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Cellists unite: The Portland Cello Project aims to squeeze as many cellists on stage that will fit

The Portland Cello Project draws on 20 different musicians to fill the stage at any given venue.

The Portland Cello Project draws on 20 different musicians to fill the stage at any given venue.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Believe it or not, the size of the stage is a critical issue for the Portland Cello Project.

Knowing the stage dimensions helps the project determine how many musicians it will bring to perform on it.

For its two Sunday, March 23 concerts, the project will have five cellists, plus a drummer, a bassist, a trumpeter and a vocalist.


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“That’s what I estimate will fit on that stage. Generally, we try to fill the stage just depending on the venue,” Douglas Jenkins said in an email.

Jenkins is the project’s artistic director, its main arranger, manager and, yes, a cellist.

The ensemble draws from a pool of about 20 cellists for performances.

“It just depends on who’s available and how big the stage is,” he said.

The project’s two concerts will offer audiences different music.

“The earlier show will reflect on winter and all of the memories and emotions connected to it,” Jenkins said. “The later show will look forward to the spring and all of the hope and change that comes with it.”

By adding other instruments and vocals, Jenkins said, it makes the show more dynamic.

“We can go from huge and epic down to the tiniest whisper of just two cellists doing a duo, and build back up again,” he said.

The non-cellists are often featured as soloists.

The cello is an instrument generally heard in symphony orchestras and classical music chamber groupings.

But the cello is clearly outside that box with the Portland Cello Project. The project has, for example, collaborated with singer-songwriter Dan Bern, the rockers The Dandy Warhols and the folk-rock band The Builders and The Butchers.

Jenkins said he hopes the project inspires people to want to break down musical barriers and learn more about the different styles and histories that music has in common, rather than what separates those styles and histories.