Adventures: Studio Bell anchors Calgary’s Music Mile

Picture concert venues, broadcast facilities, recording studios and interactive displays in one, connected complex

Studio Bell is linked by skybridge to what was the landmark King Eddy Hotel.

Studio Bell is linked by skybridge to what was the landmark King Eddy Hotel.

CALGARY, AB: Roger Miller might have been “King of the Road”, but Calgary’s Inglewood Music Mile and East Village districts trumpet “We’ve Got Rhythm”. Here, you’ll also reconnect with favourites like Oscar Peterson, Anne Murray, and be introduced to the Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio.

Anchoring the foothills city Music Mile is the impressive new Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

Architecturally impressive inside, and out, a skybridge links the NMC to what once was the landmark King Eddy Hotel. This outstanding, comprehensive, complex is located at 851- 4th St. SE.

Architect Brad Cloepfil describes the structure best. “Studio Bell is a gathering of resonant vessels that stand as sentinels to Calgary’s East Village. The building is a silent and powerful instrument that exists to emanate music and light. Nine towers form the body of the building; the walls, clad in terra cotta, rise in subtle curves that merge, part, and intertwine, modeled by light, gravity, and acoustics.”

Picture, if you will, concert venues, broadcast facilities, recording studios and interactive displays all within one interconnected complex. In fact, this towering music destination saved the King Eddy from demolition, creating new life for it as a concert hall. Five floors loaded with music history and memorabilia, the National Music Centre took me a couple of hours to explore.

The Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio, which was airlifted into place, rightfully earned its own permanent home space. A Stones moneymaking mobile brainchild, the RSM was also used for recording by legends like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. It also served as a big Stones British tax break since they could park it at Mick’s place in France. Ask for a tour of this area. You won’t find another one like it.

TONTO, one of world’s largest analog synthesizers, is part of the main collection. Think ‘70s stars like Stevie Wonder and The Isley Brothers. You don’t need to know anything about such equipment to be impressed.

Elton John’s “Songwriting” piano takes pride of place here, as does the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Anne Murray, Oscar Peterson, and Stompin’ Tom Connors memorabilia surround collectibles like… Corey Hart’s sunglasses-at-night Ray-Bans.

Over 2,000 objects are housed here. About 20 per cent of the collection are displayed. Artists-in-residence will easily access them during their tenure. For visitors, many will simply bring back music memories – a subject the world needs more of these days.

At the NMC all the world’s a stage. Calgary is humming right along with it.

Retired Inglewood resident Bob Chartier, 69, enthusiastically supports the idea of Calgary as Canada’s music central.

Dubbed the Mayor of Music Mile, Chartier values the area’s unique charm and identity, while working diligently with associates to encourage Inglewood merchants to tune in. He recommends businesses incorporate music-related overtones. A guest artist here, a music window display there. The vibe, which is a work in progress, clearly appeals to owners and visitors alike

Recordland, a vintage Inglewood store, is crammed floor to ceiling with vinyl records (See picture, left. Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo), CDs, and shoulder-to-shoulder music lovers. It blends effectively into the Music Mile theme.

“I’m a child of ‘50s music – anything before 1980,” Chartier says, tapping some classic vinyl. “Roots music – you know, old blues, gospel, jazz.”

A few miles away on Princes Island, the Calgary Folk Fest is in full swing. Here Calgary is attracting a different demographic. Live bands attract music lovers of all ages throughout the July weekend. Select food trucks offer a mix of vittles.

Jaipur Bridge leading onto the island, known for its dragon Pokémon, is crammed with less in-tune heads-down gamers. Clearly there’s something for everyone.

Jubilations Dinner Theatre to see the ‘Hey, Pretty Woman’ was on my agenda one evening.

Full disclosure: Though an avid theatre-goer, I’m not wild about this theatre style. I’m always terrified I’ll be ‘selected’ to sing, dance, or otherwise embarrass myself.

Two surprises were in store: a) I scored the lone cabbie who actually knew Calgary city geography and could find his way to the converted Bow Trail and 37th St. SW Westbrook Mall movie theatre which has been home to Jubilations for 13 years. b) I relaxed and enjoyed the show.

Kitschy, casual, fun, friendly, and professional, the music and script delivery were skillful. Waiter/cast member, Billionaire Bobby, delivered the four-course meal with over-the-top patter and never-out-of character attention.

Billed as parodies of familiar hit movies, musicals, and TV shows, audience participation is encouraged, but doesn’t overshadow some excellent vocals. Many cast members have worked together frequently, and their comfortable camaraderie is apparent.

Rock Around the Clock is up next from Sept. 9 – Nov. 6. For ticket prices and other details go to Just one more facet of Calgary’s music scene.

Downtown the Calgary Film Festival, Calgary Greek Festival, and a plethora of other music and arts-related events are on Calgary stages. Check for dates and details.

Clearly Calgary is facing the music – and loving it.

– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a British Columbia based journalist and photographer. Contact her at

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