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Since 1975 the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) has presented high quality concerts, up-to-date publications, and some of the best education programs available anywhere. All this has contributed to the Bay Area's reputation as one of America's leading centers for the performance of early music. The San Francisco Early Music Society seeks to create an appreciative and supportive environment for the study and performance of medieval, Renaissance, and baroque music by both amateurs and professionals in northern California. To this end, it works to increase public awareness of the richness and variety of classical music before 1750, to create opportunities for the performance of this repertoire, and to educate musicians of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities in the techniques appropriate to early music. SFEMS was founded in 1975, growing from an informal gathering of early music enthusiasts into the largest early music presenter and service organization in America. SFEMS is a community-based, membership organization and the largest and most successful society of its kind in the USA. Since its founding, SFEMS has been the focal institution in Northern California for the advancement of historically-informed performance of early music. It is unique in providing a full spectrum of programs to the general public, to amateur and professional musicians, and to children. The Society emphasizes three areas of activity: concert presentations of primarily medieval, Renaissance, and baroque music; education programs that support professionals, encourage the development of amateurs, and increase public involvement and participation; and services to the community, including communication, outreach, and support for emerging artists. SFEMS activities include the annual chamber concert series; education programs for adults and children, including summer workshops, fall and spring evening classes, and after-school programs; co-sponsorship of the biennial Berkeley Festival; Early Music in Marin, a series of lectures and concerts in San Rafael during the summer; a monthly early music newsletter; the Directory of Early Music; and a professional Affiliate Program. The Society produces at least ten major chamber concerts annually and offers a number of smaller concerts, most notably at its annual Early Music in Marin series in San Rafael, California. From 1990 to 1996, and again in 1998, the Society produced a series of concerts as co-sponsor of the Berkeley Festival, a major biennial event organized in cooperation with Cal Performances and the University of California Department of Music. In all of its performance programs, SFEMS maintains a special commitment to locally-based performers and ensembles. SFEMS also takes an active role in music education. It offers a nationally renowned series of summer workshops (first held in 1980) taught by artists-in-residence at Dominican College in San Rafael to over 300 amateur and professional musicians. And each semester it offers a series of popular evening classes and collegia in Berkeley on all aspects of early music. In recent years, it has added programs for children, including after-school classes in the public schools and a special summer workshop. Occasionally, the Society also arranges master classes and symposia given by visiting performers. The Society currently has over 800 members throughout northern California. As part of SFEMS's community outreach and service programs, each member receives a monthly newsletter covering events in the early music community as well as a directory listing available resources, such as performers, teachers, and instrument makers. Twice yearly the newsletter is sent to a greatly expanded regional mailing list, as are all concert and workshop brochures. Finally, the Society operates an Affiliate Program providing financial and program support services to carefully selected performers and ensembles. The Program currently assists twenty local musical organizations and has given birth to such noted Bay Area groups as the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Chanticleer, and Ensemble Alcatraz.
Since 1975 the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) has presented high quality concerts, up-to-date publications, and some of the best education programs available anywhere. All this has contributed to the Bay Area's reputation as one of America's leading centers for the performance of early music.
- William Langston
- (510) 52-1725
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