Fonds F-302 - Purcell String Quartet fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Purcell String Quartet fonds

General material designation

  • Textual records
  • Photographic materials
  • Graphic materials
  • Sound recordings
  • Records in electronic form (digitized)

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the name of the fonds creator.

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1968-2018, predominant 1968-1991 (Creation)
    Purcell String Quartet

Physical description area

Physical description

Paper and analog originals:
56.24 cm of textual records
394 photographs
8 posters
1 graphic print
2 moving images
41 sound recordings

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Administrative history

The Purcell String Quartet was founded in 1968 by four members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: Norman Nelson (violin), Raymond Ovens (violin), Simon Streatfeild (viola), and Ian Hampton (cello). Membership changed over the years as follows:

Violin I
Norman Nelson, founder
Sydney Humphries, from 1979
Marc Destrube, from 1988

Violin II
Raymond Ovens, founder
Frederick Nelson, from 1970
Robert Growcott, from 1976
Joseph Peleg, from 1977
Bryan King, from 1979

Simon Streatfeild, founder
Philippe Etter, from 1969

Ian Hampton, founder
Heather Hay, from 1989

The Purcell String Quartet was the quartet-in-residence at Simon Fraser University from 1972 to 1982. The residency was the first of its kind in western Canada, and was notable for its community and outreach activities, which included workshops and summer schools, "peripatetic concerts" on campus, involvement in dance and theatre events, and contributions to experimental approaches to music in association with R. Murray Schafer. Nini Baird, with the School for the Contemporary Arts, was instrumental in recruiting them after overseeing a successful residency of the Lyric Arts Trio in 1971.

The Purcell String Quartet toured widely across British Columbia and helped to establish music camps in Naramata, Nelson, Courtenay, Vanderhoef, and Victoria. They also played a significant role in founding the Hornby Island Music Festival. Other tours included the USSR in 1980; Cuba, Mexico, and Florida in 1986; Japan in 1987; and France and Great Britain in 1989. Also in 1989, they recorded all of R. Murray Schafer's string quartets for Radio France, and in 1990 played them again with Beauty and the Beast and Theseus in the Seattle Spring Festival.

The Purcell String Quartet remained active as a group until 1991, with their final performance being given at the 1991 Hornby Island Music Festival. Their extensive discography, which helped popularize numerous Canadian string quartet repertoires, remains available and popular today.

Additional information on the Purcell String Quartet can be found on their Canadian Encyclopedia entry:

Custodial history

The records were donated to the Archives by individual members of the quartet or their estates. It includes sizeable donations from Jenny Nelson, widow of Norman Nelson, and Nadia Moore, daughter of Philippe Etter. From 2020-2021, the processing archivist collected all of the records from members of the quartet.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records relating to the activities of the Purcell String Quartet, and the careers of its individual members. Records include concert programs, publicity brochures, posters, and press reviews; contracts, correspondence, tour schedules, and itineraries; and photographs, scrapbooks, and sound recordings and moving images.

The fonds is a hybrid of paper, analog, and born-digital media.

The fonds has been arranged by the archivist into nine series:

• Administrative records (series 1)
• Promotional material (series 2)
• Photographic material (series 3)
• Press reviews (series 4)
• Correspondence (series 5)
• Programs (series 6)
• Member records (series 7)
• Sounds recordings (series 8)
• Moving images (series 9)

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Where apparent, original order was maintained; arrangement was provided by the archivist for records with no existing order.

Paper files are distributed across series 1 to series 2 and series 4 to series 7. Photographic material (series 3), sound recordings (series 8), and moving images (series 9) have been assigned distinct series.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

The Archives is committed to digitizing much of the material in the fonds and where possible to making it available online. Some digitized materials will be added and descriptions updated as materials are scanned. Other digitized materials may not uploaded to SFU AtoM due to copyright restrictions. These, however, will be available for offline delivery. Consult the reference archivist for more information.

For born-digital records, the Archives' practice is to retain the materials in their original file formats and create normalized copies in designated access and preservation formats. Decisions on individual formats are codified in the Archives' Format Policy Registry (FPR). Typically the Archives will provide access via the designated access format, but it can provide copies in the original or preservation formats on request.

Restrictions on access

The bulk of the files are open for access in the Archives reading room without restriction. A small number of files are marked "pending review"; these may contain third-party personal or financial information. Researchers can request access and an archivist will review the records more closely to determine their access status.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

The fonds contains copyright-protected materials that fall into two main categories: (i) materials created by the Purcell String Quartet for which the Purcell String Quartet is the copyright holder; and (ii) material received or collected by the Purcell String Quartet for which copyright is owned by third parties.

For type (i) material in which the Purcell String Quartet holds copyright - the donor retained copyright. The Archives provides access to this material under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license (CC BY-NC). Users are free to copy, share and adapt the materials as they like provided they credit the Purcell String Quartet as the creator, indicate any changes they have made, and use the works for a non-commercial purpose. All requests for commercial use should be made in writing to SFU Archives.

For type (ii) materials in which third parties own copyright - the Archives will make copies available for private study or research purposes under the fair dealing provisions of Canada's Copyright Act. Use for any other purpose may require the permission of the copyright owner. SFU Archives can assist researchers in attempting to identify copyright owners, but it is the user's responsibility to contact owners and secure any permissions.

Finding aids

Generated finding aid

Associated materials


Future accruals are expected.

Physical description

Born-digital material : the fonds includes xx digital photographs. These records are found in series 3 and are available for digital delivery on request.

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Rules or conventions

RAD July 2008 edition.


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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

August 2021: first arrangement and description (Frances Dodd).
December 2022: arrangement and description finalized (Matthew Lively).

Language of description

  • English

Script of description


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