Calgary’s East Village restoration has been an ongoing project that first surfaced in 2005. Surviving the floods of 2013 with minimal damage, the project carries on with the recent grand opening of Studio Bell’s National Music Centre along the old “Whiskey Row” on Canada Day in 2016.
Preserving the old while embracing the new in an ever-evolving city is constant consideration for Calgary city planners. As much as displaying Canada’s musical evolution and heritage in the National Music Centre was important to developers, so was the preservation of Calgary’s own musical heritage.
160, 000 square feet of building that emulated music and light, with a combination of contemporary and historical. Consisting of nine towers in total, the modern five story building clad in over 200, 000 German made terra cotta tiles that were glazed in the Netherlands, has managed to sustain and incorporate the historic, revitalized King Edward Hotel.
Located along 9th avenue across from the railroad tracks, the King Edward Hotel, more commonly referred to as “King Eddy” was originally built in 1905. Even though for the majority of its existence, the Eddy was known as slightly seedy, the hotel was home to Calgary’s most notorious blues bar and host to some of the most infamous blues musicians. Seedy or not, it was a place that was visited for a night of blues by many Calgarians, from all walks of life, drawing blues enthusiasts from around the country. The once condemned but now reconstructed Eddy can now be rented and is used as a live music venue once again.
Bland who works for the centre in programming, said that the head architect for the new Bell Studio, National Music Centre, Brad Cleopfil, drew his inspiration from musical instruments and Alberta landscapes.
Bland said that the centre’s focus is to capture Canada’s entire musical culture, from the east to the west, with displays of Canada’s heritage, icons, music hall of fame, to country and song writing halls of fame.
“It is Canada’s first national music centre, with partners from all over Canada.”
As the centre celebrates Canada’s music history with its 2000 artefacts, it has become a place of inspiration for up and coming artists through programs such as its Jam Club, School Program, and Public Program. The centre also has a unique program called Artist in Residence, which is where musicians from around the world can come to Calgary for a few days and use the full range of the facility to explore and create sound. At the end of the artist’s stay a performance is put on to share the artist’s creation with the public.
Lisa Lipton was the eighth artist in residence at the centre. Her finale performance on Feb. 24 was a blend of sound triggering sound. Lipton is a multidisciplinary performer whose interest in visiting the facility as a resident was to create a “back track, enhanced by a drum-kit, displaying capacity to trigger sounds.” She is also interested in creative movement through film as well is currently working on a sci-fi radio play.
Lipton said that her experience in the centre was emotional at times as she would “fall in love with the instruments” knowing she was restricted by time and that soon she would be leaving. The said the most challenging part of maintaining her uniqueness as a multidisciplinary and creative artist is “boundary breaking”.
“The external people looking in and telling you where you fit in,” says Lipton.
Lipton travelled from her home in eastern Canada, Nova Scotia, all the way to the west to the centre to combine her innovative and creative mind with the timeless machines and the latest technology to continue to expand on the legend of exploration in celebration of Canada’s music mosaic.