Portland Cello Project
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Portland Cello Project

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"The Cello Liberation Front: The Portland Cello Project Is for the People"

For Doug Jenkins, the allure of the cello came not from childhood lessons demanded by strict parents, the seductive call of the
orchestra, or whatever mysterious pull draws musicians to brave this difficult and esteemed instrument. Jenkins picked up the cello
because the lessons came with his rent.

"I was 19, in college down at the University of Oregon, and was renting a room from this woman who was the principal cellist for the
Eugene symphony," explains Jenkins. "I played all kinds of other instruments at the time, and she said 'Why don't you play the cello?'
So I went out and bought one on a whim, and it was the most amazing thing. I had private lessons for over a year. I lucked out." This
luck was part of an unorthodox learning process for Jenkins ("She'd hear me practicing and just yell at me from the other room"), one
that continued through his cello-playing career.

In Portland, Jenkins discovered other cellists whose love for the instrument was hampered by their frustration with the way cello
music is often perceived by the masses. The cello is seen as a stuffy, impersonal instrument, made for the wealthy, by the wealthy: If
Woody Guthrie's ragged guitar could kill fascists, the cello would be the instrument that put them in power, with the epic swell and
thrust of a Wagner piece.

With that perception in mind, the Portland Cello Project took shape in the fall of 2006. The project, with its revolving door of
members and a lineup that fluctuates based on the performance and the piece, is dedicated to putting on "inexpensive performances of
cello music, en masse, in venues not traditionally associated with the cello." It's a bold notion when you consider the cello's
intimidating nature as being synonymous with stuffy orchestral pieces—not exactly the centerpiece of a show you'd see in a dimly lit
rock club while clutching a can of domestic beer.

But from Beethoven to Britney, it's all fair game to the PCP. In fact, Jenkins is proud of their diverse taste in music. "I love [Britney
Spears'] 'Toxic,' and I love Beethoven's 7th Symphony." The inspiring populist master plan of the PCP is to bring the instrument to the
people; to make the cello just as accessible as a Fender or a set of drums, available not only in pricey symphony halls but on rock
stages, underneath glowing beer signs, presented without an air of pretension.

Despite the modern-day covers, the PCP avoids pandering with cheap gimmickry, as their goal is much loftier than just becoming the
next Apocalyptica (the Finnish cello trio famous for covering Metallica). While their repertoire does include OutKast and Bon Jovi,
it's also home to inventive takes on music from Bach and Samuel Barber.

"We're sincere. The gimmick side of what we do comes from us just wanting to put on a really good live show," says Jenkins. "We
never play with a conductor, which is difficult, but we lead each other and we want to keep the community feel to what we do."

Ezra Caraeff - Portland Mercury

"Willamette Week Portland, by Paige Richmond"

Quick: Name your favorite cellist (besides Yo-Yo Ma). Can’t think of one? All right, how about your favorite guitarist,
drummer or singer? That was much easier, wasn’t it? Chances are, when you hear the words “rock star” or “Portland
music scene,” the cello is the last instrument that comes to mind—unless you’re Doug Jenkins of the Portland Cello

“It’s hip,” says Jenkins, 31, about being a cellist in Portland. “It’s super-hip. The second people find out I play the cello,
it’s like, ‘Hey, want to play on my record?’”

As Jenkins tells it, Portland’s cello community is on the rise. Bands like his own chamber-rock quintet, Bright Red Paper;
WW’ s 2007 Best New Band runner-up Horse Feathers; and folk-rock outfit John Weinland have all been seen cavorting
with the Portland Cello Project, a collective of local cellists that’s turning the traditional concept of orchestra performance
on its head.

For the past year, the 10-plus member Project—which includes Horse Feathers’ Heather Broderick, Vagabond Opera’s
Skip vonKuske, “honorary member” Tony Rogers (Okkervil River, Magnolia Electric Co.) and CelloBop originator
Gideon Freudmann—has been putting on inexpensive performances at non-traditional venues like the Doug Fir and
Crystal Ballroom. A typical show includes a classical piece, an instrumental version of a popular song (Salt-n-Pepa’s
“Push It” was a recent offering) and a collaborative performance with an indie-rock band.

No longer are cellists hiding in the wings, reliving memories of traumatic junior-high orchestra performances. Gone is the
discomfiture of lugging around a huge stringed beast. “I have to admit I was embarrassed to carry the cello around, since
it was so big and I was so small,” says cellist Sonja Myklebust, 21, of her younger years playing the instrument. Now, the
cello is becoming more a badge of honor—the brand of a unique skill amid a sea of guitarists.

And cellists are actually earning some respect in Portland’s über-hip music scene. “It’s just a trip to play cello music and
have everyone scream and yell and love it,” says Jenkins—who began playing cello 12 years ago—about the Project’s live
shows. Such enthusiasm is, in part, thanks to more bands of twenty- and thirtysomething musicians adding cello to their
repertoires, not to mention the Project’s decision to play more rock-oriented venues. “It’s awesome to have eight cellos
onstage at the Holocene,” adds Jenkins.

Fame (or screaming fans, at least) aside, there’s no fortune behind the Project: It rebuffs the financial support that a
typical orchestra receives, like wealthy donors or a fundraising board. But, unlike struggling Portland rock bands, Jenkins
and most of his crew are professionally and gainfully employed as musicians, from jobs giving music lessons to playing in
their own bands to working in studios. “Having a niche instrument is huge,” says Jenkins. “Both in the ability to find work
and to be easily adaptable to another musician’s or band’s style.”

