Digging into the future

The corner of 4th Street and 9th Avenue SE was chock full of dignitaries, guitar shovels and one very famous Canadian musical icon when the National Music Centre broke ground for a new East Village home on February 22.

Against a backdrop of the famed King Eddy hotel – which will be a cornerstone of the new centre – Anne Murray, musical icon and NMC Honourary Patron, beamed widely as she and officials from all levels of government tossed some ceremonial dirt. The Canadian snowbird sure knows how to wield a shovel.

Before the sod turning, music lovers and dignitaries alike packed the Enmax District Energy Centre, kitty-corner from the building site, for a ceremony that was a who’s who of Canadian officials. Premier Alison Redford, Alberta Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk, Federal Minister Jason Kenney, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, CMLC CEO Michael Brown and the venerable Anne Murray all offered kudos to the proud papa of the project, NMC CEO Andrew Mosker. All speakers declared themselves star-struck just to be sharing the stage with a performer who has 24 Juno Awards to her name. “As a mayor, you get to do a lot of fun things,” admitted Naheed Nenshi, “but, folks, I'm on stage with Anne Murray!”

As Andrew Mosker offered up the new National Music Centre to “people who live and die by the musical sword, who line up in the rain for concert tickets,” the excitement surrounding the new addition to East Village was palpable. “I am so excited about what is going on here,” declared one long-time blues fan who remembered the glory days of King Eddy, which once headlined some of the world’s best bluesmen. “I have always loved going to the King Eddy.” Some in the audience were already planning their trips to the new NMC in advance. “It's a 13-minute walk from the Calgary Folk Festival office (in Inglewood),” declared the CFMF's Sara Leishman.

Excited music lovers hugged and cheered and wiped away the occasional tear. Nobody could resist posing with the clever guitar-shaped shovels that were used in the big dig. Handcrafted by a very skilful teenaged member of the NMC Guitar Club, those guitar-shovels were hands down the most sought-after photo-ops after Anne Murray herself. They were, after all, digging into the future.

There were fewer speeches but just as much joy (and a whole lot more music) at a packed Ground Breaker Shaker celebrated that evening at the Golden Age Club in East Village. “People are friendly here at the Ground Break Shaker; I've already made two new friends,” tweeted Angela. “If you're not here, why not?” Noah added: “It's totally going off at the Ground Breaker Shaker ... so awesome!” Local bands like Danny Vacon's High Kicks kept spirits soaring and the dance floor shaking. “Great vibe, good music, come down,” tweeted Tatiana.

What a great day and a great night to dig deep into the music!