From left: M. Adaskin, N. Bisha, R. Klose and E. Bishe.

Time travel: February 1969

Pack your bags and set your sights on memory lane, because this year’s On Campus News back page features landmark moments and events from our storied 110-year history.

By Lesley Porter

February 1969: First Amati Quartet performance

In 1959, Kindersley-area farmer and collector Steve Kolbinson sold a set of rare musical instruments to the University of Saskatchewan. The sale price was minimal—just $20,000 at the time—but Kolbinson’s vision was that the instruments remain in the province and be enjoyed by the people of Saskatchewan. 

The instruments—two violins, a viola and a cello—dated back as early as 1607 and were built by the Amati family of Cremona, Italy. Amati are known for crafting fine, highly sought-after string instruments; Queen Elizabeth II has a rare Amati viola. 

Around the time the instruments arrived on campus, violinist and composer Murray Adaskin was looking to form a Canadian string quartet while serving as composer-in-residence at the U of S. He sought out three other musicians and on Feb. 2, 1969 he took to the stage alongside faculty members Edward Bisha (cello), Norma Lee Bisha (second violin) and Michael Bowie (viola)—marking the first performance of the University of Saskatchewan Amati String Quartet. They played together until 1971. 

Currently, these pieces comprise the only quartet of Amati instruments in Canada, and one of the few in the world still used in performances.

With files from University Archives and Special Collections.