For over thirty years, Joel Quarrington has served as the Principal Double Bassist of many ensembles, including the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. In August 2013 he becomes the new Principal Bassist for the famous London Symphony Orchestra.
Reviewing his debut recital for the International Society of Bassists Oklahoma City convention in June of 2007, England’s Double Bassist magazine said, “his performance was mesmerizing – his trademark bel canto playing style brought an otherworldly quality to Bottesini’s Elegy in D…impeccable articulation, a rich tonal palette, absolute control and crystalline clarity.” Reviews such as this have confirmed his reputation as one of today’s leading double bassists.
Born in Toronto, Joel Quarrington began playing the bass at the age of eleven in order to complete a bluegrass/folk trio with his two older brothers, Tony and Paul. Tony Quarrington is the acclaimed jazz guitarist and composer and Paul was the beloved novelist, musician and writer who passed away in January 2010.
Joel began formal studies of the double bass when he was thirteen with Thomas Monohan, the late principal bassist of the Toronto Symphony as well as Peter Madgett who was also a member of the Toronto Symphony. Upon graduation from the University of Toronto, he was awarded the “Eaton Scholarship” as the school’s most outstanding graduate. Subsequent studies took him to Italy and Austria where he studied with two legendary bass masters, Franco Petracchi and Ludwig Streicher. Joel is a winner of the Geneva International Competition and the CBC Talent Competition, and has made solo appearances across Canada, the United States, Europe and China. In April of 2005 he had the honour of playing the world premier John Harbison’s Concerto for Bass with the Toronto Symphony and conductor Hugh Wolf.
Joel teaches in the summers at the Orford Arts Centre in Quebec’s beautiful Eastern Townships where his master classes have attracted players from around the world. He has been a guest teacher for the Danish Bass Society, the Polish Bass Society, Beijing’s China Conservatory, the Australian String Academy, London’s Royal Academy of Music, Double Bass Kaleidoscope at Michaelstein (Germany) and most recently at the Federal University Rio Grande do Sol in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
He has performed with many of the world’s leading string quartets including the Orford, Vermeer, Cleveland, Colorado, St. Lawrence, Allegri, Artis, Leipzig and Tokyo Quartets as well as the Pinchas Zukerman Chamber Players. Their Sony recording of Schubert’s Trout Quintet with Yefim Bronfman became an instant classic. He is particularly honoured to have been a part of a 1982 recording session with the legendary Glenn Gould for the soundtrack of Timothy Findley’s The Wars. Written for solo cello and bass and based on Brahms’ Intermezzi, this turned out to be the last music composed by Gould before his untimely death.
Joel has made several solo recordings that have made him famous at least in the bass world. In April 2010, his recording, “Garden Scene”, won the 2010 Juno Award for Best Classical Recording. It was released by the Analekta label and features music of Korngold, Gliere, M.Weinberg, J.C. Bach and Bottesini. June 2013 marks the release of his latest recording “Brothers in Brahms”, which features music of Robert Fuchs, Robert Schumann and the 1st Violin Sonata in G op.78 by Johannes Brahms. He was very happy to collaborate with the outstanding young Canadian pianist, David Jalbert for this project.
In 2011, he received a Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Solo Performance from the International Society of Bassists and has been a featured performer at their biennial convention on three occasions.
He performs on an Italian bass made in 1630 by the Italian master, Santo Paolo Maggini and is an enthusiastic advocate of the historical practice of tuning the bass in fifths (CGDA, an octave lower than the cello) rather than the customary fourths. He believes fifths tuning leads to clearer and more accurate performance in all ranges of the bass, as well as greater tonal richness.
In his spare time, Joel is a truly terrible Erhu player (chinese two string violin) and has already released his seventh erhu cd, “Erhu’s (the) Greatest; A Golden Decade” which is a compilation disc and features the Quarrington Brothers 1999 appearence on Peter Gzwoski’s CBC radio show “Morningside” as well as highlights from such memorable recordings as “Country Erhu ’98″, “Everybody Digs the Erhu”, “The Three Erhus at the Acropolis” and “Erhus From Beyond the Galaxy”.
Joel is married to cellist Carole Sirois, and they live happily beside the Gatineau Park near Chelsea, Quebec with their prized cat Timinou.