Where else but on a Pink Martini album such as “Dream A Little Dream” would you be able to hear Abba’s “Fernando” sung in the original Swedish? Not only that, it’s sung by the von Trapps (Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August), the great grandchildren of Maria and Georg. Yes, that Maria and Georg. Also worth mentioning is a duet on “Lonely Goatherd” (in keeping with “The Sound of Music” theme) performed by Wayne Newton and Jack Hanna.
Just wait until you hear what Pink Martini does with the title track, a standard that became a hit for The Mamas & The Papas in the 1960s. Under the direction of gay bandleader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale, the international ensemble Pink Martini has been intoxicating audiences throughout the 21st century. Pink Martini stops in Atlanta on its tour with the von Trapp on Sunday at Atlanta Symphony Hall.
GA Voice: In recent years, on albums such as “1969 “and “Get Happy” and now “Dream A Little Dream,” Pink Martini expanded its scope through collaboration. Can you please say something about how you see collaboration fitting in with Pink Martini’s recipe?
Thomas Lauderdale: The band has always been about collaboration from the beginning. For me, I never thought that I would be in a band, let alone lead one.
What I learned in college was how to throw a party more than anything else. I was kind of like the cruise director of the Harvard campus for four years. When I started the band what I really liked about the aspect of it was bringing more people on the stage which made the whole experience more festive and fun. There were people there to ally with. A shared experience as opposed to being a lonely concert pianist with nobody to spend time with. The stage then became more theatrical and fun by adding more people.
As you said, the von Trapps could be heard on “Get Happy” and, to a greater extent, on “Dream A Little Dream.” How did the collaboration with the von Trapps come about?
Two years ago I was scoring music for the annual Christmas tree lighting in Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland. I’m on the board for the Oregon Symphony and they called up and said, “We’ve got the von Trapps, the great-grandchildren of Maria and Georg, and they are going to be playing with the symphony tomorrow night. Do you mind if they come on stage during the Christmas tree lighting and perform a song or two?” I, who love “The Sound of Music” so much, was in heaven.
When I met them, they were totally incredible. Beautiful young people who had been home schooled in Montana and they’ve been traveling and touring and performing for 10 years and had this incredible rapport and this incredible unified sound. Plus there’s the extraordinary history which is indicated by the name von Trapp. I totally fell in love.
Looking at the repertoire they were performing, I thought, “It’s pretty ‘Sound of Music’ heavy. I could think of at least five songs that they should consider. They were actually at that point trying to figure out in what direction to go. They were straddling that line between being “The Sound of Music” kids to adults.
I felt like I was a good person to actually make recommendations and to be helpful. We started working on this album and my goal for the album was to help them make the transition out of being just “The Sound of Music” to actually something else. I think what the album does is that; bridges the gap and allows them to go in any direction they want to go in future.
The album opens and closes with two of August von Trapp’s compositions, “Storm” and “Thunder” respectively. Why did you choose to do that?
All of the songs we chose for this album are the songs I think would be the next step forward for life beyond “The Sound of Music.” I think there will always be that aspect of them, and that may be the way in for many people, but in the end I think what it’s actually about is something even more amazing than the original von Trapp family singers from 50 years ago.
They are young and earnest and they have this new sound which is ― I don’t know much about modern pop music but some people say they sound a lot like Fleet Foxes. That’s interesting because August adores Fleet Foxes. The goal was to create an album that would set them free so they can explore any direction and any kind of music they would want to do in the future.
Some of Pink Martini’s upcoming tour dates, including Atlanta, will feature the von Trapps. What can people expect from the concerts?
It’s going to be a hodgepodge of activity. We’re going to do all the material that comes from the collaboration with the von Trapps. Traveling with the von Trapp’s, they always make things better. I can only imagine that it’s going to be the most fun tour ever.
…The message of Pink Martini is one of empathy and compassion and finding ways of bringing people who are very different together and unite them through music; which is also the message of the von Trapp’s.
Growing up in Indiana, my parents would entertain and I would go to sleep upstairs listening to the sound of laughter drifting upstairs. It was very calm in and comforting. I think that’s what I’m trying to duplicate in every aspect of my life.