Drawing inspiration from music around the globe while crossing the genres of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop, pianist and band leader Thomas Lauderdale founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994. Comprising nearly a dozen instrumentalists with singers China Forbes and Storm Large, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia/New Zealand and North America.
“All of us in Pink Martini have studied different languages as well as different styles of music from different parts of the world… [consequently] our repertoire is wildly diverse. One moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli… like an urban music travelogue,” says Lauderdale. The band has played with more than 25 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 and the BBC Concert Orchestra in London.
While in the studio for 2013’s Get Happy, Lauderdale already began working with the von Trapps (Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August, the great-grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp) on Dream a Little Dream, released in 2014. The von Trapp siblings performed frequently with Pink Martini since the album’s release.
View a PDF of the seating chart for this performance.
Thomas Lauderdale was raised on a plant nursery in rural Indiana. He began piano lessons at age six with Patricia Garrison. When his family moved to Portland in 1982, he began studying with Sylvia Killman, who to this day continues to serve as his coach and mentor. He has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras and ensembles, including the Oregon Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Portland Youth Philharmonic, Chamber Music Northwest and Oregon Ballet Theatre (where he collaborated with choreographer James Canfield and visual artists Storm Tharp and Malia Jensen on a ballet based on Felix Salten’s Bambi, written in 1923).
Active in Oregon politics since a student at U.S. Grant High School (where he was student body president), Thomas served under Portland Mayor Bud Clark and Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt. He also worked under Portland City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury on the drafting and passage of the city’s civil rights ordinance. He graduated with honors from Harvard with a degree in History and Literature in 1992. He spent most of his collegiate years, however, in cocktail dresses, taking on the role of “cruise director” … throwing waltzes with live orchestras and ice sculptures, disco masquerades with gigantic pineapples on wheels, midnight swimming parties, and operating a Tuesday night coffeehouse called Café Mardi.
Instead of running for political office, Lauderdale founded the “little orchestra” called Pink Martini in 1994 to play political fundraisers for progressive causes such as civil rights, the environment, affordable housing and public broadcasting. In addition to his work with Pink Martini, Lauderdale collaborates with international superstar and singing sensation Meow Meow, the surf band Satan’s Pilgrims and novelist/writer Tom Spanbauer. In Spring 2008, Lauderdale completed his first film score for Chiara Clemente’s documentary Our City Dreams, a portrait of five New York City-based women artists of different generations. In 2008, he performed as the featured piano soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia with the Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland under the direction of Roger Doyle, and Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F with the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Christoph Campestrini. In 2011 Lauderdale again appeared as the featured soloist with the Oregon Symphony, this time under the direction of the tremendous Carlos Kalmar. Lauderdale currently serves on the boards of the Oregon Symphony and Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
China Forbes (vocals) was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she graduated cum laude from Harvard and was awarded the Jonathan Levy Prize for acting. She appeared in New York regional theatre and off-off Broadway productions, earning her Equity card alongside future stars of stage and screen such as Norm Lewis, Peter Jacobson and Rainn Wilson.
In 1994 she put her first band together and played regularly at NYC clubs CBGB’s Gallery, Mercury Lounge and Brownies. Her first solo album Love Handle was released in 1995 and she was chosen to sing “Ordinary Girl,” the theme song to the TV show Clueless.
At that same time she was plucked from New York City by Harvard classmate Thomas Lauderdale to sing with Pink Martini, and has since written many of Pink Martini’s most beloved songs with Lauderdale, including “Sympathique,” “Lilly,” “Clementine,” “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love,” “Over the Valley” and most recently “A Snowglobe Christmas,” which can be heard on Pink Martini’s holiday album Joy to the World. Her original song “Hey Eugene” is the title track of Pink Martini’s third album and many of her songs can also be heard on television and film. She sang “Qué Será Será” over the opening and closing credits of Jane Campion’s film In the Cut and her original song “The Northern Line” appears at the end of sister Maya Forbes’ directorial debut Infinitely Polar Bear to be released June 19, 2015 by Sony Pictures Classics.
With Pink Martini, China has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Later with Jools Holland. She has performed songs in over twelve languages and has sung duets with Michael Feinstein, Jimmy Scott, Georges Moustaki, Henri Salvador, Saori Yuki, Faith Prince, Carol Channing and Rufus Wainwright. She has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl to the Grand Rex in Paris. She released her second solo album ’78 on Heinz Records in 2008, a collection of autobiographical folk-rock songs.
In the spring of 2011 China took a leave of absence from Pink Martini to undergo surgery on her vocal chords and to spend time with her son. Thankfully all went very well and she is thrilled to be back on stage singing every chance she gets.