Banff Centre for the Arts | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Banff Centre for the Arts

Banff Centre for the Arts (Banff School of Fine Arts, 1933-89). In 1991 one of three divisions of the Banff Centre for Continuing Education, so named in 1978 when the Alberta Legislature proclaimed the Banff Act establishing the Banff School of Fine Arts as an autonomous institution.

Banff Centre for the Arts

Banff Centre for the Arts (Banff School of Fine Arts, 1933-89). In 1991 one of three divisions of the Banff Centre for Continuing Education, so named in 1978 when the Alberta Legislature proclaimed the Banff Act establishing the Banff School of Fine Arts as an autonomous institution. The three divisions (until 1989 known as Schools and after that date as Centres) are the Banff Centre for the Arts (Banff CA), The Banff Centre for Management, and the Banff Centre for Conferences. The Centre for the Arts (the largest and oldest division) is Canada's oldest extant major summer school of the arts, although it has been a year-round facility beginning in 1979. Located since 1947 on Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta, it began in August 1933 in the town of Banff as an experimental theatre school, with a grant of $30,000 over three years from the Carnegie Foundation of New York to the University of Alberta in support of adult education fine arts programs. Some of that sum was used by the extension department of the university, then under the direction of E. A. (Ned) Corbett, to establish a training centre at Banff for community theatre leaders. Creative writing and painting were added to the curriculum in 1935, and a master class in piano under Viggo Kihl followed in 1936.

Senator Donald Cameron - b Devonport, England, 6 Mar 1903; B SC (Alberta) 1930, M SC (Alberta) 1934, LLD (British Columbia) 1959; appointed to the Senate in 1955 - was the driving force behind the efforts to establish a permanent school. As director 1936-56 of the extension department (and after 1936 also director of the Banff SFA), he developed the school into a centre for continuing education which he hoped would become the Salzburg of North America. The first permanent building was erected in 1947, when the centre moved to its present site. Cameron was director of the entire centre until 1969, succeeded by acting director Donald F. Becker 1969-70, David S.R. Leighton 1970-82, (during whose tenure the head position became known as president), and Paul Fleck in 1982. In 1991, following the retirement of Neil M. Armstrong, director of the Centre for the Arts 1977-90, Fleck also assumed that position.

The centre has been financed by grants from the Alberta government, the Canada Council, foundations, corporate and private donations, tuition fees, and revenue from its Centre for Conferences. Stewardship of the school was transferred from the University of Alberta to the University of Calgary in 1966.

In 1991, facilities in the Theatre Complex included the 1000-seat Eric Harvie Theatre, the 250-seat Margaret Greenham Theatre, and the Laszlo Funtek Teaching Wing, which also houses technical theatrical production resources. Additional performance facilities are the Roubakine Auditorium, and the Max Bell Auditorium. Electronic facilities are housed in the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Building (opened in 1988), the Luscar Recording Studio, the Electroacoustic Recording Studio, the Rice Television Studio, and the Project Studio. The visual arts facilities are located in Glyde Hall, and include the Walter Phillips Gallery, with a collection of over 800 art works. The library holdings include 21,200 books, 9342 items of performance music, 7000 recordings, 580 videos, 27,000 slides, 1300 artist books, 4000 archival tapes, and assorted archival materials. In addition the centre contains the Sally Borden (recreational) Building, studio, practice, and teaching facilities including a percussion lab; and administrative, classroom, and residential buildings. Applicants to the centre are chosen through audition and interview, and although the centre itself does not grant degrees, some programs may be accepted for credit through other institutions.

Music became an integral part of the program in 1936 and has remained so. Instruction in choral music was begun in 1937, initially under Glyndwr Jones of Calgary. Jacques Jolas of the Juilliard School joined the faculty as piano instructor in 1940 and was succeeded in 1941 by Max Pirani, whose presence attracted an increasing number of music teachers and senior students over the next years. He was succeeded by Béla Böszörmenyi-Nagy, one of the many Hungarians who came to be associated with the centre; among them Lorand Fenyves, violinist Zoltán Székely and cellist Gabriel Magyar (both of the Hungarian String Quartet), and pianist György Sebök. Boris Roubakine served 1957-73 as director of the piano department. Richard S. Eaton, who had joined the University of Alberta in 1947, became a choral instructor at the school in 1949. Clayton Hare initiated a program in strings in 1951, and remained as its director until 1962. Oratorio performances employing the resources of the choral and instrumental divisions became regular end-of-term events. In 1949 Ernesto Vinci initiated a voice (later voice and opera) department, and by 1952 an opera company was touring Alberta for 10 days after each term. After Vinci's retirement in 1968 the opera division was headed by James Craig until 1971, Bernard Turgeon 1971-8, Alexander Gray 1978-84, Colin Graham 1985-91, and Stephen Lord, acting head in 1991. Earlier productions combined efforts of the school's various divisions and included The Barber of Seville, Madama Butterfly, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, The Marriage of Figaro, Tosca, Falstaff, The Old Maid and the Thief, Gianni Schicchi, and The Abduction from the Seraglio. After 1980 productions have included many 20th-century works such as Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream - all performed at the Banff Festival of the Arts. The orchestra program developed rapidly under Thomas Rolston, who was head of the string program 1965-71, music co-ordinator 1971-7, and music director 1977-9, before becoming the first director of the school's winter program. In 1991 Rolston was head of the summer program, and his wife Isobel Moore Rolston was head of the winter program, having been preceeded by Robert Aitken (1984-8). Zoltán Székely (see Violin and viola playing and teaching), appointed violinist-in-residence in 1975, maintained that position in 1991.

