Barry Shiffman, left, and Henk Guittart

UPDATE: I’ve spoken with the Banff Centre’s Jeff Melanson and have posted all the latest information here.

Two weeks ago, I heard that Banff Centre artistic director Henk Guittart was leaving and that future winter residencies for classical musicians were being cancelled. My calls to Banff Centre director Jeff Melanson were bounced to a spokesperson, who insisted nothing would change with Guittart’s departure. This has proven to be false.

I’ve had to rely on a fresh blog post by Norman Lebrecht to find out that there are going to be changes at Banff, starting next year. You can read letters and emails from Guittart and Melanson here.

I have to admit that the situation does not seem very clear to me after reading these letters, but at least there’s some comfort in being assured that Barry Shiffman’s programmes, including the Banff International String Quartet Competition, are not going to be affected.

Banff spokesperson Debra Hornsby has responded to this post with this comment (also seen below):

To misquote Mark Twain, rumours of the demise of The Banff Centre’s music programs have been greatly exaggerated! While there will be a change in leadership in 2013, the Centre’s commitment to supporting artists is unwavering. It is true that with Henk Guittart’s departure, the Gruppo Montebello project will end. However classical music programming will continue as part of The Banff Centre’s Fall & Winter and Summer programs, and through the Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC). In particular the impact and reach of BISQC will increase in 2013. At the same time, the Centre intends to diversify our music programming to open more opportunities for musicians of all genres, including world music, jazz, indie band, singer-songwriter, Indigenous – and in particular Canadian artists and music.

We welcome comments and feedback from artists, musicians, and music lovers!

John Terauds

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8 Responses to Banff Centre classical music programming in upheaval with departure of Henk Guittart

  1. Debra Chandler says:

    This is the first time ever that I have been struck dumb, in a negative way, by anything I have heard from Jeff Melanson, for whom I have great respect. This is sad news from one of the few and fewer places in North America, and certainly in Canada, where classical music had space and support to take root, develop, experiment and flourish.

  2. Debra says:

    To misquote Mark Twain, rumours of the demise of The Banff Centre’s music programs have been greatly exaggerated! While there will be a change in leadership in 2013, the Centre’s commitment to supporting artists is unwavering. It is true that with Henk Guittart’s departure, the Gruppo Montebello project will end. However classical music programming will continue as part of The Banff Centre’s Fall & Winter and Summer programs, and through the Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC). In particular the impact and reach of BISQC will increase in 2013. At the same time, the Centre intends to diversify our music programming to open more opportunities for musicians of all genres, including world music, jazz, indie band, singer-songwriter, Indigenous – and in particular Canadian artists and music.

    We welcome comments and feedback from artists, musicians, and music lovers!

  3. What struck me, and I quote
    “diversify our music programming to open more opportunities for musicians of all genres, including world music, jazz, indie band, singer-songwriter…”
    Do these genres really need foundation and government support? They are the arts that are so much more commercially viable…..

    Many of us received important training at Banff – In a time of retrenchment in “classical” music, it would have been helpful to see Banff EXPAND the opportunities for classical musicians to meet, discover and create new models for “art” music, perhaps along the lines that Greg Sandow has been advocating (see link to Greg’s site in the right sidebar of this site)…..I too am disappointed that this is Jeff Melanson`s first “improvement”, never mind the spin….

  4. Andrew Ager says:

    It may be seen in a larger view as class-struggle. As soon as non-classical music gets jumped up, usually for commercial and political reasons, western classical music gets short-changed. It is the increasing musical dictatorship of the Lumpen-proletariat…or better, music of the Eloi, juvenile and ultimately just dull.

  5. Erin Donovan says:

    I think the notion that classical musicians need more support than jazz or independent musicians of other genres is really unfortunate. I know just as many struggling artists from those genres that are as worthy as classical musicians of support. I also know some salaried classical musicians who spend alot of time at the BC who perhaps don’t need the support. I feel there is some snobbery at play here. Some shaking up of these notions could be positive. Let’s get to a place where worthy musicians of all genres can be considered for artistic support.

  6. There *should be* enough support for everyone (instead of an either-or battle). eg. The 100-piece RNO was created & fully & eternally funded after a brief phone conversation between Gergiev/Putin (not that I am defending THAT guy i.e. FREE PUSSY RIOT). But the point is: it comes down to will. BC core is so-called *classical* and should remain so and be expanded & strengthened,
    then other traditions can be welcomed by expanding the pie. To do so depends upon the sales abilities of all involved.

  7. AA says:

    Mr. Sadler’s comments are germane. However, the gentleman refers to a telephone call (no doubt dripping with testosterone-laden machismo) between two Uebermenschen. Very Russian, that.
    Pity that seems unlikely in these longitudes.
    Anyway, it remains “either” – “or” as soon as money is involved.