Future East Village location ‘home’ for Canadian music

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The long-awaited construction of the National Music Centre’s new East Village home gets underway Feb. 22.

The likes of Premier Alison Redford and Mayor Naheed Nenshi are scheduled to attend the morning’s formal groundbreaking ceremony.

An evening community celebration — set to start at 6:30 p.m. at the Golden Age Club — is open to the public and will feature live music and dining from local food trucks.

“We want to say, ‘Thank you for bringing us this far,’” says Tyler Stewart, who’s been with the centre since July 2012.

“We want people to remember this moment, as it’s when we started working toward having the new building,” says Stewart. “It’s a really great opportunity for us to get together and celebrate this milestone.”

The hall of fame

NMC main3Designed by Portland-based Allied Works Architecture, the five-floor, 160,000-square-foot National Music Centre is planned to house more than 2,000 artifacts and act as a venue for local, national and international artists.

Photo courtesy of National Music CentreAndrew Mosker, president and CEO of The National Music Centre, says the new building will give Canadians a home for our country’s music stories, while establishing a physical space for the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

The building is to be 160,000 square feet at a cost of $132.5 million.

“You really can’t go anywhere in Canada and see Glenn Gould’s piano, Randy Bachman’s guitars, or things that belonged to the Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot or Joni Mitchell all in one place,” says Mosker. “Canada has contributed a lot to the international music scene and we need to celebrate that.”

The artifacts

The National Music Centre has relationships with other establishments all over the world, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

The centre once borrowed a guitar played by k.d. lang on the ’90s TV comedy Ellen from the hall of fame in 2005.

“When we have our new facility, this exchange is going to be occurring with all of our relationships and institutions around the world, so we can bring artifacts to the National Music Centre,” says Mosker.

The support

City Council contributed $25 million to the project, in a rare unanimous vote under former mayor Dave Bronconnier.

The Calgary Folk Music Festival recently found a permanent home in Inglewood, as well.

Mosker points to these two events as examples of our city’s commitment to a thriving music community.

Paul Merkley, professor and co-ordinator of musicology at the University of Ottawa, says the centre has the potential to make a big impact on Canadians’ understanding and appreciation of our “rich, but often ignored” music history.

“The new centre has not yet come to people’s attention across the country,” Merkley says. “But, we should all be paying attention to it.

NMC main1Blues musician, Mike Watson, has been running guitar-based workshops with the National Music Centre for a number of years. He is set to play with the King Eddy All-Stars during the centre’s community celebration on Feb. 22.

Photo by Justin Wilson“Given the design of the building and the location, as well as the presence that the collection can have online, it’ll attract many visitors from other countries.”

The Eddy

A staple in the new development has been the revitalization of the King Edward Hotel, more commonly referred to as the King Eddy.

It will remain at its current location and become part of the new building upon its projected 2015 completion.

Fittingly, one of the musical acts scheduled for Feb. 22 is being billed as the King Eddy All-Stars.

Band members Mike Watson, Bill Dowie and John Rutherford all graced the Eddy’s stage before it was shut down in 2004.

The musicians, along with bassist Tommy Knowles and drummer Eric Allen, plan to give Calgarians a taste of the hotel’s signature sound and a glimpse of what they can expect for its promising future.

“The Eddy has this history, this panache, this ‘cred,’” says Watson. “I remember the last couple years of its life, I’d been going to these open jams. At one point, I walked in and just got smashed and blasted by this sound coming off this guitar on stage. It sounded too good to be real.”

Along with the King Eddy All-Stars, performers scheduled for the groundbreaking include:

  • The Bobby Kork Orchestra
  • The High Kicks
  • Matt Masters & the Gentlemen of the Rodeo

The community

Whether it’s the East Coast Music Association, BreakOut West or Montreal’s thriving scene, Mosker contends the National Music Centre will enable the Canadian music community to connect these programs and activities.

“Our city is evolving and it was just a matter of time before a cultural institution with a national scope and a medium people embrace came from here,” says Mosker.

“It’s Calgary’s time.”


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