In a speech at the Empire Club last week, Conrad Black mused “Canadians are notoriously non messianic or self-important, and have no illusions about being a light onto the world.”
That’s a bingo. How else to explain that the Canadian Music Hall of Fame doesn’t have a proper home? Despite Canada punching far above its weight when it comes to exporting music to the world, we’ve done a lousy job of documenting our nation’s musical achievements.
That, however, is finally starting to change. The National Music Centre in Calgary is seeing to that. Later this year, construction will begin at a corner east of downtown on a 160,000 square-foot ultra-modern facility that will span 4th Street SE from what is now an empty lot to the King Edward Hotel, a legendary (but now closed) blues joint. When completed sometime in early 2015, we will have a state-of-the-art celebration of Canadian music.
“This will be more than a place with just plaques on the wall,” says Andrew Mosker, the NMC’s president and CEO. “We want to make it completely immersive and interactive.”
Some $75 million is already in place from three levels of government and public fundraising. There’s still another $40 million to go, but things look bright.
There will be a 300-seat theatre, a recording studio, a live-work block for artists in residence, a multitude of educational facilities and a large collection of artifacts relevant to our musical history.
And it’s more than just rock. There’s country music, classical music and jazz (gotta get Glenn Gould and Oscar Peterson in there). Visitors will also learn about the effect geography and multiculturalism has had on our music.
“It’s quite a broad vision,” says Mosker, “and it will take a lot of work to execute. But we’ll do it.”
Meanwhile, NMC HQ — located a few blocks west of where the new building will rise — is open for business. They have one of the most spectacular collections of keyboards you will ever see. There are proto-pianos from the 16th century,
Theremins from the 1920s to giant component synthesizers from the 1970s (including the actual synth used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The original Rolling Stones mobile recording truck is parked in storage somewhere, too.
So, if you’re in Calgary for the Stampede, reserve some time to take a tour of the NMC. Everyone else should look at nmc.ca.