Program: Pink Martini featuring China Forbes

Featuring China Forbes

November 05, 2022  
Symphony Hall

Thomas M. Lauderdale, piano 
China Forbes, vocals

Ari Shapiro, guest vocals
Edna Vazquez, guest vocals
Jimmie Herrod, guest vocals
Thomas Barber, trumpet
Antonis Andreou, trombone
Nicholas Crosa, violin
Phil Baker, upright bass
Dan Faehnle, guitar
Timothy Nishimoto, vocals and percussion
Brian Davis, congas and percussion
Miguel Bernal, congas and percussion
Andrew Borger, drums and percussion 
Reinhardt Melz, drums and percussion

In 1994, in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking he would run for mayor one day. 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 unneighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world, crossing genres of classical, jazz, and old-fashioned pop and hoping to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike, he founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994. His aim? To provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers supporting causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education, and parks. 

One year later, Lauderdale called China Forbes, a Harvard classmate living in New York City, and asked her to join Pink Martini. They began to write songs together. Their first, “Sympathique,” was an overnight sensation in France and was nominated for song of the year at the Victoires de la Musique awards. To this day, it remains a mantra for striking workers: “Je ne veux pas travailler” (I don’t want to work).  

Pink Martini has sold well over three million albums worldwide on its own independent label, Heinz Records (named after Lauderdale’s dog). In 2016, Pink Martini released its ninth studio album,  Je dis oui!, which features vocals from China 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 affirm the band’s history of global inclusivity and collaborative spirit.  In 2019, Pink Martini worked on a new release together with the international singing sensation Meow Meow, entitled Hotel Amour, and also released two five-song EPs, Bêsame Mucho, featuring regular guest singer Edna Vazquez, and Tomorrow, featuring regular guest singer Jimmie Herrod, a finalist on the 2021 season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. During their pandemic hiatus, the band released two new digital singles written by Thomas Lauderdale, China Forbes, and producer Jim Bianco: “Let’s Be Friends” and “The Lemonade Song,” which already has nearly eight million streams on Spotify alone. 

Featuring more than a dozen musicians, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire throughout the world. Says Lauderdale, “We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America . . . the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world . . . composed of people of every country, every language, every religion.” 

The band made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony the following year. Since then, Pink Martini has played with more than 50 orchestras internationally, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Other appearances include a performance at the official post-Oscars celebration Governors Ball, four sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, the opening party of the remodeled Museum of Modern Art in New York, multiple sellouts and a festival opening at Montreal Jazz Festival, and multiple appearances, including sellouts, at the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. In its 20th year, Pink Martini was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. In 2022, the band is celebrating its 28th year of performing with its first full season of global touring since 2019 because of the disruptions brought about by the pandemic. 

Thomas M. Lauderdale  
Raised on a plant nursery in rural Indiana, Pink Martini bandleader Thomas M. Lauderdale 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, Portland Youth Philharmonic, and Chamber Music Northwest and in several collaborations with Oregon Ballet Theatre.  In 2008, he played Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F with the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Christoph Campestrini.  

Active in Oregon politics since a student at U. S. Grant High School (where he was student body president), Lauderdale served under Portland Mayor Bud Clark and Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt. In 1991, he 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, staging disco masquerades with gigantic pineapples on wheels, hosting midnight swimming parties, and operating a Tuesday night coffeehouse called Café Mardi.  

Instead of running for political office, Lauderdale founded 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 has most recently completed two long-awaited collaborations with dear friends.  In 2018 he completed Love for Sale, an album of jazz standards with singer–civil rights leader Kathleen Saadat that began as a gift to a few friends and ended up being a Billboard jazz chart–ranking album the month it was released.  

In 2019, Thomas Lauderdale and members of Pink Martini collaborated on a new release with the international singing sensation Meow Meow.  The album Hotel Amour—the culmination of almost a decade of work—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. Currently, Lauderdale is collaborating with the iconic Iranian singer Googoosh on her forthcoming album. Spring of 2022 will also see the long-awaited release of Lauderdale’s collaboration with Portland’s own surf-rock indie icons, Satan’s Pilgrims.  

Lauderdale currently serves on the boards of the Oregon Symphony, Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Oregon Historical Society, and the Confluence Project with Maya Lin. He lives in Portland with his partner Hunter Noack. 

China Forbes was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated cum laude from Harvard after winning the Jonathan Levy Prize for most promising actor, having majored in painting and English literature, with a minor in theater.  She earned her Equity card appearing in New York regional theater and off-Broadway productions while also performing regularly as a singer-songwriter in NYC clubs. Her first album, Love Handle (November Records), was released in 1995, and she was chosen to sing "Ordinary Girl," the theme song of the TV show Clueless (ABC/UPN).  

In 1995, Harvard classmate Thomas Lauderdale invited her to sing with Pink Martini, and she has since fronted the band and written many of the band's most beloved songs with Lauderdale, including “Sympathique (Je ne veux pas travailler),” “Lilly,” “Una Notte a Napoli,” “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love,” and "Over the Valley," to name a few. In 2000 “Sympathique“ was nominated for song of the year at the French Grammy awards (Les Victoires de La Musique).  

Forbes’s original song “Hey Eugene” appears on 78 (Heinz), her second solo album, a collection of autobiographical folk-rock songs, and is also the title track of Pink Martini’s third album. Many of her songs can be heard on television and in film. She sang “Que Será Será” over the credits of Jane Campion’s film In the Cut, and her original song "The Northern Line" appears at the end of sister Maya Forbes's directorial debut Infinitely Polar Bear (Sony Pictures Classics). Both films, by coincidence, star Mark Ruffalo. 

With Pink Martini, China Forbes 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 20 languages on nine Pink Martini studio albums and has sung duets with Rufus Wainwright, Michael Feinstein, Carol Channing, and many more. She has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall to Red Rocks, the Hollywood Bowl, Paris’s l’Olympia, Sydney Opera House, and Royal Albert Hall.  

Pink Martini’s latest original song cowritten by China Forbes, “The Lemonade Song,” was released during the pandemic to millions of streams. In July 2021 she released her post-pandemic anthem, “Full Circle,” followed by her suicide-prevention anthem, “Rise,” and is currently at work on her third solo album of original material. China Forbes received the 2022 Ella Fitzgerald Award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival; previous winners include Diana Ross, Etta James, Liza Minelli, and Aretha Franklin, not to mention Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr., and Tony Bennett. 

About Global Arts Live

Our mission
Global Arts Live Staff & Board
Please support our nonprofit mission. Your gift will help us bring more performances like this to greater Boston, as ticket sales only cover a fraction of our costs.
Get updates. Join us on Facebook, InstagramYouTube, and Twitter.

Other concerts you might like:

Juan Carmona