"Calgary's Grand Story" by Donald B. Smith

For my short recital program I am about to perform tonight during Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra's Fundraising Event, I selected piano works by two great composers - Sergei Rachmaninoff and Fryderyk Chopin (Frederic Chopin). Not many Calgarians know that Rachmaninoff was performing here back in 1925 (just three months after Jasha Heifetz's performance) at the Grand Theatre, and that he stayed at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel, where tonight's event is taking place. The Grand was the biggest theatre in the Pacific Northwest at the time and attracted well-known performers such as Sarah Bernhardt, Fred Astaire, Ethel Barrymore, the Marx Brothers, George Burns, Jasha Heifetz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, and Paul Robeson, among others.

F. Chopin belongs to my beloved composers too, and there will be two iconic compositions on the program: Etude C minor Op. 10/12, so called "Revolutionary", and Polonaise A flat Major Op. 53, so called "Heroic" - both belonging to the most recognizable piano repertoire pieces around the globe.

I just purchased a book, "Calgary's Grand Story" by Donald B. Smith, as I wanted to educate myself and get to know more about the history of the city that I made my home for the past 18 years. I am finding it extremely interesting! I also highly recommend this book to everyone willing to explore Calgary's history, as well as to all those individuals who keep asking me why I am living in Calgary since so many years, and not in New York, London or Paris etc. Calgary is the City on Prairies, yes, quite far from the largest cultural hubs, but it has its own rich history, and it is up to people who live and work here to keep it great and prevent it from being just a remote place in the Prairies, in the middle of nowhere...

I am glad to be part of the tonight's event and I hope to see music lovers enjoy this evening's performances and orchestra supporters help CPO to continue performing for Calgary audiences and bringing the best of the best into town.

About the Book: 

Calgary was a boomtown of 50,000 people in 1912, the year the Lougheed Building and the adjacent Grand Theatre were built. The fanfare and anticipation surrounding their opening marked the beginning of a golden era in the city's history. The Lougheed quickly became Calgary's premier corporate address, and the state-of-the-art Grand Theatre the hub of a thriving cultural community. Through the great days of Vaudeville and classic cinema, through the Depression, two world wars, and the oil and gas boom, the Lougheed and the Grand were cornerstones of downtown Calgary. As the city grew up around them, questions about their future arose. Did they still have a place in this new metropolis of shiny glass and steel? After they were nearly destroyed by fire in 2004, the push to restore and revitalize the buildings gained new momentum. From the viewpoint of these two prominent heritage buildings, Donald Smith introduces the reader to the personalities and events that helped shape Calgary in the twentieth century. Complemented by over 140 historical images, Calgary's Grand Story is a fascinating tribute to the Lougheed and the Grand and celebrates their unrivalled position in the city's political, economic, and cultural history.

About the Author(s): 

Donald B. Smith is professor emeritus of history at the University of Calgary. He has written extensively on Native history, as well as the history of Alberta and Calgary.