The last time the Portland Cello project was on the road, the pop-dipping string ensemble had a little fun with its cross-genre-ational crowd. It had long been common for the indie-rock kids to get shushed by classical-music fans in the audience for applauding between movements — a faux pas on par with unwrapping candy in a symphony hall.
So when the band played Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” it over enunciated the pause toward the middle of the song to the point where the classical fans unfamiliar with the piece began to clap and the indie kids had their chance to shush.
Their point? Get over yourselves. All of you.
“We do get caught up in norms and we do have our stereotypes of what is and isn’t acceptable at certain performances, and in certain places and when certain types of music is being played,” says bandleader Douglas Jenkins. “That’s the consistent goal of this group is to try and diversify the audience as much as possible.”
In late 2007, just as the Northwest was becoming a hotbed for harmony-heavy acoustic folk music, the Portland Cello Project took shape in their namesake city with the goal of performing pop and classical music on their cellos, and introducing the disparate audiences to each other.
They’ve spent a chunk of the last decade in an environment most string ensembles don’t dare venture: opening for rock bands in rock clubs. Their first proper tour was in support of the hard-rock guitarist Buckethead.
“It’s not so much introducing the music than showing people that there’s a culture behind all types of music that is valid, that is human, that we can all relate to,” Jenkins says.
The group has grown to a pool of roughly 25 musicians — though Jenkins says no more than 10 usually appear on stage. Their new EP, “Winter (The Best Nine Months of the Year),” features cold-themed tracks, including a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal.”
At a pair of shows at the Kirkland Performance Center this weekend, Jenkins says the band will mine the new EP, along with reliable hits of pop and plenty of classical, music he is quick to point out comes from the same place.
“If you were to sit back and look at what Bach does and what any contemporary musician does at all, the vocabulary is pretty much the same,” he says. “You’ve got the same 12 notes and you’re playing with the same concept of tension.”
Portland Cello Project
8 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland; $30 (425-893-9900 or www.kpcenter.org).