The City Winery, tucked away in Soho in Manhattan, was a great setting for the Portland Cello Project's performance on Wednesday. The extensive wine list and low lighting gave the venue the air of sophistication needed to host a group of highly-skilled, genre-bending musicians. The Portland Cello Project (known by its fans by, yes, as PCP) is quite an impressive group: their repertoire numbers at over 900 pieces--spanning from classical works to jazz, hip-hop, and even death metal. The performance featured eight musicians, not only cello players, but also French horn, flute, and drum.
"It started as 'let's play classical music in bars,'" says PCP founder, Douglass Jenkins, "Then we decided to play some Britney Spears. It was instantly a good idea."
After kicking off the set with the "William Tell Overture," Douglass called the set by taking cues from the audience and the band, bouncing from jazz standards and classical masterpieces, to pop hits and hip-hop tracks (the latter two categories really sent the crowd on fire). Their covers of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and Kanye West's "All of the Lights" garnered, deservingly, a roaring round of applause.
One wouldn't think that hip-hop, death metal, or pop music would lend themselves to a string section adaptation, but PCP managed to make it work. Though the gap between Top 40 and orchestral instrumentation may seem difficult to bridge, the Portland Cello Project does it skillfully and to hear them do it is nothing short of marvelous.
Listen to their cover of Kanye West's "H.A.M" below