Principal Double Bass Retires From Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra 

Joel Quarrington played his final concert with the ensemble on July 10 and will not return for their 2021-22 season

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(Photo credit: Fred Cattroll)

Quarrington debuted as a soloist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) in 1987 and first served as the orchestra’s principal double bass from 2002 to 2004.

He was also the principal bass of the Hamilton Philharmonic in 1979, Toronto Symphony in 1991, and the London Symphony for their 2013-14 season. 

He started playing double bass in his native Toronto as a teenager. After graduating from the University of Toronto, he studied with Franco Petracchi and Ludwig Streicher in Europe. After he won first prize in the 1976 CBC Talent Festival, he received the top award at the 1978 Concours de Genève.

Among his many recordings are two volumes of music by Giovanni Bottesini for the NAXOS label, and Schubert’s "Trout" Quintet on Sony Classical with Yefim Bronfman and the Pinchas Zukerman.

He holds a teaching position at the Orford Music Academy, and also taught at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal and the Royal Academy of Music as a visiting artist.

"I had been thinking about stopping being in any orchestra for a couple of years now," he said. "This past June seemed like a good time to retire because the last work I would have played with NACO was supposed to be Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, which I thought was an appropriate amount of loud and glorious music for a decent send off.

"Those Mahler plans were scuttled long ago of course, and as the pandemic wore on, I believe I was like a lot of people: rearranging priorities and thinking about living and conquering new dreams and aspirations. I have been a member of an ensemble or orchestra since 1973, and while I still love playing in the orchestra, I feel it is time to try new challenges."

"Joel has been one of the orchestra’s superstars and we’re sorry to see him go," said Nelson McDougall, NACO's general manager. "He has of course had an astonishing orchestral career, and as I understand it he will continue to have a tremendous impact as a teacher and performer."