The first Greek immigrants to Canada arrived in 1891. By 1961 there were 56,000 people of Greek origin in Canada; by 1986 177,310. The largest group originated from Peloponnesus, but Macedonia, Crete, and other regions also are represented. The majority profess Greek Orthodoxy. In 1991 the greatest concentrations of Greek-Canadians was in Toronto, with a lesser but still significant number in Montreal. Many have entered business, especially as restaurateurs (some of whose establishments have become important centres of Greek popular culture in Canada).
Folk music has been perpetuated at picnics, weddings, and private parties, but in the 1980s contemporary popular music came to be used with increasing frequency at such events. Regional associations have maintained the traditions of Pontus, Macedonia, and Crete. Bouzouki music has been played by Canadian or touring Greek musicians. (The bouzouki is a round-backed, long-necked instrument of the lute family, with three or four sets of strings.) Greek churches and community centres support liturgical and secular music and often sponsor dance ensembles. Orpheus, a Greek-Canadian art association established in 1965 in Toronto, has sponsored a church choir and also a male-voice concert choir, conducted formerly by James Vagalatis and Willis Noble, and in 1991 by Gus Galineas, which has performed at Expo 67, the CNE, and Ontario Place and has broadcast on CBC radio. Records imported from Greece have sold well in Canada, and Lee Klein in Toronto has produced recordings of Greek music in Canada for export to the European market.
Greek-born musicians in Canada include Dimitri Conomos (b 26 Sep 1947, a medieval-music historian who taught 1975-89 at University of British Columbia), Angela Florou (a piano pupil of Gina Bachauer and a teacher at the RCMT after 1964), pianist Antonis General who began to teach at the RCMT in 1974, Stephen Kondaks, and Kenneth Sakos. Canadian musicians of Greek descent include the Calangis family, Rika Maniates, Gregory Millar, and Teresa Stratas. ARRAYMUSIC visited Greece in 1988 and performed two concerts of music by the Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Also active in the Toronto area has been Greek-Canadian composer Stephanos Karabekos, who has used Greek folk music elements and classical techniques in his music.
Among Greek musicians who have performed in Canada are the singers Vikki Leandros, Nana Mouskouri, and Mikis Theodorakis, the conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos (who visitied Canada, especially Winnipeg, many times with the Minneapolis SO), the pianist Gina Bachauer (who appeared with the TS and the MSO and gave recitals in several Canadian cities), the Greek-US soprano Maria Callas (who sang in Montreal and in Toronto in 1958 and 1974), and the Rumanian-born (of Greek parents), composer Iannis Xenakis (who was commissioned by the National Ballet of Canada to compose the music for Kraanerg, the Roland Petit ballet which opened the NAC in 1969; Xenakis was present at an NMC concert of his music in 1976 in Toronto and wrote Epei on commission from the SMCQ, attending its premiere by that group in 1976 in Montreal). Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell have made the Greek islands of Hydra and Crete their respective homes for brief periods.