American Classic

After his bluegrass band’s Grammy win, Mark O’Connor lends his fiddle to the PSO Pops!.

Mark O'Conner playing fiddle

Photograph by Mitch Weiss

In 2014, it was big fiddling news when Mark O’Connor dropped his favorite violin backstage, cracking the Maine maple and spruce instrument. Fortunately, the Portland violinmaker who’d crafted the fiddle was also able to repair it — and in time for an O’Connor appearance in Portland later that year.

Now, the brilliant fiddler returns to Maine on the heels of bigger news: his band’s latest release, Coming Home, recently took best bluegrass album at the Grammys — the third win for him, and first since collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma on Appalachian Journeys 16 years ago.

O’Connor’s technical mastery suits any genre, but he’s best known for his commitment to a traditional American sound, which PSO assistant conductor Andrew Crust aims to highlight in this month’s show. “I tried to work the whole program around his style,” Crust says, “which is really fun Americana-sounding music based on folk tunes and traditional stories.”

The program consists of “entertaining, familiar music,” Crust says, including numbers from Aaron Copland’s Rodeo suite (such as “Hoe-Down,” famously popularized in beef-it’s-what’s-for-dinner commercials) and Broadway’s Oklahoma! O’Connor will also bring several of his own

Mark O’Connor performs with PSO Pops! on April 29, 7:30 p.m., and April 30, 2:30 p.m. Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland. 207-842-0800. portlandsymphony.org

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Will Grunewald

Will Grunewald is Down East's associate editor.