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3 high notes at the National Music Centre


Journey behind Alberta’s music festivals

Photo by Gabriella Gut.

Every year thousands of Calgarians flock to local music festivals, or make the pilgrimage to cities and towns across Alberta, to celebrate genres spanning hip hop, folk, blues and more. Festival Alberta at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre (NMC), takes a look at the history and impact of Alberta’s music festivals.

“Festivals are part of the spirit of Alberta,” says Mike Mattson, digital content coordinator with the collections team. “You get to hear about a bunch of music you might not know about, and have a sense of belonging and be with other like-minded souls.”

The exhibit includes photos, video interviews, concert footage and memorabilia, including a set-up from a “tarpie” in honour of the festival fans who show up early with lawn chairs and coolers to stake out a good spot.

Mattson says Alberta’s vibrant music festival scene has its roots in hootenannies from long ago: “I think it goes back to early days in Alberta when settlers would come together in the church or community hall to dance.”

The exhibit also takes a look at legendary events that put Alberta on the map, like Festival Express, the 1970 train tour across Canada that stopped in Calgary and included legendary musicians Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. The exhibit will be housed in Studio Bell’s Drop-in Zone until the fall, and is completely free to view.

Honouring legendary Canadian musicians 

Photo by Gabriella Gut.

NMC is showcasing some impressive memorabilia honouring 2017 inductees to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Some of what you’ll find in the Showcase: 2017 Inductees exhibit includes a vintage guitar owned by Neil Young and a song book with lyrics for Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” There is also memorabilia from inductees Paul Brandt, Harvey Gold, Beau Dommage and Stéphane Venne.

Adam Fox, director of programs for NMC, says he hopes visitors are inspired to revisit the discographies from the artists or discover music new to them.

“If you’re a country music fan, and you’re here to see Paul Brandt’s representation, and you go, ‘What is this Dommage?’ You might Google it and find something you can get into,” Fox says. “I hope you walk away with a sense of pride in the amazing diversity of Canadian talent we produce. To see the handwritten lyrics to “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”— to me that’s one of my favourite songs ever and I’m geeked we’ve got that notebook here.”

I’m with the band 

Photo by Brandon Wallis.

NMC is offering new Backstage Pass Tours that provide a behind-the-scenes look at artist spaces, musical instruments and treasured artifacts, including the famed Rolling Stones Mobile Studio—a truck that recorded albums from the band and several other legends, including Led Zeppelin.

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