her father not only made violins, but played the violin and guitar. Many an evening was spent with neighbours gathered together listening to music.
The influence of her parents and her love of music inspired Anna to go further with her music. At the age of 16 Anna was teaching piano lessons and continued to do so for approximately 60 years.
In 1917, Anna married Charles Condie, originally from Smith Falls, Ontario. They had two daughters, Della and Florence. Charles was an engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway for 45 years.
Anna kept her music up in her married life, with teaching piano and violin and becoming a choir leader. As one of the first families to own a cottage at Pigeon Lake, many of her daughters' pleasant memories were of Anna playing the violin around the bonfire.
In the twenties, Anna and her sister Signe, would sit in the pit and, along with other musicians, play the background music for the silent movies at the Audien Theatre. Playing the musical score for old silent films and playing in dance orchestras at Pigeon Lake were significant parts of Anna's life. For several years she was choir leader and organist in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Then, in 1932, she became organist and choir leader at the First United Church. Music became a highlight of every morning and evening service, with Anna at the organ, sister, Signe at the piano or marimba, (instrument resembling the xylophone) and sister, Edna, along with Isabelle and Robert George on violins.
The choral groups in which Anna sang received high marks in festival competitions in Edmonton. She was in charge of the Wetaskiwin Musical Festival in 1933. A particular highlight of her life was when she persuaded the Toronto Conservatory of music to establish an examination centre at Wetaskiwin. Anna taught piano for so many years that she was eventually teaching grandchildren other former pupils.
Anna was an honorary member of The Order of the Royal Purple, a benevolent society, for many years. She not only supplied the music for many occasions, she was also the treasurer for a while. Along with other members she helped with the hampers for the poor at Christmas, visited sick members, and helped out with funding drives for cancer.
Mrs. Anna Condie had a cordial professional relationship with musicians in the community: Marjorie Robinson, teacher and organist at Immanuel Church, Professor W. Touche and L. D. Wright, teachers and church organists. They worked together to supply musical accompaniments at armistice services, dance revues, church and lodge concerts.
In 1974, She was proclaimed the "Citizen of the Year" in Wetaskiwin. In 1979, at the Alberta Registered Music Teachers dinner, in Edmonton, Anna was awarded an Honorary Membership in the Music Teachers Association which was a part of the largest professional music group in Canada.
For a number of years, Anna played the violin in the Wetaskiwin Concert Orchestra formed under the leadership of Reverend Father Walraven around 1915.
In her later years Anna went to live with her daughter, Mrs. Della Murray, in Camrose until her death in February, 1988.
Research and Writing: Janis Ruitenbeck
Contributors: Della Murray, Anne Murray and Kristen Murray Curator: Janis Ruitenbeck