Every time the lights dim at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, a wave of nostalgia washes over me. As I sit in the dark, I remember so many events I have enjoyed on this stage. And with over 50 years of hosting everything from high school graduations to Broadway shows, ballet and rock bands, both the Southern Jubilee and its northern sister in Edmonton still receive standing ovations.
Sister Acts were Gifts to Albertans
What a great notion it was back then – twin performing arts facilities in our two largest cities to celebrate the 50th year of Alberta’s entry into the confederation of Canada. Both Edmonton and Calgary loved the idea. When the auditoria opened in 1957, they were quickly acclaimed as two of the world’s greatest concert halls. And the world has walked onto those stages ever since.
The Jubes – as we are fond of calling them – have hosted the best of the best: legendary rock bands like Queen, the Eagles, Santana and artists from B.B. King to Bob Dylan, Elton John, Celine Dion, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Broadway shows like Fiddler on the Roof, Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Mamma Mia and Wicked played to sold out houses. Impressive, when you think that each venue seats more than 2,500 people on the main floor, first and second balconies.
And let’s not forget the weightlifting events! During the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Queen Elizabeth had the best seat in the house for the weightlifting competition. Were they worried about the weights crashing through the floor? Not at all. A steel beam had been installed years before to support the stage for a tractor show.
Fostering a Love of the Arts
Growing up in Calgary, I attended hundreds of events at the Jube. I loved going into the grand foyer where giant chandeliers glistened over our heads. My brothers and I would peer into the orchestra pit and watch them warm up during intermission. But it was our resident companies that solidified my passion for the arts. I fell in love with musical theatre the first time I laughed at Calgary Opera’s comical rendition of The Mikado. And the beautiful dancers and shimmering backdrops in Alberta Ballet’s annual performance of the Nutcracker has me returning every December.
The Jubes host more than just big names and big productions, the locals get to use them too. When it was my turn to step onto the stage as a member of my high school band, I felt like I’d made it to the big time. As we waited for the music festival judges to signal we could start, I stared out into the dark and silent abyss. Suddenly from the balcony I heard a stifled sneeze. It proved the acoustics worked both ways. I could tell it was my mom.
Facelift for the Divas
To celebrate their half century of constantly being in the limelight, the Jubes received a facelift and remodelling. When the curtain went up on the renovations in 2005, Alberta’s centennial, the transformation was dramatic. State of the art acoustics and lighting systems and sculpted terraced seating have improved the experience for everyone.
Now when I go to hear my daughter sing at the same competition I was part of, I think of all those performances. And all those people who have walked across that stage. As the curtain lifts, I’m bursting with pride. She is following the footsteps of royalty, rock stars, opera divas, celebrities and even me.