Early Music Association of NSW


The Early Music Association of NSW was founded in 1977 by a group comprising professional musicians, amateur players and instrument makers who had a distinct love for the music of the baroque, renaissance and mediaeval eras. In the early days of the association, this "early" music as we call it, tended to be either forgotten, disregarded, or else attached to the label of classical music and played as such. Most people, including regular concert goers, were aware of the value and importance of some old instruments such as Stradivarius violins, but few knew that in the period when music was composed, the instruments themselves were quite different and had subtly different sounds.

The founders of the EMA were the Sydney pioneers of a movement which was quickly gaining momentum in England, Europe and the USA. In the late seventies and early eighties, some of early music’s devotees were regarded as fringe and pot-stirrers, critically destructive to the recognized forms of symphonic, orchestral and broadly termed classical music. Today, however, early music, also known as period, or historically informed performance, is a recognized speciality in performing, teaching, research, and in the making and restoring of instruments.

Our current EMA is an incorporated organisation of members who play, either in a professional, amateur or perhaps even in an "in the cupboard" capacity, teachers and instrument makers, along with supporters who simply enjoy the music and it’s more authentic style of presentation. The association may have once felt that it had a message that it needed to promote - it most definitely still maintains its ideals, but in a more relaxed atmosphere. Early music in Australia has arrived at a level of status, respect and appreciation.

What then does the association officially recognize as early music? This is a tricky question bearing in mind that it is also termed period music, and it’s style of playing known as period performance. If we look back to around the end of the eighteenth century, certain changes were happening to instruments which, in turn, encouraged new styles of composition, In a way, these changes fed off one and another and had a compounding effect which, at the time, were gradual and not all that recognizable. In hindsight though, the changes were significant. Not only did the instruments change but more modern instruments were often substituted for ones that were regarded as outdated; the pitch at which music was played was generally raised, and temperament was standardised. Most of these changes were in full swing by the early eighteen hundreds so the association decided upon 1800 as a loose cut-off date for early music. If a composer was actively composing pre 1800, or the bulk of his music was in existence before then, he (or she) is generally regarded as falling into the "early" category. Our definition also favours what is regarded as Western music. Not that there is any cultural division or purposeful exclusion, but the music and music history of some tribes, cultures and eras was not well documented, and its performance is an area for particular speciality.

The EMA seeks to foster communication between people active in early music through hosting social gatherings and presenting informative events, and by forming liaisons with similar organisations.

Membership of the EMA provides:

  • opportunities to perform and socialise at informal gatherings
  • a bi-monthly newsletter
  • information about unique events via e-mail bulletins
  • free advertising on our website

Member organisations and supporters include:


2018 - 2019 Committee

President:  Catherine Upex

Secretary & Treasurer:  Neville Olliffe

Public Officer: Neville Olliffe

Committee Members:  Diana Harris, Michael Messer,

Neville Olliffe, Catherine Upex

Newsletter: Neville Olliffe

Website: David Archer