The first Dutch immigrants to Canada arrived via the USA during the late-18th and early-19th centuries as part of the United Empire Loyalist contingent. By 1867 there were 29,000 persons of Dutch origin; in 1986 there were more than 850,000, many of whom arrived soon after World War II.

Most of the Dutch immigrant population assimilated quickly into Canada's cultural and social life. Members of the Dutch Reformed Church, however, have stayed relatively separate, many establishing their own churches and schools in rural communities throughout Canada or settling together in cities in southern Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. Dutch Reformed Church choirs have maintained their own repertoire and have perpetuated their folk music through choral arrangements by the Dutch composers Rudolf Mengelberg, Willem Pijper, and Johan Wagenaar. In addition, these churches have sponsored Canadian tours by Dutch choirs and organists.

The Dutch secular music tradition has been kept alive in Canada by credit unions and social clubs which hold evening gatherings and picnics at which Dutch popular and folk music is performed. These organizations, too, have sponsored Canadian tours by Dutch performers. In Toronto and Vancouver private radio stations have broadcast daily programs of recorded music by Dutch artists; in many areas with smaller populations, brief programs have been heard once or twice a week.

Dutch-Canadian folk groups of note have included the Laus Deo Choir, founded in 1953 in Fort William (Thunder Bay), Ont; the Duca Choir of Toronto, founded in 1964 under the auspices of the Dutch-Canadian Toronto Credit Union; and the Dutch-Canadian Choir of Calgary. The last of these, conducted by John Vanderbeld, made the recording The Dutch Canadian Choir of Calgary Goes Commonwealth (Westmount WSTM-7812).

Concert works by Andriessen, Flothius, Wagenaar, and other Dutch composers have been performed by the MSO and TSO, by CBC orchestras, and by other ensembles, and works by the great renaissance composers from the Netherlands have been featured often in concerts by Canadian early music groups.

Among musicians of Dutch origin or extraction who have lived and worked in Canada are the bandmasters Bernardus Bogisch and Cornelius Godry; the baritones Bernard Diamant and Cornelis Opthof, the bass-baritone Peter van Ginkel, and the tenor Roelof Oostwoud; the carillonneur Herman Bergink; the cellist Cornelius Ysselstyn; the composers Walter Hekster and Rudi van Dijk; the conductors Eduard Bayens, Willem Bertsch (founder and conductor 1959-63 of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra), Nick Rooij, Allard de Ridder (who, besides his work with orchestras, conducted the Holland Choir in Vancouver after 1952), Harman Haakman, and Henry Plukker; the flutists Wolfgang Kander and Dirk Keetbaas (the latter also a record producer for the CBC, and son of the violist-conductor Dirk Keetbaas senior); the Calgary oboist Peter Heyblom; the bass guitarist Ronnie King of The Stampeders; the classical guitarist Carl (Carol) van Feggelen; the harpsichord builder Jan Albarda; the music librarians John van Vugt (TSO 1946-68) and Henry Mutsaers (Canadian Music Centre, Toronto, 1963-84); the organists Frans Niermeier, Jan Overduin, and Karel ten Hoope; and the trumpeter Bob Erwig of the Climax Jazz Band. Some of the many other Dutch instrumentalists who had been contracted after 1945 to augment the personnel in Canadian armed forces bands remained in Canada, and most of these were absorbed into the commercial music field.

Dutch artists who have visited Canada include the soprano Christina Deutekom, who sang the title role in a 1971 COC production of Lucia di Lammermoor; the baritones Max Van Egmond and Bernard Kruysen; the pianists Theo Bruins and Rinus Groot, both of whom appeared under JMC (YMC) auspices; the pianist Steven de Groote, who played for the Montreal Ladies' Morning Musical Club in 1979; and the conductors Eduard van Beinum, Hubert Soudant, and Edo de Waart. Among chamber groups and orchestras which have performed in Canada are the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Netherlands String Quartet, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink, the Hague Residentie Orkest under Willem van Otterloo, and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra under Szymon Goldberg. The Netherlands Chamber Choir has given concerts in Canada, and in 1984 and 1985 participated in a cultural exchange with the Elmer Iseler Singers. In 1960 Henk Badings attended the International Conference of Composers at Stratford, Ont. Dutch students in Canada have included Princess Christina of the Netherlands, who took lessons with Bernard Diamant in Montreal.

