VC INTERVIEW | Banff Worldwide String Quartet Competitors Director, Barry Shiffman

(Picture credit score: Nicola Betts)


Representing 16 completely different international locations, the rivals of the 14th Banff Worldwide String Quartet Competitors (BISQC) will convene in Banff, Canada to compete in 5 rounds of competitors.

Open to string quartets with all members below the age of 35, the competitors introduced its contributors, right here.

Established in 1983 as a part of Banff Centre’s fiftieth anniversary, BISQC is held as soon as each three years. Directed by Barry Shiffman, this yr’s version would be the first presentation in Banff Centre’s newly revitalized Jenny Belzberg Theatre.

We spoke with Barry Shiffman to be taught extra.


Inform us in regards to the Banff Worldwide String Quartet Competitors (BISQC). When was it based and what was the preliminary imaginative and prescient?

Initially conceived as a one-time occasion to rejoice the fiftieth anniversary of the Banff Centre in 1983, the success it had in each attracting great younger quartets and viewers made it clear this was one thing that ought to proceed. On the time, the radio broadcasts on the CBC broke information for classical music programming. I keep in mind as an adolescent listening to the radio and listening to performances by the Colorado Quartet and the Hagen Quartet. I believe it planted a seed in me, and lots of different younger string gamers, that was the start of a deep love of chamber music.


Are you able to inform us about your illustrious alumni community? 

The household of artists linked to BISQC runs very deep. From the winners, our community consists of such ensembles because the Dover, Miro, Viano, Marmen, St. Lawrence. Different prize winners embody the Hagen, Calidore, Ying, Mandelring, Kuss gropus, and numerous others. The worldwide quartet neighborhood is tightly linked to Banff. 

An necessary a part of our success in constructing a community is the unbelievable historical past Banff Centre has in offering coaching in chamber music exterior of the competitors. For many years, Banff has been a spot younger artists have gone to review and create — and chamber music has been a core a part of that exercise. In actual fact, the Parker, JACK and Eybler Quartets spent a couple of weeks in Banff this month teaching and mentoring a number of younger teams, so the custom continues.


What is exclusive in regards to the Banff Worldwide String Quartet Competitors?

The place to start…

Firstly, the expertise of a real competition ambiance. The quartets are supported by a sold-out viewers that stays on campus and lives the expertise collectively. After a efficiency, a quartet can come into the eating room and obtain spontaneous applause from a desk of newly found followers. It’s so supportive. 

All quartets carry out a number of occasions and solely the night time previous to the finals will we remove any group. Profession growth grants of $5000 go to the teams that don’t advance to the finals. Coupled with protection of flights, meals and lodging, we make a dedication to the artist on a stage the ultimate within the chamber music world. 

We’re deeply dedicated that the expertise of collaborating at BISQC ought to all the time be optimistic and empowering and we work passionately to make that occur.


What are the judges on the lookout for in a promising younger ensemble?

I believe the judges wish to be deeply moved by the efficiency. It wants to leap off the stage and cease you in your tracks. We’ve got all seen such performances. I keep in mind seeing the jury after a efficiency of the Lyric Suite of Alban Berg carried out by the Cecilia Quartet. A number of jurors had tears streaming down their cheeks. I needed to radio my manufacturing workforce to carry tissues to the jury desk and knew at that second that one thing magical had occurred.

After all, they need to see technical experience however finally, they’re on the lookout for artists able to embark on a severe performing profession. Artists with a person and compelling voice shine by.


What can winners of this yr’s competitors anticipate to obtain?

The prize package deal is solely beautiful. 

Along with money awards, the winner receives live performance excursions in Europe and North America, and recording and artistic residency tasks at Banff Centre. 

A really exceptional a part of the primary prize is the chance to be within the Southern Methodist College Peak Fellowship Ensemble-in-Residence Prize on the Meadows College in Dallas. This 2-year paid visiting residency supplies concert events, teaching and expertise in mentoring youthful college students. 

Each quartet has a high-quality music video created whereas on the competitors by the celebrated Riddle Movies that helps of their future promotional wants. 

Particulars on all prizes and alternatives will be discovered at


What do you are feeling is the function of competitors in immediately’s chamber music panorama?

Competitions have a number of targets. Primarily they’re about creating curiosity within the artwork type. Attracting an viewers and neighborhood is a key objective.  

Additional, offering a launching pad for deserving younger artists has all the time been the main target at BISQC and that continues immediately. The challenges these younger musicians face are important and we’re there to assist them and work collectively to assist their desires come true.


What’s one in every of your favourite reminiscences from the competitors?

Effectively, I’ve a novel set of reminiscences as I competed within the 1992 competitors with the St. Lawrence Quartet. I’ve to be trustworthy and say that my favorite reminiscence is the sound of the viewers roaring as they introduced we had gained the competitors. It was solely by the crazed enthusiasm of our new followers that we realized the importance of what had simply occurred. A reminiscence I treasure.


Are you able to inform us in regards to the distinctive, interactive expertise between the candidates, jury, and viewers members? How do you create a way of neighborhood?

Neighborhood, neighborhood, neighborhood!! It’s all about neighborhood. We eat collectively, we hike collectively, and we attend lectures and concert events collectively. We’ve got casual chamber music jam classes within the bar at night time for anybody eager to play.  By the top of the week, everybody has gone by this transformative expertise collectively and there are a lot of hugs, tears, and laughs. After the previous couple of years, it’s what all of us want.


What uniquely Canadian components do you attempt to incorporate into your occasion? 

One necessary a part of the competitors is the inclusion of a brand new work by a Canadian composer. This yr, composer Dinuk Wijeratne has written this work for us, and the expertise of listening to a number of quartets carry out the work is thrilling. We see the completely different approaches to the work and like a kaleidoscope, we see completely different patterns and shapes and colors emerge. 

As we’re within the Banff Nationwide Park, the inspiration and great thing about this iconic Canadian place is a defining a part of the expertise. Mountains all over the place you look and wildlife strolling throughout campus are all a part of BISQC. 


How can individuals watch this yr’s version?

Your complete competitors shall be accessible proper right here on the Violin Channel through livestream. Archived efficiency movies can be found at Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity YouTube Channel at:


For extra data on BISQC or Director Barry Shiffman, please go to