When EVAA was formed in 2000, it originally was called the Amy Ferguson Institute in memory of Dr. Amy Ferguson, who lead the Nelson Boys Choir from 1930 until 1972.
Dr. Ferguson resided in Nelson, BC for 42 years, until her death in 1972. Dr. Ferguson trained over 800 boys as well as many girls to sing and to love fine music. Several of Dr. Ferguson’s former music students went on to become highly regarded professional singers and musicians in Canada and abroad.
Two of the most prominent were Don Brown, outstanding Canadian baritone in the 1950’s and later, Nancy Argenta (Herbison) famed international soprano. One of Dr. Fergusons students, Ray Thompson, wrote a lovely letter in her memory. Thompson was one of her students from 1935 – 1952. His words are rich in thanks and so much more: “Thank you for making our hearts soar in song Mrs. F. We are forever grateful and your legacy lives on.”
Since its inception, EVAA has sought to celebrate vocal arts by organizing festivals, concerts, workshops, productions, and master classes in Nelson.
From 2001 to 2004 the newly formed Institute partnered with the Nelson Community Opera (NCO) and mounted Nelson Summer Songfest, a festival which attracted renowned singers and clinicians to Nelson for two weeks of masterclasses, choral workshops and performances.
NCO became part of EVAA in 2008. The founding members of the NCO in 1996 were Adele Baker, Gus Boss, Karen Livingstone, Tony Salway, Ieuan Gilmore and Marty Horswill. The NCO mounted musical productions that showcased the rich talent in our area. Past productions of opera and musical theatre included:
• Musicals – Sweeney Todd, You Never Know, Three Penny Opera, Little Shop of Horrors, Into the Woods, Jesus Christ Superstar, Carmina Burana, and Chess.
• Operas – La Boheme, The Merry Widow, Cavalaria Rusticana, The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, Hansel and Gretel, Die Fledermaus and Orfeo and Euridice, and Jorinda.
In 2009 EVAA commissioned the original opera, KHAOS, composed by Don Macdonald with libretto by Nicola Harwood. It was produced in 2012 by EVAA under the leadership of Marty Horswill, a long time EVAA and Nelson Community Opera board member.
EVAA also sponsored annual Advanced Voice Masterclasses from 2004 to 2007 under the world-class tutelage of Nancy Argenta and Ingrid Attrot.
These productions were presented by EVAA to provide accessible music opportunities for community members of all musical levels to perform and embrace music.