Pink Martini is returning to Reno for the holidays to offer up a dose of Christmas cheer and jazzy, worldly sounds.
The Portland-based, 12-piece band tours the globe year-round but has for several years returned to Reno at year's end to play festive classics such as "White Christmas," "Little Drummer Boy" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" The band will also be playing some of their best loved hits, including "Sympathique," "Ich Dich Liebe," "Je dis oui" (French for "I say yes") and "Hey Eugene."
The band, started by pianist Thomas Lauderdale and lead vocalist China Forbes, for 20 years has been dazzling audiences also with their medley of originals and global covers, sung in more than two dozen languages. They've performed on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America and North America.
'The future is Reno'
The band is returning to the Grand Sierra Resort's Grand Theatre on Dec. 10 thanks to Artown, the city-wide arts festival in July that also sponsors off-season acts.
"Reno’s a cool, cool city. It reminds me of Portland, 20 years earlier. In Reno, there’s still room for an underground. The future is Reno and Pittsburgh and even smaller cities," said Lauderdale, when asked why the band still makes time for more intimate stages.
Lauderdale, whose original career was politics, started the band in hopes of appealing to a wide demographic of listeners on the liberal-conservative spectrum. Exposing all of Pink Martini's listeners to a widely inclusive ideology and to the languages, folk tales and melodies of different cultures is more important than ever, Lauderdale said.
"What’s required is not gigantic political statements, but our job is to keep everyone at the same table, not screaming at each other. That is not helpful at this moment because everyone has such strong opinions," he said. "The band is better used right now as a temporary peacemaker. By the end, we want everyone joined in a conga line. It’s a huge job to get people out of their homes, into the streets, we have a culture driven by fear. Anything that gets people out of that fear culture is great."
Don't anticipate 'Santa Baby'
Because much of the band's repertoire is multilingual, including tunes in French, Italian, Japanese, and many other languages, the band often explains the stories behind the songs to give the crowd more perspective.
"Half of the songs we write, half of the songs are already written. More often than not, the songs I’m attracted to have a backstory. Every song has a story, but sometimes you actually find the behind the scenes story," Lauderdale said.
For example, Pink Martini will be performing the song, "Do you hear what I hear?" which was written after the authors, husband and wife Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker, went out and saw mothers in their strollers walking in the park in New York amidst a time of fear of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The song was a prayer for peace, Lauderdale explained.
Many of the songs on the set list for Reno will be pulled from the band's 11 albums, including its 2010 holiday album, "Joy to the World." Although, you probably won't hear one song from that mix: "Santa Baby."
Lauderdale, who said the band is focusing more on collaborations and less on albums as of late, wishes the band had not covered the campy ode to Saint Nicholas.
"If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t do 'Santa Baby.' It’s all about consumerism, and about women using sex to get what they want. I think it’d be interesting to rewrite the lyrics, I don’t know if that’s legal though," he said.
Tickets for the performance are on sale online and at the Grand Sierra Resort for between $20 and $45, not including fees.