You do not hear “Independent” and “Orchestra” often in the same breath. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what The Portland Cello Project is: an indie cello orchestra. In the course of one of The Portland Cello Project’s (or, PCP, as their fans affectionately call them), epic 2–3 hour shows (the format of which is always a one-time affair; the group writes almost entirely new arrangements for every performance cycle) you’ll see older patrons, straight out of the symphony hall nodding their head to cello hip-hop; young children playing air cello while dancing; hipsters too-cool-for-school mesmerized by Arvo Paert; members of the Decemberists playing late 19th-century Russian compositions transcribed for Hammond Organ, a 40-piece choir, and of course: a symphony of cellos.
The cello is the one constant in this amorphous collective from Portland, Oregon. Yet there is an organizer holding this anarchic display of controlled chaos together. You’ll see him sitting in the back row of the cello section at all of these shows, as if to appear an anonymous member of the horde. This is Douglas Jenkins, who often pens the originals and is responsible for the band’s arrangements.
The group has performed in support spots for such diverse artists as Pink Martini; heavy metal god Buckethead; cellist Matt Haimovitz; and Tokyo’s shamisen masters, The Yoshida Brothers. PCP performances are unique and eclectic, as likely to play a Pantera cover and the medley with something sublime by Arvo Pärt as improvising a version of Britney Spears “Toxic.”
Emily Wells opens.