Hear This Now

Always Room for Cello

Local ensemble adds grace notes

By John Chandler May 19, 2009 Published in the July 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

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Portland Cello Project gets its feet wet this weekend.

Photo by Alicia J. Rose

Sixteen musicians on one stage? No problem if you’re playing the capacious Schnitzer, but if the venue is, say, a 200-capacity rock club, it’s going to be a tad crowded up there—especially if everyone’s playing the cello. Douglas Jenkins admits that they’ve occasionally needed three rows of chairs to accommodate the string players in his group, the Portland Cello Project, an ensemble of fluctuating membership known for cheekily blending selections from venerated classical composers with its own original, invigorating works—not to mention whipping up evocative arrangements to augment songs by local musicians like Weinland, Nick Jaina, and Laura Gibson. “We really try to mix it up” when preparing a set list, Jenkins says. “Like, we’ll say, ‘Hey, we don’t have a funny song yet, or a classical song, or a weird song.’” An example of the latter can be found on their soon-to-be-released self-titled album—an eerily vigorous cover of Britney Spears’s dance-club staple “Toxic.” And with everyone from Radiohead to Metallica adding orchestration to their records lately, the Cello Project’s social circle could increase exponentially. “Cellists are kind of social,” Jenkins says. “We like to make friends.”