Portland's Pink Martini collaborating with real Von Trapps for Olympia show

Eclectic band’s leader talks about playing with the von Trapps

Contributing writerApril 11, 2014 

Pink Martini, Portland’s frothy and sweet “little orchestra,” is playing Wednesday in Olympia with the von Trapps. Yes, the real von Trapps, descendants of the couple whose story is chronicled in “The Sound of Music.”

It’s a match made in musical heaven as far as bandleader Thomas Lauderdale is concerned.

Lauderdale loves nostalgia, can take seriously things others might call kitschy, and has a thing for the 1965 Julie Andrews film.

“I think ‘The Sound of Music’ is the last great American film that’s optimistic,” he said.

He even had an obsession with the curtains used in the film. He attended a sing-along version of the film 10 years or so ago and met Charmian Carr, who played Liesl.

“I was obsessed with getting a hold of the actual drapes from the film for my building,” he said. “She and I had a long conversation about it.”

He never got the drapes, but he did get to work with Georg and Maria von Trapp’s great-grandchildren, whom he met when they were in Portland to sing with the symphony. Someone with the symphony suggested the von Trapps could also perform with Pink Martini at the city’s Christmas tree lighting.

“I flipped out,” Lauderdale said. “It was like a dream come true.”

Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp had been performing mostly material from “The Sound of Music” before they met Lauderdale, who is helping them break out of the music box.

Pink Martini’s latest album, “Dream a Little Dream,” released last month, is a collaboration with the von Trapps and includes guest appearances by Carr and Wayne Newton and a samba-flavored version of ABBA’s “Fernando,” sung in the original Swedish.

It’s something different for the two-decade-old band to collaborate with such young performers as the von Trapps, who range in age from 19 to 25.

“Normally, our collaborations tend to be with people who are over 90, like Phyllis Diller and Carol Channing,” Lauderdale said. (He’s exaggerating: “Dream a Little Dream” also features The Chieftains and Lions of Batucada, but he makes a point.)

The exception is fitting though because the von Trapps in some ways escaped the influence of modern pop culture. “They were home-schooled in Montana, raised by fantastic parents who were paying a lot of attention,” Lauderdale said. “They didn’t watch TV. They’d been taught Austrian folk songs by their grandfather Werner, Kurt in the film.”

Times change, though, and “Dream a Little Dream” includes not only “Edelweiss” and “Lonely Goatherd” but also three new songs by August von Trapp.

“Lederhosen and I have been inseparable since the earliest childhood, even before our musical career,” August told the Austin-American Statesman. “We’ve been through it all together. However, despite a very sentimental attachment to the past, I look forward to a future of more modern attire.”

If the siblings might be ready to leave the past behind, Lauderdale likely never will.

“Obviously, I’m not living in the year 1962, but in a way I wish I were,” he said. “Pre-1964, there were a lot of social problems, there were a lot of issues, but there was a certain sense of grace and beauty that I think has largely been lost.

“My goal is to relocate that in spite of everything we know about the world, to earnestly find a place of hope.”

Pink Martini and the von Trapps

What: The eclectic Portland band teams up with the great-grandchildren of Georg and Maria von Trapp.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Tickets: $64-$96 for adults; $58-$86 for students, seniors and military; $32-$48 for youths

For information: 360-753-8586 or washingtoncenter.org

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