Plug In with Russ Broom
Russ Broom Plugs In to the Calgary Music SceneEPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts.
Calgary guitar player Russell Broom has shared the stage with Sting, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton; he's been on the Tonight Show and Good Morning America; he's played with Jann Arden for many years, and he won a Juno for co-writing her hit “Thing For You.”
“To sit amidst all those musicians and hear them perform is pretty magical,” Broom says.
Not every philharmonic orchestra hires electric guitar players, but CPO is known for musical mash-ups – eclectic and exciting performances that fans from rock to Bach rave about.
CPO's October schedule is typical example of their wide-ranging programming: a little Chopin, an evening with singer songwriter Chantel Kreviazuk, music from Harry Potter, some hits from some Disney classics (Hakuna Mutata anyone?), a tribute to Big Bands as well as (why not?) A Requiem for Mozart.
Over the years, Broom has joined the CPO to perform with Helmut Lotti, a Belgian tenor (and former Elvis impersonator) and Joel Grey, the TV, stage and film star.
“I did another really interesting one called the Bernstein MASS, a piece that Leonard Bernstein wrote based on the death of John F. Kennedy,” recalls Broom.
And, as any fan of the album Jann Arden Live with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra likely knows, Arden and Broom also played with orchestras in various cities across Canada, including Calgary.
“Instead of a guy out front who's mixing the band, like with Jann, or someone who's mixing our monitors, the musicians mix themselves. You are sitting in the midst of this 3D experience of hearing all these musicians balance themselves amongst one another,” says Broom. “It’s fantastic.”
From classical to classic rock. Broom grew up playing jazz guitar but really discovered the joy of classical music watching a documentary about Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. The electric guitar player was blown away by Gould’s intensity.
He says listening to Gould was like listening to a really good rock and roll or punk band.
“I’m not going to compare Glenn Gould to (Calgary punk band) Chixdiggit or anything, but I think a lot of music comes from the same motivation.”
Throwing around ideas like that and talking about the show – both pre-and -post concert – is part of the fun of going out to see live music, says Broom
“You set it up. You go out for dinner or you go out for a beer before and you go see the concert and then afterwards you go somewhere else to have a drink and just digest what you saw that evening, that’s what I like to do.”
Or he heads out to Farm on 17 th Avenue to see what the best local food producers have to offer. Further down 17th, The Coup serves up mouthwatering tofu and other vegetarian concoctions.
As for digesting the music after the show, Broom loves the unofficial hipster HQ of Calgary, the Ship and Anchor on 17th Avenue.
“Going for a drink at the Ship and Anchor was always fun – it’s still fun,” says the guy who, these days, spends more time reading bedtime stories to his little kids than swapping war stories at the Ship.
Another favourite spot is Local 510 on 17th Avenue (named for the street address, not the union). Great food for a late (or early) night snack as well as drink specials all set in western style "union hall meets urban chic" – check out the tree-turned-table upstairs.
When Broom has a hankering to see local music (with fewer musicians on stage) he’ll head out to Broken City on 11 Ave; the Ironwood Stage and Grill on 9 Ave, just east of downtown in Inglewood; or Mikey’s Juke Joint on 10 Ave for live music “eight days a week.”
Fairmont Palliser), and if he wants to rock out, it’s back to 17th Avenue and the Republik (back at its original location near 2 St. East).
For Broom, watching the mosh pit move at a small club, listening to a singer songwriter strum an acoustic guitar or soaking up the string section at the CPO can all be equally powerful experiences says Broom.
“I don’t really see the CPO as being that different because it will hit me the same way as a really well-written pop song that has emotions in it that I connect with. I will have the same reaction from a classical piece.”
After all, he says, “When you think about it, classical music is really, really old pop music.”