Daily Bow: Portland Cello Project Pushes New Boundaries

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Portland Cello Project’s Holiday Concert Promises Much More than the Usual Carols

The holiday season typically begins with an onslaught on festive music. When you get into the car on the morning after Thanksgiving, the radio will remind you that Santa Claus is coming to town. The Portland Cello Project, knowing this, will not remind you at their upcoming concert, the Holiday Showdown, this weekend. Instead, the intrepid cello group and their friends will present original works alongside arrangements of popular favorites, including a song by Sam Cooke. Ensemble leader Douglas Jenkins was going for something beyond the conventional this year when he programmed the concert:

“It’s pretty obscure stuff,” Jenkins says. “It has a dark, winter feeling to it. I went entirely for mood rather than traditional holiday songs.” He’s written arrangements for compositions by Khachaturian and little-known French composer Lili Boulanger.

The PCP is a group dedicated to pushing new boundaries for the cello. They state a three-part mission on their website: to bring the cello to places you normally wouldn’t hear it, to play music that you wouldn’t normally associate with the instrument, and act as a bridge between different musical communities. And even though the Holiday Showdown only satisfies two of these goals, the effort is admirable. Whether people come across cellos through viral videos (see below) or in a new music concert, engaging new audiences is a essential part of being a musician today . The PCP have a knack for that; innovative programming and a boldness to perform wherever they can not only give them more fans, but also bring people closer to an instrument they might know nothing about.

If Jedi robes aren’t you’re thing, then Douglas Jenkins has an alternative: “If you wear a holiday sweater to the show, you’ll get VIP seating, which will be in the first four rows. The three best sweaters will be brought on stage for the audience to determine which is the best, and that person will receive a prize.” So find your most ridiculous sweater and buy your tickets! Cello can never have too many fans.

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