Adaptability is key to the Project’s success. Rather than composing original material, the cellists play arrangements of
other bands’ songs, serving as a complement rather than competition. It makes sense that artists like singer-songwriter
Laura Gibson would rather perform with the unifying sound of 12 cellos than a more distracting 12-piece orchestra. “The
cello offers a nice, tasty sonic earful,” says Project member Freudmann, 45.

This “sonic earful” also pushes bands like Loch Lomond (whose viola player, Amanda Lawrence, is also a Project cellist)
to churn out bigger, better live performances. While the Old World folk ensemble already writes haunting melodies,
adding 12 cellos to a song like “Tic” forces the band’s musicians to another level. Singer Ritchie Young’s voice becomes
strained, more emotional; Scott Magee’s drumming becomes more deliberate to match the cellos’ huge sound. The
Portland Cello Project might be just another member of the band—but it’s the strongest, loudest one.
- Willamette Week


Portland Cello Project

Thursday’s show brings together some of Portland’s most notable avant-garde cellists with some of the scene’s brightest indie
musicians. As it turns out, they’re not always so distinguishable.

The Portland Cello Project will perform with local darling Laura Gibson and play four pieces written by Horse Feathers’ wunderkind
Peter Broderick, as well as some concertos and – are you ready? – “Hey Ya” by Outkast.

To say that this is not your father’s cello ensemble is a vast understatement.

Though classically trained, members of the Portland Cello Project have managed to stray far beyond their roots, even incorporating a
little Outkast into their repertoire.

- Portland Tribune

"Portland Cello Project album on the way"

The Portland Cello Project is one of the cooler and more original music groups in Portland. They are, as the name implies, a whole
buncha cellos -- but they bring in a number of guest artists, usually vocalists who wouldn't have the opportunity to play with such
accompaniment. The group has broad tastes, which means their shows comprise everything from opera to rock, all polished and quite

Now Doug Jenkins of the group has some news about a forthcoming album. In his own words:

"[W]e have just finished professionally recording 21 songs all over Portland (in The Old Church, and in studios and living rooms and
all over the place). We've recorded everything from Beethoven to Britney Spears, Super Mario Brothers, Loch Lomond, 3 Leg Torso,
Laura Gibson, Heather Broderick (of Horse Feathers), Weinland, and a bunch of other stuff. Larry Crane is flying up to mix them at
Jackpot starting Saturday. This will be an August release, but I'll have mastered advance copies by March. The CD will likely only
have 12-15 songs on it, and it's already really hard to think about choosing what to keep and let go."

The project's also playing a Valentine's Day gig at the Wonder Ballroom with Vagabond Opera; as Doug puts it, the show will have "a
Kissing Booth, Chocolatier, Love Clairvoyant, and a bar. It's really all a microcosm of a relationship and heartbreak all in one."

- Oregonian


Self-Titled EP due out 8/12/08

Can be accessed at:



"highly talented, highly collaborative and highly experimental…," --Willamette Week

"To say that this is not your father's cello ensemble is a vast understatement," states Barbara
Mitchell of the Portland Tribune.

Unconventional set lists performed by a multitude of cellists is just one thing that sets The Portland Cello Project apart from emblematic string ensembles. Imagine hits like Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine" as a double concerto and Britney Spears' "Toxic" with opera singers and choreographed dance moves. The combination of nostalgic guilty pleasures and classical pieces such as Arvo Paert's "Fratres" displays their avant-garde approach to all traditions, classical and otherwise. Rounding out performances by collaborating with a veritable "who's who" of the vibrant Portland music scene, the collective welcomes bands such as Horse Feathers and Vagabond Opera into their fold.

The troupe's taste for musical diversity and love of classical discipline meld together to form a CD representative of the eclectic nature of their live performances. With the release of their self-titled debut on August 12, 2008 they focus on collaborations with fellow Northwest musicians, Laura Gibson and Weinland, while never fearing to showcase their
love of classical music or humorous, yet ambitious covers. The goal of the group is three-fold as Portland Cello Project co-founder, Doug Jenkins, explains, "We strive to expose people to new music through the cello; support local musicians and give them the opportunity to work with an orchestral accompaniment; and to make Portland, Oregon the cello capital of the world, perhaps one day changing its name to Celloland." While Celloland remains a distant, yet hopeful, dream, the group comes closer to the former two goals with their self-titled album.

In a quest to keep the completed record authentic in sound and feel, the group recorded select classical pieces in the oldest church in Portland. The natural sounds of a windstorm outside linger at the beginning of the Beethoven track, enhancing the natural atmosphere and beauty of the music by placing it in an organic setting. On the coda of the same piece the faint sound of the Portland streetcar going by lends a space-age, ethereal sound similar to the trams in the
Michael York film, "Logan's Run.” Retaining nature's subtle nuances and Portland's own distinctive hums lend the recording a pastoral character synonymous with the Northwest.

Combining unconventional concoctions, like opera gloves and Pabst with concertos and mp3's, The Portland Cello Project conjures their own unique brew every time they accept the "project" of fitting up to 16 people AND their cellos onto the stage.