Calgary has kicked off its year as one of Canada's cultural capitals for 2012.

Calgary will share the title with the Niagara region in southern Ontario and the designation comes with a $1.6-million federal government grant.

'We live in one of the most exciting cities in the world.' — Michael Green, curator of Calgary 2012

Michael Green is the curator of Calgary 2012. He says this is a great opportunity to show people another side of the city.

"Calgarians, I think, are growing tired of this outmoded reputation we have for being not particularly culturally minded, and that’s simply not the case," he said. "Look around, we live in one of the most exciting cities in the world."

The celebration coincides with several groups holding centennial events this year, including the Calgary Public Library, the Pumphouse Theatre, the Calgary Stampede and Theatre Junction GRAND.


Katherine Chi curated and performed the selection of music for the Calgary carillon celebration. (CBC)

The 26th annual High Performance Rodeo, otherwise known as Calgary’s International Festival of the Arts, got underway Thursday with a live carillon performance at Calgary Tower. It's just one of more than 200 performances that will be featured at this year’s festival.

Thursday's performance was the first live carillon presentation in two years at that location after the digital keyboard was taken out of storage and repaired. Recently, it has only been playing digital recordings.

At the top of every hour and over lunchtime, passersby will be able to hear the Calgary Tower carillon ringing across Ninth Avenue.

This is the first time renowned Calgary pianist Katherine Chi has tackled the digital carillon keyboard. It looks like a mini organ with nearly as many buttons as keys.


Playwright John Murrell will be performing in his first theatre piece in roughly 12 years during the festival. CBC

"I've had to learn a couple of techniques, like playing two keyboards at the same time with both hands, and so it's interesting," she said. "And there are mechanisms that I'm not used to, like the pedalling."

Arnaud Struyk helped refurbish the carillon over the past year and wants to keep its historical significance alive, as well as its music.

This carillon was a gift to the city from the Dutch community to commemorate Canada's role during the Second World War in the Netherlands.

Influential Alberta playwright John Murrell will also be taking to the stage in a play he wrote, his first theatre piece in roughly 12 years.