Cellos and Radiohead—an unlikely pairing, but this Saturday, the Portland Cello Project is making it happen. Performing at the Annenberg center, the group of 9 cellists is putting its own classical twist on Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer.
This isn’t the first time the Portland Cello Project has strayed from the typically classical roots of the cello. In fact, the deviance is exactly what defines the group, having performed the hits of big names ranging from Taylor Swift to Kanye West to the heavy metal band Pantera.
The group started 12 years ago in the fall of 2006 “as a joke,” Douglas Jenkins, the Director of the group described. All were classically trained, but most had some sort of other musical background as well. For example, Zoe Keating had a background in electronic looping and Tony Rodgers in bluegrass. “We were a bunch of cellists who had moved to Portland,” Jenkins recalled. “We were mostly at Tony’s house playing classical repertoire and drinking a few beers.” Given the quirky background of the group, it was no surprise that elements other than the classical tradition would influence the group. In that case, what if they brought their music to a bar?
“I thought we would never do it again,” Jenkins said. But twelve years later, the Portland Cello Project has toured across the nation, appearing in the most unlikely of places for a cello group from punk rock clubs to dive bars in Montana to performing arts centers such as Annenberg, Their music has since exploded to over 1,000 pieces. “The point is to bring cello to where you wouldn’t see it,” stated Jenkins.
Because of this diverse repertoire the group has going on, they also collaborate with a wide range of artists. They’ve brought on the alternative rock band The Dandy Warhols, the folk singer Jolie Holland, and singer-songwriter Corin Tucker, just to name a few.
And this Saturday, the Portland Cello Project is bringing their tour to the Annenberg Center, performing hits from OK Computer in celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary. With them are Patti King, keyboardist of the Grammy–nominated indie rock band The Shins, Tyrone Hendrix, who has drummed for Prince and Stevie Wonder, and Farnell Newton, a trumpeter, who’s worked with Aretha Franklin and George Clinton.
It’s an ambitious crossover, bringing together the cello and one of the most acclaimed rock bands. But in blurring these lines, the Portland Cello Project presents an experience like nothing else.
The Portland Cello Project will be performing at the Annenberg Center this Saturday (October 20th) at 8:00pm. Tickets for students are $10.