Pink Martini featuring China Forbes
June 16, 2021
After a fervent standing ovation for its 2021 performance at the Moss, audience favorite Pink Martini brings its infectious, bubbly sounds back to Blacksburg for a celebration guaranteed to have the audience dancing in the aisles. With vintage jazz vibes, Pink Martini takes the audience on a musical trip around the world, from a samba parade in Rio to a French nightclub.
In 1994 in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking that one day he would run for mayor. Like other eager politicians-in-training, he went to every political fundraiser under the sun, but was dismayed to find the music at these events underwhelming, lackluster, loud, and un-neighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world — crossing genres of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop — he founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994. One year later, Lauderdale called China Forbes, a Harvard classmate who was living in New York City, and asked her to join Pink Martini.
Lauderdale and Forbes began to write songs together. Their first song, Sympathique (Je neveux pas travailler), became an overnight sensation in France, nominated for “Song of the Year” at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards and to this day remains a mantra (“Je ne veux pas travailler” or “I don’t want to work”) for striking French workers.
Featuring a dozen musicians with songs in 25 languages, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and North America. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998 under the direction of Norman Leyden. Since then, the band has gone on to play with more than 70 orchestras around the world, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London.
Other major appearances include the grand opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, with many return sold-out engagements for New Year’s Eve events; sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall; the opening party of the remodeled Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 100th anniversary party in 2018; the Governor’s Ball at the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008; three sold out shows with the Sydney Symphony at the renowned Sydney Opera House; and sold out concerts at Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2014 Pink Martini was inducted into both the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.
Television appearances include The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Later with Jools Holland, and a feature on CBS Sunday Morning. The band created a nationally broadcast 2015 NPR holiday concert special, Joy to the World: A Holiday Spectacular, and has been featured on multiple New Year’s Eve broadcasts on NPR’s Toast of the Nation.
The band has collaborated with numerous artists, including Phyllis Diller; Jimmy Scott; Carol Channing; Rita Moreno; Jane Powell; Rufus Wainwright; Japanese legends Saori Yuki and Hiroshi Wada; Henri Salvador; Chavela Vargas; New York performer Joey Arias; puppeteer Basil Twist; Georges Moustaki; Michael Feinstein; Charo; Doc Severinsen; filmmaker Gus Van Sant; Courtney Taylor of The Dandy Warhols; clarinetist and conductor Norman Leyden; Italian actress and songwriter Alba Clemente; DJ Johnny Dynell and Chi Valenti; Faith Prince; Mamie Van Doren; the original cast of Sesame Street; the Portland Youth Philharmonic; Mariachi Aztlan of Pueblo High School in Tucson, Arizona; the Jefferson High School Gospel Choir; the Royal Blues of Grant High School; the Pacific Youth Choir of Portland, Oregon; and Karen Early (who played sleigh bells and crash cymbals on the band’s holiday album and its collaborative album with Japanese singer Saori Yuki, respectively).
Pink Martini has an illustrious roster of regular guest artists: NPR’s Ari Shapiro, host of All Things Considered; Cantor Ida Rae Cahana (who was cantor at the Central Synagogue in New York City for five years); koto player Masumi Timson; harpist Maureen Love; and Kim Hastreiter (the publisher and editor-in-chief of Paper magazine).
In 2016 Pink Martini released its ninth studio album, Je dis oui!, which features vocals from Forbes, Storm Large, Ari Shapiro, fashion guru Ikram Goldman, civil rights activist Kathleen Saadat, and Rufus Wainwright. The album’s 15 tracks span eight languages (French, Farsi, Armenian, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Xhosa, and English), and affirms the band’s 23-year history of global inclusivity and collaborative spirit. In 2018 Pink Martini released a special 20th anniversary edition of its first album, Sympathique, featuring the band’s iconic arrangement of Ravel’s Bolero, now in the public domain and finally reinstated on the album after a 20-year absence. In 2019 Lauderdale and members of Pink Martini collaborated on a new release with the international singing sensation Meow. This album, Hotel Amour, features guest appearances by Rufus Wainwright, The von Trapps, Barry Humphries (of Dame Edna fame), and the inimitable late French pianist and composer Michel Legrand.
This performance is supported in part by a gift from Mrs. Tamara N. Hodsden. Additional funding is provided by the Timothy and Michelle Bendel Center for the Arts Excellence Fund.
Pink Martini first performed at the Moss Arts Center in 2021. Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes performed as part of the virtual fall 2020 HomeStage series.