Early Music Vancouver (before 1987 known as the Vancouver Society for Early Music). Founded in 1969 by David Skulski, Ray Nurse, Jon Washburn, Hans-Karl Piltz, and Cuyler Page to foster interest in medieval, renaissance, and baroque music. The organization has sponsored an annual series of concerts by guests (eg, in the early years, the harpsichordists Gustav Leonhardt, Alan Curtis, and Colin Tilney, the recorder player Frans Brüggen, the tenor Nigel Rogers, the viola da gambist August Wenzinger, and the trumpeter Edward Tarr) and regular performances by the New World Consort (until 1984 Hortulani Musicae) and, for many years, the Cecilian Ensemble.
Since 1979, when José Verstappen became Early Music Vancouver's executive director, the organization has become recognized internationally as one of North America's foremost in the field. Under his tenure, special emphasis was given to projects involving collaborations between local and visiting artists, and to encouraging up-and-coming Vancouver artists and ensembles such as the Pacific Baroque Orchestra (directed by Marc Destrubé), the Burney Ensemble, and the violin band La Cetra (directed by Ray Nurse). These collaborative efforts between local and visiting artists culminated in internationally acclaimed, fully-staged Monteverdi opera performances of Orfeo (2000) and The Coronation of Poppea (2003). Both productions were produced for Festival Vancouver by the Early Music Vancouver production team of José Verstappen and Ray Nurse.
Through its concert series, Early Music Vancouver has presented over a thousand concerts, featuring many of the world's leading artists and ensembles. The organization has booked many remarkable successes, including sell-out performances at the 2,900-seat Orpheum Theatre by Musica Antique Köln and by the Tallis Scholars.
In addition to the focus on music from the Middle Ages to the late baroque, Early Music Vancouver has also made forays into 19th- and early-20th-century repertoire on period instruments, as well as new music for early instruments, and 'early music' from other, non-western cultures.
Through its summer courses and concerts of the Vancouver Early Music Programme & Festival, Early Music Vancouver has played an increasingly significant role as an educational institution; noteworthy in particular are: the annual advanced-level Mediæval Programme (conducted for 16 years by the ensemble Sequentia), and the Baroque Instrumental Programme (which has featured internationally renowned early music singers, instrumentalists, and ensembles). In 2001, a new advanced-level intensive Baroque Vocal Programme was added under the direction of Ray Nurse, focused on early baroque vocal repertoires, early opera, and gesture.
The organization has also assembled a unique and large collection of replicas of old instruments including harpsichords by Vancouver builder Edward Turner, lutes by Ray Nurse, recorders and flutes by Rod Cameron, and, most recently, a chamber and continuo organ by Hellmuth Wolff (Laval, Quebec).