This weekend, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra brings a little bit of Appalachia to the prairies with their season opening pops concert titled “Bluegrass Symphony featuring the neWSOunds.”

Made up of Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra musicians Gregory Hay, Chris Anstey, Mike Kemp and Meredith Johnson, neWSOunds performs contemporary and traditional bluegrass favourites in a toe-tapping, uplifting, celebratory return to the Centennial Concert Hall. 

Originally formed as part of the WSO’s education and outreach programming, the group has connected with audiences of all ages both in-person and through WSO@home livestream performances.

With a championship fiddler (Chris Anstey), and an Alabama-born double bassist (Meredith Johnson) in their midst, alongside multi-instrumentalist Gregory Hay and late-addition percussionist Mike Kemp, the ensemble plays to their strengths and explores bluegrass as a genre they all have an interest in beyond classical. Oh! and they sing too! 

The band will also be joined by an original member, maestro Julian Pellicano, who trades baton for accordion to perform a couple of tunes. 

“Bluegrass Symphony featuring the neWSOunds” takes place Saturday, September 18 at 7:30 pm, with a matinee performance on Sunday, September 19 at 2 pm. 

For tickets — both in-person and online! — visit: 

In the full conversation below, hear more about the differences between classical violin and fiddle playing; who plays the most instruments in the band; and how it feels to return to a concert hall filled with a live audience!