It’s not often that you see a group of cellists sharing the stage with non-classical performers, unless you happen to frequent the shows of The Portland Cello Project. The group is comprised of a rotating collective of seasoned musicians whose concept performances range from the music of Bach and Brubeck to Taylor Swift and Prince. Stripped of the usual trappings of a group anchored by classical musicians, The Portland Cello Project brought their dynamic presence to the stage last Saturday at Purchase College’s Performing Arts Center to pay homage to Radiohead’s pivotal album OK Computer.
This week Radiohead will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, in no small thanks to OK Computer, which earned the band its first Grammy and put them on the map. Johnny Greenwood, the lead guitarist for Radiohead, who helped write the album has also composed extensively for orchestras, which is part of the reason their music translates so well to The Portland Cello Project’s format.
The Project’s musical director, Douglas Jenkins has spent the last ten years curating a diverse selection of music, which has attracted a range of talented collaborators and the most recent OK Computer tour is no exception. With the help of an exceptional ensemble, including collaborators Patti King, of The Shins, Farnell Newton and Tyrone Hendrix, who’ve recently shared the stage with Bootsie Collins and Stevie Wonder, the group was set up to exceed the expectations of even the staunchest Radiohead purists.
It was clear from the outset with their sharp, sweeping take on the paradoxical opener Airbag, that the Portland Cello Project was not only players, but appreciators of the album. This became even more apparent on a song break when singer Patti King regaled the audience with her story of discovering the album and listening to it four times in a row the very first time.
The PAC show encompassed a full performance of OK Computer and included a smattering of other Radiohead mainstays like the classic track Creep, which prompted a wholesome moment of audience participation. Other crowd favorites like Karma Police and the epic Paranoid Android lulled the crowd into a kind of reverent stupor that broke in time for a standing ovation. It is always fun to hear talented musicians give their take on another artist’s work, but the Portland Cello Project lived up to the challenge and delivered a musical homage.
The show was followed by an informal question and answer session with the performers, which was led by the Co-Head of Studio Composition Graduate Studies at Purchase College, Adam Pietrykowski.
For a full schedule of upcoming Performing Arts Center events, visit: artscenter.org.
William Bermingham works in the Communications Department at ArtsWestchester. He is a graduate of Purchase College where he studied Arts Management.