Canadian museum lets you play your own tune

Let's be honest: Museums can be kind of boring. They can change our worldview and show us things we'd never see otherwise, but standing around, shuffling from one untouchable object to the next?

That is why National Music Centre, a Calgary museum of musical instruments dating to the 16th century, is the least boring museum I've ever visited. In fact, it doesn't even like to call itself a museum.

"Museums make people think of something serious and things behind glass," said Mary Kapusta, a spokeswoman for the center.

"If you see something here and say, 'What's that?' you'll probably get the chance to play it."

The National Music Centre opens its doors just once a week for guided tours, but it's a joyous exploration of six centuries of instruments.

Most are keyboards, ranging from a 16th-century harpsichord to electric pianos and synthesizers.

Some of the most fun finds are the most unexpected: the earliest versions of drum machines from the 1950s and the piano on which Elton John composed his earliest songs. Guests are encouraged to play many of the instruments, even John's piano.

The National Music Centre is in the midst of building a $150-million, 160,000-square-foot facility that will include three recording studios, a performance space and more than double the current exhibition space.

It is expected to open in 2016. In the meantime, public tours are offered at 1:30 p.m. Sundays ($10 per person).

The museum is located at 134 11 Ave. SE, 403-543-5115403-543-5115,


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