The Canadian Musical Heritage Society / Société pour le patrimoine musical canadien (1982–2003) was founded to help preserve historical Canadian music, and to promote its study and performance. It published compositions that were at least a half century old and met criteria that included: artistic merit; historical or social significance; Canadian significance (even if the work was not written by a resident); and the debut in Canada of a given style, genre, form or medium. In addition to publishing The Historical Anthology of Canadian Music (1998), The Canadian Musical Heritage (1999) and the online resource Inventory of Notated Canadian Music to 1950, the Society helped revive numerous works, which were recorded by some of Canada’s leading performers and performance groups.
The board of directors was chaired by music historian Helmut Kallmann, and included an editorial committee that approved the content selected by each volume’s editor. Editorial committee members included Kallmann, John Beckwith, Clifford Ford, Frederick A. Hall, Elaine Keillor, Lucien Poirier, Robin Elliott, Sophie Galaise and Marie-Thérése Lefebvre. The Society’s Ottawa-based headquarters were run by Ford, the executive secretary, in affiliation with Carleton University.
The Friends of the Canadian Musical Heritage Society/Amis de la Société pour le Patrimoine musical canadien was established in 1990 and issued a semi-annual newsletter. In 1998, the Society completed The Historical Anthology of Canadian Music, a single, two-part volume that was suited to the needs of specific high school and university courses.
In 1999, the Society completed its 25-volume anthology The Canadian Musical Heritage. Each volume was devoted to a particular genre, including piano music, songs, choral music, music for chamber ensembles, band and orchestral music, operas, oratorios and masses, and music for organ. The composers represented included Joseph Quesnel, Calixa Lavallée, Healey Willan and John Weinzweig. The Society also produced sheet music from the volumes.
Through the sub-label Lavallée Series, the Society produced and released two CDs: Le Souvenir, featuring Russell Braun and Sally Dibblee; and Noël, featuring the Elmer Iseler Singers, Michael Schade, Noreen Burgess and Mireille Lagacé. In 2003, after nearly 10 years of research, in collaboration with Library and Archives Canada, the Society produced the online resource Inventory of Notated Canadian Music to 1950, which contained some 30,000 records of Canadian-composed music.
In 2003, the Society ceased operations as a legal entity. Its publishing and sales activities were taken over by Clifford Ford Publications. Members of the Society’s editorial committee continue to provide their expertise to Clifford Ford Publications, which embarked on a series of pedagogical books titled Performing Our Musical Heritage. The books include graded historical music for various instruments.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.