Tony Quarrington’s remarkable new opus debuts tonight


I’ve written previously about the remarkably diverse talents of musical composer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, arranger and Juno-winning producer Tony Quarrington.

But even in doing some fairly thorough background checking for articles and press releases in connection with his talents when they were being celebrated at the Honouring Our Own concert at this past February’s Winterfolk Festival, I had failed to realized just how multi-dimensionally gifted this man truly is.


Tony Quarrington -17

Tony Quarrington -17

For a remarkable show taking place tonight at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg is the latest new dimension of expression by this seemingly indefatigable renaissance artist. The six-movement musical-theatrical opus, “Emily Songs”, that he’s written is essentially a modern Jazz operatic composition giving musical voice to the literary talent of one of Canada’s acclaimed painters ever: Emily Carr. Confused yet? Don’t be, for Quarrington knows just how it all hangs together.

Carr, who lived from 1870 until the mid-1940s, was one of Canada’s most intriguing talents with a brush —evolving from early Victorian-style impressionist and realism with a pastel patina into post-modern expressionism during her time in Europe and eventually fusing her own initially controversial and highly vibrant style. An associate of members of the famed Group of Seven, she was also among the very first artists to visually catalogue the lifestyles and artifacts of the country’s indigenous peoples.

"Odds & Ends", Emily Carrm 1939

“Odds & Ends”, Emily Carr, 1939


Yet as well known as Carr was for her artistic prowess, she also wrote short stories and observational pieces —also in many cases about the native people and communities she’d encountered on several painting excursion into the “wilderness”— and ended up having several volumes of her writings published, mostly after her death.

It is this aspect of Carr’s legacy that Quarrington, who seems to share with his acclaimed late brother Paul a fascination for obscure little corners of culture that would otherwise go unexamined, has chosen to focus on in writing the songs that give voice and rhythm to her memoirs and stories.

With Quarrington and a stellar band accompanying, the songs will be sung by Jazz chanteuse Julie Michels for the 8 p.m. show in the gallery at 10365 Islington Ave., just north of Major Mackenzie Drive.

Quarrington will accompany on guitar, mandolin and banjo, Jane Bunnett will add soprano sax and flute, Danny McErlain performs on piano, Dave Young will be on double bass and Nick Fraser is on percussions. At press time advance tickets were still available —visit for details.

-Gary 17,