Many historical instrument performers from the Netherlands have visited Canada, including Frans Brüggen, Lucy van Dael, the Kuijkens, Gustav Leonhardt, Marion Verbruggen, and Anner Bylsma, who has performed and recorded with Tafelmusik. Several Canadian period instrument performers have studied in the Netherlands, including some harpsichordists (Hubert Bédard, Kenneth Gilbert, Valerie Weeks) and members of Tafelmusik (Ivars Taurins, Charlotte Nediger, Jean Lamon, Christina Mahler).

Dutch musicians and ensembles performed in Canada during the Holland in Canada '87 cultural festival. They included the pianists Polo de Haas and Rian de Waal, the violinist Emmy Verhey, the Amsterdam Guitar Trio, the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Odeion Wind Ensemble, the Willem Breuker Kollektief (a contemporary music and improvisation ensemble), the jazz group Future Shock, and The Gangbusters, a group which re-creates jive music of the 1930s.

Many Canadians have visited Holland to perform or to study. The first probably was Emma Albani, who sang there in 1884 and 1886. Victor Feldbrill studied conducting with Willem van Otterloo in Hilversum in 1956. The organist Raymond Daveluy took part in an improvisation competition in Haarlem in 1959. Ida Krehm made her debut as pianist-conductor in Hilversum in 1962. Dom André Laberge studied organ with Piet Kee in Haarlem in 1971, Denis Bédard and Geneviève Lagacé with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam in 1976-7 and 1977-8 respectively. Claude Vivier studied composition with Michael Gottfried Koenig at the Institute of Sonology, Utrecht, in the early 1970s, as did several other young Canadians. Among the numerous Canadian singers who have sung in Holland are Clarice Carson, Joanne Dorenfeld, Raoul Jobin, Huguette Tourangeau, and Riki Turofsky. The soprano Doreen Hume sang there in 1965 at a concert commemorating the 20th anniversary of Holland's liberation from German occupation. The Royal 22nd Regiment Band (Van Doos) toured Holland in 1975.

Canadian winners in the Hertogenbosch International Competition for Singers have included the soprano Christina Harvey (1972), the mezzo-soprano Marie Laferrière (1975), the bass-baritone Ingemar Korjus (1978), and the mezzo-soprano Sandra Graham (1986). Harvey, a member 1973-6 of the Netherlands Opera, appeared as well with the Netherlands Bach Choir, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, and the Hague Residentie Orchestra, recording with the latter. She toured Holland in 1978 as a member of Peggie Sampson's group Quatre en Concert. In 1971 the ladies choir of the Vancouver Bach Choir won a first in the International Koorfest in Scheveningen.

Other Canadians who have won prizes in Dutch competitions include Jacques Beaudry, who studied in the Netherlands with Paul van Kempen and Willem van Otterloo and won a Radio-Netherlands conducting competition in 1954; Marjan Mozetich, who received second prize in the 1976 Gaudeamus Composition Competition (for his wind quintet It's in the Air); and the Barrie Central Collegiate Band and the West Vancouver Boys' Band, both of which won firsts at Kerkrade World Music Festivals. In 1977 the jazz pianist Don Thompson appeared at the EBU-sponsored International Jazz Festival at Larens. The Holland Festival devoted four concerts in Amsterdam to the music of R. Murray Schafer in June 1984 and mounted his RA in Leiden in June 1985 in a co-production with COMUS Music Theatre.

Franz-Paul Decker was music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and Alexander Brott, who studied with the Dutch-American composer Bernard Wagenaar in New York, has guest-conducted in Holland. Brott's composition Songs of Contemplation for voice and orchestra was given its Netherlands' premiere by the Dutch soprano Gré Brouwenstijn in 1948. The violinist Steven Staryk taught at the Amsterdam Cons and was concertmaster of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra 1960-3, and the violist Steven Dann was principal viola of the same orchestra 1981-4. Shortly before the pianist's death in 1982, the Glenn Gould Society was founded in Groningen; it continued to publish a biannual Bulletin in 1991.

As an expression of gratitude for Canada's role in the liberation of the Netherlands during World War II, the Dutch-Canadian community in 1970 purchased two Flentrop organs - one large and one small - for the NAC in Ottawa. The 45th anniversary of the liberation was celebrated in 1990 by concerts in the Netherlands in which various Canadian musicians, including the Orford String Quartet, participated.

During the late 1960s Dutch-Canadians residing in British Columbia made a gift to the province of a Dutch-built carillon known as the Netherlands Centennial Carillon. Located in Victoria, this carillon was given in honour of Canada's 1967 centennial; it may be heard in a private recording which features both the British Columbia carillonneur Herman Bergink and the Dutch carillonneur Leen't Hart.