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Radiohead by way of cello: The Portland Cello Project to perform ‘OK Computer’

The Portland Cello Project will perform the music from Radiohead’s “OK Computer” during its shows in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. (Courtesy of Jason Quigley)

It’s taken years for Douglas Jenkins to get it right.

As the artistic director of the Portland Cello Project, Jenkins wanted to perform the music of Radiohead – specifically the 1997 Grammy-winning album “OK Computer.”

After a handful of years of working on the pieces, the Oregon-based collective has it mastered.

The album and other select pieces will be performed when the Portland Cello Project comes to Albuquerque and Santa Fe for shows on Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16, respectively.

“It’s been interesting to go on the journey,” he says. “No matter how often we practice, there is always a piece or moment that we could do better. Arranging it is fun because we’re bringing in new players. A few of the players haven’t heard any of Radiohead’s music and the come in with a different way of tackling the pieces.”

The Portland Cello is a collective of cello players based in Portland, Oregon. They began performing together in 2006.

Since the Radiohead undertaking, Jenkins has recently begun work on putting together a show of the music of Prince.

“We have been transitioning to that next year,” he says. “We’re going to do that show with people that have played with Prince.”

Jenkins knows that it’s going to take work to get the new show right.

“We worked for years on the Radiohead project,” he says. “No one is like Prince. There’s mastery behind his work.”

Portland Cello Project first performed the Radiohead show about six years ago.

Then about two years ago, the collective decided to put it on the back burner and work on some different music.

This is when some of the arrangement changes also came into play.

“The first goal was to get back and develop some new things to it,” he says. “We don’t just rest with the gimmick. We wanted to up the quality and become a tighter show.”

Stepping away from the Radiohead music also gave Jenkins a chance to reevaluate the entire show.

“It’s good to get a rest from something and get a fresh perspective,” he says. “I think many musicians feel the same way. It definitely helped up breathe new life into it. By doing so, we’ve been able to open this new door into Prince’s music and can’t wait to see what develops with that.”

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