Pink Martini, von Trapps bring their musical sounds to Mount Baker Theatre

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 10, 2014 

Pink Martini perform with the The von Trapps at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St. in Bellingham.

HOLLY ANDRES — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Thomas Lauderdale founded Pink Martini in Portland, Ore., in 1994 and the group that calls itself a "little orchestra" now performs its multilingual repertoire with orchestras on stages around the world.

The group has collaborated with dozens of musicians over the years, and its current tour is with the von Trapps - Sofia, Melanie, Amanda, and August von Trapp, the great-grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp, made famous by the 1965 film "The Sound of Music."

The siblings, ages 19 to 25, have been singing together for 12 years and have, like Pink Martini, toured the world.

Drawn into the orbit of Thomas Lauderdale, they now live together in a house in Portland and have been frequent guest performers with Pink Martini the past two years.

Pink Martini features lead vocalist China Forbes.

I asked Lauderdale to explain what the group's music is like to someone who has not heard it.

"I would say that we are like a Hollywood musical crossed with global pop," he explains. "It's like old-fashioned pop the way it was in the 1940s, with the beautiful melodies. It's like 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' crossed with the United Nations. I like to say that if the United Nations had a house band in 1963, hopefully we would be that band!"

Lauderdale says he likes to keep the best music of the Golden Age alive. He also says that he likes to represent, in their global tours, "the America that I love, the broad America that is a melting pot of ideas, the America that is the most heterogeneously populated country in the world."

Lauderdale calls Portland "the most affordable city on the West Coast," so "it is an easy magnet for artists of all kinds."

He adds that its location on the touring circuit between Seattle and San Francisco, gives the group rich exposure to visiting artists and musicians.

On top of that, he says, Portland is "a generally liberal city that values and supports the arts (except, sadly, in our public schools!) so we have a built-in interested audience and support base. Plus, all the rain helps you get creative!"

He says he's generally the one who brings the repertoire to the band and creates the basic arrangements, but every musician contributes ideas, suggests parts, and many of them have contributed one or two original songs to their albums.

When I asked him about a couple of memorable experiences, he had plenty to offer.

"Well," he says, "most people don't know that the FBI once asked us to play their Christmas party! We've played almost everywhere you can imagine over our two decades of touring, from parking lots to the Hollywood Bowl.

"We've played over 100 weddings ... but unfortunately we have a 95 percent divorce rate from those weddings! I'm really hoping that our music didn't contribute to the marital folly.

"Our breakthrough in Europe was us playing an almost guerrilla performance at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, where Ringo Starr and Elton John joined us on stage, and Sharon Stone jumped up on stage to dance with an ice pick!

"We played at a Cartier party in Hong Kong and Cartier told us that our sole mission was to get people dancing. There are endless stories!"

I was curious about touring with the Von Trapps. He said enthusiastically that "Life is so much more delightful with the von Trapps! After 20 years on the road with Pink Martini, it's always a joy to throw some fresh musical personalities into our circus.

"Spending time with the von Trapps is like walking onto the set of 'The Sound of Music,' but they're not actors. They're earnest in a genuine way, and untainted by trashy modern impulses. They have a certain sort of exuberance and optimism and willingness to try anything.

"I love to be in that genuine state of wonder and excitement ... and not at all jaded. Spending time with the von Trapps is like that. It's like a summer day of infinite possibility."

COMING UP

Who: Pink Martini with The von Trapps

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 15

Where: Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.

Tickets: $69, $55, $42 and $32

Details: 360-734-6080, mountbakertheatre.com.

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