Larry McQuarrie (a.k.a. Mr. Versatility) with just a few of his instruments. (Provided)

Multiple instruments are a joy for Mr. Versatility

Larry McQuarrie plays 7 or 8 instruments for an eclectic show at the Mary Winspear

For most musicians, one instrument is often enough. But Larry McQuarrie is playing about 7-8 instruments, including piano, five-string banjo, mandolin, guitar, Celtic harp, and flute. His setlist is as varied as his instruments, featuring Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles and some of his own compositions. He’ll be playing at the Mary Winspear Centre Sun. June 3 at 2 p.m.

“Sometimes you’ll see guys play two or three, but I thought, wouldn’t it be great to do a bit of R&B, pop, some classical, change instruments and keep it fresh for me and the performers, and the audience?” said McQuarrie.

He will be joined by Don Cox on bass and Mike O’Leary on drums, both fixtures in the Victoria live music scene. Cox has played with several Canadian Forces bands (and was playing at the Empress Hotel when he met McQuarrie for the first time), and O’Leary plays with local favourites like Paul Wainwright and Cynthia Davis, which McQuarrie said is “very inspiring.” It’s his first show at the Mary Winspear, but he has decades of experience.

McQuarrie, 61, came to the Victoria-area three years ago, having moved from Stratford, Ont., (he was born in Winnipeg). He started studying guitar at 10, formed his first band at 11, and played on CBC Radio at 16. He moved to Kitchener, Ont. in 1985 and played dining rooms, churches and weddings, and taught guitar at Emmanuel Bible College from 1991 to 1997.

McQuarrie is keeping most of his setlist a surprise, but Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain,” Dionne Warwick’s “Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles. The melodies, the words, the chord changes all appeal to him in some way or another. He said the eclectic mix is what makes the show unique, so it could appeal to many people. He said he wants it to be a series, with perhaps a Burt Bacharach tribute in the future.

The sky is the limit.

In the meantime, the retirement home circuit has kept McQuarrie busy. He played 27 gigs in February (including three on his own birthday) and 25 in March. It is McQuarrie’s first show at the Mary Winspear Centre and he said he is a bit nervous, but “I’ve been telling people everywhere I go.”

“Just thought it was a cool idea and I’ve wanted to do it for years, so I finally am doing it,” said McQuarrie.

Mr. Versatility will be playing at the Mary Winspear Centre on Sun. June 3 at 2 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit marywinspear.ca/event/mr-versatility.

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