What We Do
SFEMS produces one of the longest running early music chamber music series in the nation. Annually, we produce at least six sets of major chamber concerts in three bay area locations and maintain a special commitment to presenting locally-based performers and ensembles along with internationally acclaimed stars.
Additionally, SFEMS has entered into a collaboration with the Jazzschool in order to give early music lovers and jazz music lovers the opportunity to join together and celebrate the improvisational kinship of the two genres.
SFEMS offers one of the most comprehensive summer early music programs in the United States, led by a faculty of international artists in residence. The Medieval and Renaissance, Baroque, Recorder, and Classical workshops offer instrumental and vocal master classes, lectures, coached ensembles, and recitals and provide opportunities for musicians and dancers at a variety of levels to improve their ensemble skills, performance techniques, and teaching abilities. The Music Discovery Workshop Music Discovery Workshop is a day camp for children ages 7-15.
“The Berkeley Festival & Exhibition has become a remarkable institution on the American musical scene.” —The New York Times
Every other year since 1990 SFEMS has co-produced a week-long festival of early music in the Bay Area, usually in the first week of June.
The Berkeley Festival & Exhibition was conceived of and founded by Robert Cole, then Director of Cal Performances, and the late Joseph Spencer, proprietor of the Musical Offering and then SFEMS president. Over the years, the Festival has presented unique and amazing events: Mark Morris Dance Group’s interpretation of Rameau’s Platée; Le Carousel du Roi, featuring dressage horses and riders executing elaborate ballets from seventeenth-century France accompanied by shawms and sackbuts in their natural setting (outdoors); and the North American premiere of a longlost Mass by Alessandro Striggio for 40 and 60 voices.
In existence since 1980, the SFEMS Affiliate Program has helped numerous Bay Area early music organizations to succeed in their various missions. Many of our past and present affiliate organizations are small and community-based, but others, like Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, have gone on to greater visibility in the Bay Area and beyond.