As he prepared music for a Christmas tree lighting celebration two winters ago in his hometown of Portland, Thomas Lauderdale – founder and overall musical mastermind of the wildly multi-cultural pop ensemble Pink Martini – received a call from the Oregon Symphony.
The orchestra, for which Lauderdale serves as a board member, was welcoming to town the von Trapps – four great grandchildren from the singing family that inspired The Sound of Music over a half-century earlier and now a professional vocal group with a zest for the same kind of global musical cuisine favored by Pink Martini.
“The symphony called up and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got the von Trapps. Do you mind if they come onstage with you?’ said Lauderdale. “So I, who loves The Sound of Music and have only wanted to again and again play Lonely Goatherd (The Sound of Music’s popular yodeling song), just flipped out. So they came onstage and it was love at first sight. Then I made a few recommendations about pieces they might consider adding to their repertoire. Suddenly, we’re working on a full fledge collaborative album.”
On Tuesday, the full fruits of that alliance will be released by way of a new recording, co-credited to Pink Martini and the von Trapps, titled Dream a Little Dream. But on Friday, both groups, along with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, bring their own sound of music to life with a performance at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
“It was such a natural fit,” said Sofia von Trapp, 25, of her siblings’ collaboration with Pink Martini. “It just happened so organically because we love Thomas’ tastes. We completely fell in love with his style and arrangements and how friendly the music sounded. But it was also really smart and interesting.
“I called him up about two months after that and asked if he had any musical suggestions because by that time, we were a little stagnant with our music. We weren’t even sure if we were going to continue singing. We loved it but we didn’t have a really strong direction to go in. So we thought, ‘You know, Thomas Lauderdale would probably know some really interesting things that keep us going.”
Lauderdale’s suggestion was a playful 1920s German folk song Die Forfmusik, which becomes a polka party of sorts on Dream a Little Dream with the von Trapps’ vocals dancing alongside Lauderdale’s piano accompaniment like snowflakes. The song takes its place on an international summit of an album that also includes the Israeli lullaby Hayaldah hachi yafa bagan, a Brazilian carnival treatment of the ABBA hit Fernando, a version of the title tune prefaced by a snippet of Debussy’s Clair de Lune, three songs from The Sound of Music (including Edelweiss, sung by Charmain Carr, who portrayed Liesl in the 1959 film version of the musical) and three more originals composed by the youngest of the von Trapps, 19 year old August.
“My goal with this album was to give the von Trapps as much of an education as I could in terms of how to put an album together and, basically, how to have a career and not depend on anybody else,” Lauderdale said. “So I feel like this album does that. It allows them to go into any direction that they think fits from this point forward, which is very exciting.
“I felt so nervous that they would be mismanaged by… well, somebody. This way, they’ve got their own education and they can choose to do whatever they want to do.
“I never really talk about our albums very much or try to sell them,” said von Trapp. “But I really believe in this one. Thomas has been such a blessing in our lives, so I’m really excited about people hearing it.”
Pink Martini with the von Trapps and the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St. Tickets are $35, $45, $55. Call (859) 257-4929 or go to http://finearts.uky.edu/singletary-center