Canada's musical spotlight shines on Calgary this weekend as the country's top recording artists gather to celebrate the Juno Awards.

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Scott Anderson of Finger Eleven sings at Thursday night's free, Juno weekend kick-off concert in Calgary. ((CBC))

Festivities leading up to Canada's version of the Grammys officially got underway Thursday with a free, outdoor show at Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary.

The celebrations continue Friday with performances around the city and the annual musicians-versus-former-NHLers charity hockey match.

Perennial player Jim Cuddy leads a team featuring other musicians, such as Tom Cochrane and Shane Yellowbird, as well as Chris Murphy and Andrew Scott of Sloan.

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Former NHL great Lanny McDonald, left, and musician Jim Cuddy held a practice on Thursday, before Friday night's annual Juno weekend charity hockey match. ((Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press))

The hockey legends team will be packed with stars from the 1989 Stanley Cup-winning Calgary Flames, including Lanny McDonald, Colin Patterson, Doug Gilmour and Jamie Macoun, as well as greats like Paul Coffey.

Saturday's activities include the popular Juno Fan Fare, which allows musicians to meet and give autographs to fans, and an evening awards show where the bulk of the Juno Awards in 39 categories will be presented.

On Sunday, the main, televised Juno Awards gala will be broadcast live across most of Canada from Calgary's Saddledome.

Top Juno contenders are household names

Some of Canada's best-known musicians are this year's top nominees.

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Anne Murray, nominated for her album Duets: Friends & Legends, will be among the performers Sunday night. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))

Singer Celine Dion, currently on a world tour, leads with six nods. The diva is closely followed by indie darling Feist, pop-rock princess Avril Lavigne and crooner Michael Bublé with five nominations each.

The four will compete against each other for the best artist trophy, along with Quebec pop-rock singer and guitarist Pascale Picard.

Canadian icon Anne Murray also is a prominent contender this year, after Juno organizers sheepishly admitted that a calculation glitch excluded her popular release Duets: Friends & Legends from the best album race.

Instead of removing one of the five original finalists, organizers chose to have six compete in the coveted category:

  • Dion, who scored two nominations: for her English album Taking Chances and the French-language D'Elles.
  • Lavigne for The Best Damn Thing.
  • Feist for The Reminder.
  • Bublé for Call Me Irresponsible.
  • Murray's Duets.

Soon after the announcement, Murray stirred up some controversy by bemoaning in an interview the fact that "the person who is not supposed to be in [the category] could conceivably win."

Broadcast to highlight nominee performances

Feist, Lavigne, Murray and Bublé will be among the performers taking the stage on Sunday night, along with nominees from other categories, such as soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Hometown star Paul Brandt will lead a country-music tribute to Alberta featuring some of this year's country music contenders.

Russell Peters, famed for his ethnic comedy, will host Sunday's broadcast.

The Juno celebrations will also include a tribute to rockers Triumph, who will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and special awards presented to Brandt and MuchMusic founder Moses Znaimer for charity work and contributions to the nation's music industry, respectively.

With files from the Canadian Press