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BISQC ready to bring the music again to Banff

“The quartets will be arriving this week and we are 99 per cent sold out on tickets, which is pretty remarkable when you think about string quartets and the audience for this kind of chamber music. It has a very fierce following and people are very excited to come back to Banff.”
36 BISQC 2019 Viano Quartet
Viano Quartet performing for the final round at the Banff International String Quartet 2019. JESSICA WITTMAN/BANFF CENTRE SUBMITTED PHOTO

BANFF – The Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC), which will be celebrating its 14th festival and all signs point to it being a very big and successful event once again.

“The quartets will be arriving this week and we are 99 per cent sold out on tickets, which is pretty remarkable when you think about string quartets and the audience for this kind of chamber music,” said Casey Peirce, communications director for Banff Centre. “It has a very fierce following and people are very excited to come back to Banff.”

The high number of tickets being sold for the competition, which runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4, serves as an indication that people are ready to get back out to enjoy the things they love, according to Peirce.

“The pandemic has been the biggest challenge that Banff Centre has faced in its 90-year history, and we are so pleased to have the capacity to welcome people back,” Peirce said. “There is an appetite to come back and travel and experience this in person. It is going to be a really uplifting experience.”

The competition consists of 10 quartets that are selected by an international jury. The quartets are from across the world and are all under the age of 35.

“These youth have a lot of future ahead of them,” Peirce said. “They are pretty much the best of the best in the world.”

The prize package is also the largest in the world for chamber music string quartets, worth over $500,000 in cash, prizes, and other opportunities.

“Every quartet that competes earns a $5,000 prize but the ones that come first, second and third, literally have hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, as well as appearances around the world,” Peirce said. “They go on an international concert tour. It is unbelievable.”

The finalists are announced the night before, and they then compete on Sunday (Sept. 24) at 2:30 p.m. to determine who finished first, second or third.

The return of the festival from its two-year hiatus is something that organizers feel is great for the community itself, as well as the competitors.

“It is all about community. We eat together, we hike together, we attend lectures and concerts together,” said Barry Shiffman, director of BISQC. “The competition itself is simply incredible. By the end of the week, everyone has gone through this transformative experience together and there are many hugs, tears, and laughs. After the last few years, it is what we all need.”

The impact of the music goes beyond the concert itself. This past week, the Viano String Quartet, co-winners in 2019, returned early to reunite with the Banff Centre.

“They did a show on Saturday morning at the library with the kids and they did a performance for them, which went really well,” Peirce said. “This is the kind of community stuff that is happening.”

The competition is also an opportunity for residents of Banff to learn more about chamber music and string quartets.

“It is the opportunity for people to learn about something different and very impactful. We can come together around that and engage a new audience, engage younger people, those that have celebrated it forever,” Peirce said. “I anticipate there being an older audience and a younger community influence because it is going to permeate beyond the Banff Centre.”

For more information or purchase tickets, visit www.banffcentre.ca/bisqc or visit the Banff Centre Box Office Tuesdays or Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m.


Youth Quartet Performances: 

  • Mon, Aug 29: 1:00 - 1:30 p.m. – Esterházy Castle at Maclab Bistro in Kinnear Centre
  • Tue, Aug 30: 1:00 - 1:30 p.m. in the Esterházy Castle at Maclab Bistro in Kinnear Centre
  • Tue, Aug 30: 3:30 p.m. – Luxton Home Gardens, 206 Beaver Street in Banff with special guests Viano String Quartet
  • Thur, Sept 1: 1:00 - 1:30 p.m. – Esterházy Castle at Maclab Bistro in Kinnear Centre
  • Thur, Sept 1: 4:00 p.m. – Gatehouse Foyer at Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, 405 Spray Avenue in Banff 
  • Fri, Sept 2: 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. – Top of the Banff Gondola, 100 Mountain Avenue in Banff 

Competing quartets

  • Abeo Quartet – United States 
  • Animato Kwartet – The Netherlands and Norway 
  • Balourdet Quartet - United States 
  • Dior Quartet – Israel, United States, Korea, Canada and St. Lucia 
  • Isidore String Quartet - United States 
  • Karski Quartet – Belgium and Poland 
  • Opus13 – Norway and Sweden 
  • Quatuor Agate – France 
  • Sonoro Quartet* – Belgium and Ireland 
  • Terra String Quartet – USA, Venezuela, Iceland and Australia