The Portland Cello Project brings its holiday show to Seattle on Sunday, Dec. 7, but don’t expect roasting chestnuts and a winter wonderland.
This nontraditional Santa has everyone from Bach to Britten in his sleigh and this year, he has another little something up his scarlet sleeve — new arrangements of songs by the late Elliott Smith (also from Portland), which the group released this past Tuesday on the album “to e.s.”
The CD’s dozen instrumental tracks comprise six songs by Smith himself and six new works based on re-imaginings of Smith fragments given to composers who had no knowledge of the project. In light of Smith’s fragile mindset and eventual suicide, the music on the whole is surprisingly upbeat, but it does a nice job of representing the singer-songwriter’s fondness for poppish melodies underscored with quiet urgency.
“Between the Bars” and “Pitseleh,” arranged by PCP artistic director Douglas Jenkins, feature doleful bowed melodies as well as cheerful pizzicati. By contrast, “Shard,” composed by Nancy Ives (principal cellist with the Oregon Symphony), spirals with dissonant scratches and allegro furiosos, and “Urtica,” by Oregon “noise” composer Emyli Poltorak, staggers along an atonal path.
“Needle in the Hay,” also arranged by Jenkins, features trumpet and drums, but with this group, the cello is the thing. Founded in 2007 and usually featuring four to six cellos in concert, PCP has tackled songs by Radiohead as well as Kanye West. Its repertoire includes more than 1,000 pieces.
From that sack o’tunes, expect a couple dozen.
Soul group Ural Thomas & the Pain are also featured on the show.
Portland Cello Project
7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, at Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $25-$35 (206-215-4747 or seattlesymphony.org)