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Meet the Musician – The neWSOunds

Meet the Musicians 2021-09-18

Meet the Musician – The neWSOunds

The 2021/22 season begins this weekend (Sept 18 & Sept 19) with the first concert in this year’s POPs series, Bluegrass Symphony featuring The neWSOunds. Julian Pellicano leads the full orchestra alongside the very popular folk ensemble in a toe tapping concert guaranteed to raise your spirits. Made up of (L-R) Chris Anstey (fiddle), Gregory Hay (banjo/mandolin/guitar/viola), Meredith Johnson (double bass) and Mike Kemp (percussion), The neWSOunds are all musicians in the WSO who will show audiences a very different side of themselves and just how versatile classical musicians are. We sat down with Gregory Hay in this edition of Meet the Musician.

Q: What is bluegrass music?

Although there may be some undertones of bluegrass music, our band pulls from many traditions and our individual backgrounds to create our own unique “neWSOund”. It is a blend of Appalachian/old time (Meredith), country/western/grassroots (Greg), celtic/east coast fiddle (Chris) and our secret weapon of rhythmic drive (Mike). We get together and bring ideas from all of these influences (classical as well!) and try different things until we find something that works for us.

Q: What do you like most about playing together as a band?

Playing in a band allows us to step out of our comfort zone and play a type of music that we don’t normally do. Particularly, we are at the center of the creative process developing our own arrangements and sound creating our own version of the tunes we love. Also, drinking beer while rehearsing.

Q: How did you guys come together as a group?

The band came about as part of the WSO Education and Community Outreach program in an attempt to broaden the musical breadth of what we do and to appeal to a broader audience. In our early days, we were joined by Julian Pellicano on accordion, and played a variety of styles including polkas, czardases, and George Michael. Over time our interest in old time and country dominated our repertoire and has become the staple of what we do.

Q: WSO audiences have come to know and love you through your performances in the WSO @ Home Friday Matinees and our special Holiday Celebration concert. During these performances it was just the ensemble. For the Sept 18 & 19th concert, you’ll be performing along side the symphony. How are you going to incorporate two sounds?

As this type of music is not frequently played with orchestra, we carefully selected tunes from our repertoire that we thought could be adapted in a way that would be exciting and intriguing. A few of the tunes that you will hear with orchestra are folk tunes that Aaron Copland used in his works “Rodeo” and “Appalachian Spring”.  Arranger Claude Lapalme has cleverly orchestrated our arrangements to feature the orchestra while not stepping on the toes of the band. In addition, audiences will get a chance to hear the band alone with some fresh arrangements, as well as hear the orchestra play a few fun arrangements of their own.

Q: Is there anything in particular you want audiences to listen for or watch for during the concert?

Never take your eyes off Mike Kemp.

Q: What’s next for the neWSOunds?

Every time we get together we expand our vision and develop as a band. Our hope is to continue playing our music together, keep improving and get our audiences excited about music and the WSO.

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