The Banff International String Quartet Competition, first held in 1983, was inaugurated as part of Banff's 50th anniversary festivities. An International Symposium of the Arts was held at the Centre in 1985, the same year that the Leighton Artists' Colony, was officially opened (it had actually begun operation in 1984), made possible by a gift from the Kahanoff Foundation of Calgary and funds from the province of Alberta, with artists' costs met by the centre. The 9th biennial Canadian Festival of Youth Orchestras took place at Banff in 1990.

Many distinguished Canadian and foreign musicians have taught at the school, among them: Pierrette Alarie, Rose Bampton, Perry Bauman, Ada Bronstein, George Brough, James Campbell, Howard Cable, the members of Canadian Brass, Aaron Copland, Ronald de Kant, Alirio Diaz, Hugh Fraser, Marek Jablonski, Anton Kuerti, Claude Kenneson, Thomas Monohan, Vladimir Orloff, Marie-Thérèse Paquin, Menahem Pressler, William Primrose, Dodi Protero, Sol Schoenbach, Léopold Simoneau, Gerald Stanick, Henri Temianka, Don Thompson, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, David Zafer, and George Zukerman. Visiting composers at the centre have included Violet Archer, Norma Beecroft, Jean Coulthard, Morton Feldman, Witold Lutoslawski, R. Murray Schafer, Gunther Schuller, Gilles Tremblay, and Iannis Xenakis.

Student/faculty performances were part of the Banff SFA's program as early as 1933. By 1950, with the introduction of the ballet and opera divisions, these expanded into larger productions as part of a summer festival. The Summer Showcase (as it came to be called), and Summer Festival, combined and presented in 1971 a week-long Festival of the Arts which developed into the Banff Festival of the Arts. By 1974 it had expanded to 2 weeks, and in 1991 it ran from June through August, and featured over 800 artists and 130 performances. It has offered performances including those by the professional Banff Festival Orchestra (first directed by Brian Priestman), the student Canadian Chamber Orchestra (begun in 1974), drama, musical comedy, orchestral and chamber music, ballet, lectures, and film. Among the productions have been: Carlisle Floyd's Susannah in 1971; Willan's Deirdre in 1972; The Magic Flute in 1973; Don Pasquale and Bob Merril's Carnival in 1975; La Cenerentola, Porter's Kiss Me Kate, and a workshop production of Copland's The Tender Land in 1976; La Bohème and Lerner and Loewe's Gigi in 1977; Cosi fan tutte, Archer's Sganarelle, and Lerner and Loewe's Brigadoon in 1978; Britten's Albert Herring in 1981 and 1988; Oklahoma! in 1983; Schafer's The Princess of the Stars in 1985; Eugene Onegin in 1986; Britten's The Rape of Lucretia in 1988; and Auber's Fra Diavolo and Massenet's Cendrillon in 1989. In addition there have been jazz performances, readings, and exhibitions by national and international artists.

The Banff SFA was the subject of the NFB productions Holiday at School (1945) and Campus in the Clouds (1966); the latter title was used by Donald Cameron for his history of the school (Toronto 1956). Other retrospectives have included From Bears to Bartók: 50 Years at the Banff School (NFB 1983), and David Leighton's Artists Builders and Dreamers (Toronto 1982). The Banff Centre has continued in 1991 to offer the Banff Centre for the Arts National Award (the University of Alberta National Award 1951-79, the Banff School of Fine Arts National Award 1980-9), to Canadians who have made significant contributions in letters, performance, and the visual arts. Among the music recipients have been Lois Marshall (1961), Harry Somers (1973), Glenn Gould (1976), and R Murray Schafer (1985).

In 1972 the Banff SFA, which had operated as a single unit since the centre's inception, divided into two units: the year-round Visual Arts program, and the summer Performing Arts program. In 1979 the Winter Cycle was officially established, under the title Advanced Music Studies. Winter programs in music theatre and electronic media were introduced in 1981. In 1991 the music program offered two cycles: Summer from May to August; and Winter in two sessions, September to December and January to April. Programs include the Academy of Chamber Music (piano, strings, ensembles with piano), first started in 1972 under Lorand Fenyves; master classes in piano, strings, winds; residencies for special projects; and the theatre arts: dance, opera, singing, and music theatre (directed 1987-90 by John Metcalf, succeeded by Keith Turnbull in 1990). Music Theatre productions have included Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King, and Miss Donnithorpe's Maggot (both 1991), and Metcalf's Tornrak (1990).

The Banff CA Jazz Workshop, established 1974, was the leading school at the equivalent post-graduate level in Canada during the 1980s, drawing its faculty and students internationally. It has been directed by PhilNimmons 1970-81, by the British bassist Dave Holland 1982-9, and by the US saxophonist Steve Coleman from 1990. Holland's touring quintet (including Coleman and Kenny Wheeler) served as the workshop's core faculty during his term.

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