It is believed that the Norse (Vikings) visited North America around the year 1000. However, people from modern Norway, the western kingdom of the Scandinavian peninsula, immigrated to Canada from the USA during the 1890s and moved into the Prairies and particularly to British Columbia, whose coastline so closely resembled that of their homeland. In 1986 there were 243,675 people of Norwegian origin living in Canada (191,000 in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan). Those born in Canada numbered 224,000, and of the 20,000 immigrants 2,000 arrived in the period 1977-86.

Probably the first Norwegian musician, and one of the first European players of note, to visit Canada was the violinist Ole Bull, who performed in Montreal in 1844, in Toronto in 1844 and 1857, and in Saint John, NB, in 1853. More recent guests have been the conductor Øivin Fjeldstad, who appeared at the 1959 Vancouver International Festival; Klaus Egge, who represented Norway at the 1960 International Conference of Composers at Stratford, Ont; the conductor Sverre Bruland, who appeared with the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra; the pianist Robert Riefling, who performed the Grieg Piano Concerto at a Scandinavian Gala in Montreal in 1967; Froyis Rud Wekre, the first horn of the Oslo Philharmonic, who began teaching during the summers at the Banff CA in the early 1980s; and the composer Arne Nordheim, who appeared in Canada several times from the early 1970s to 1988 for performances of his music and to give lectures on comtemporary Norwegian music. Among early Norwegian residents of Canada was Ferdinand Wentzel, a North West Company employee who collected voyageur songs in the Athabasca and Mackenzie regions in the early 19th century and whose musical talent 'brightened the long and dreary hours of his life and contributed to keep all cheerful around him' (Masson's Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest, vol 1, part 2, Quebec, 1889, p 71). The accordionist-composer Olaf Sveen settled in Canada in 1954. Knut Eide Haugsoen, a composer and pianist (b Bergen 2 Apr 1935) has worked in Europe, the USA, and Canada as a pianist and jazz composer. His group Vikrama produced Hands On (1989, Unity 105), an LP of his compositions and arrangements. The music educator Helen Dahlstrom has Norwegian ancestors. In November 1902 at Montreal's Windsor Hall Éviola Plouffe gave what may have been the earliest Canadian performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto, with an orchestra led by J.-J. Goulet. In 1906 Clarence Lucas is said to have conducted the US premiere of Grieg's incidental music to Peer Gynt. As a student W.O. Forsyth met Grieg in Leipzig.

Canadians who have visited Norway include Emma Albani (1888), Ida Krehm, Gertrude Newton, the Hart House Orchestra, the double-bass and piano team Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis (1978), and the pianist Paul Bempéchat. The last-named premiered IV Journeys by Gary Hayes and Oneg Shabbath by Halifax's Tim Jackson at Baerum, Norway, ca 1978. The flutist-composer Robert Aitken has given master classes and played solo concerts in Bergen and Oslo, and has made recordings with Per Øien, the first flute 1967-85 of the Oslo Philharmonic. Øien in turn was visiting professor at the University of Western Ontario 1979-80, has given master classes elsewhere in Canada (eg, the Courtenay Youth Music Centre, RCMT), and in 1983 premiered Peter Paul Koprowski's Flute Concerto with the Oslo Philharmonic, and has also performed that work in Canada. In July 1990 Oslo was the locale of the annual ISCM World Music Days, during which the Canadians Kristi Allik, Sergio Barroso, and David Keane were feature performers. Kathleen Parlow, who toured Scandinavia many times, received her famous 'Viotti' violin (a 1735 Guarnerius del Gesù) from a wealthy Norwegian family by the name of Björnson.

By 1991 26 Norwegian songs and 18 instrumental pieces had been collected in Canada and were deposited at the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.