Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Pink Martini Splendor

Maybe I'm a hopeless dreamer
Maybe I've got it wrong
But I'm going where the grass is green
If you like to come along

Splendor in the Grass,
Pink Martini

William, Alex, Geoff, and Max ::
Beckie and Kai, Delia, Maria, Liz, and Natalie

Going where the hills are green
And the cars are few and far
Days are full of splendor
And at night you can see the stars

Life's been moving oh so fast
I think we should take it slow
Rest our heads upon the grass
And listen to it grow

It's no secret, I love Pink Martini, the band, the guests, the spirit, the music. Their story goes back to 1994, or maybe further, because it's more than the founding of a band... I think it began with Thomas Lauderdale's ideals, and talents, and his willingness to share a means of expressing those standards and skills with a band, with the world. Pink Martini is a reflection of the endurance of love, of our resilience, of the beauty in diversity, and the achievement of excellence through collaboration. Their music is excellent, skillful, exuberant, and through the studied practice of their discipline... it is easy, and as naturally joyful as unrehearsed play. I hesitate to single out any one particular person for all of this, but I do want to thank Thomas Lauderdale for starting a band, and for letting this body of people, with instruments, lyrics, voices, intentions, and beliefs "affirm the band’s 22-year history of global inclusivity and collaborative spirit."

Months and months ago, we all agreed to meet at the Hollywood Bowl to see Pink Martini, to picnic, and be together. Lucky for us, Liz and Beckie had all kinds of practical advice for getting to the Bowl, for making the most of an exceptional venue. We had a lot of fun, and a lot of great food, before 7:00pm rolled around. And we had a lot of time to anticipate what this night could hold in store for us. Our first time seeing Pink Martini set such a high standard for any concert experience, that we could hardly believe how fabulous our second Pink Martini experience turned out! Now we were reveling in the prospect of seeing a favorite band, this time with both China Forbes and Storm Large, as well as Ari Shapiro.

Is this the time and place to start naming every member of the band? Because I could. I could say how we love the percussionists, the horn players, the strings, how Brian Laverne Davis is an inspiration, how Miguel Bernal's voice is so soulfully expressive it makes us tear up, and Timothy Nishimoto's endearing Oh, Big One brings us to our feet. Each player in Pink Martini makes the music, makes the experience, whole and worthwhile... I have felt this, and appreciated it, since the first time seeing them play, hearing their sound, seeing the engagement they share with each other, with the audience, and it's a pleasure to witness those skills combined with a depth of emotion that can only be love, affection, and caring, sincerely and warmly conveyed.

Maybe this is the time and place to blush, in my stammering words, and say, I am glad I am not a professional critic, or musical reviewer. I have no formal training, you may have guessed, in music, or journalism, so all of this comes from an unrehearsed, uncensored affection, and earnest desire to say what I feel, in hopes of relieving my emotions, which refuse to be contained. I want to wrest from my memory, from the night, something elusive, abstract, yet palpable... which is the connection, beauty, and intimacy that Pink Martini gave in their Hollywood Bowl appearance. I want to hold and admire, and put into words, how generously, and validating of good, Pink Martini demonstrated a capacity to celebrate a small planet, with many faces, voices, ideas, emotions. In kindness, with affection, Pink Martini made us each, and all, feel worthy of standing on stage, included, celebrated, and beautiful.

Without preaching, or rallying with banners, Pink Martini brought together 17,000 people, blurred the lines between stage and audience, and showed in gestures, lyrics, and movement, how much we are alike, how our languages and differences are no barrier to music, harmony, strength, and collaboration. Literally and figuratively, Thomas Lauderdale and his band brought strangers, nations, and voices, together, in music, in feeling. And the feeling was of inclusivity, of celebration of our diversity and our common bonds, our humanity. Love is love... we all have sad songs and love songs, and we all get tired, and we, each of us, wants to be loved, to be respected, to have a voice. I watched, even from as far away as Row K, and I marveled at how beautiful China Forbes is, and Ari Shapiro, and then I saw how beautiful everyone is, and I wanted, then and there, to remember for always that amazing feeling... Thomas Lauderdale and all of the band, in their generous hearts and art, were including us in their message, in their music and inviting us to see the stars, to rest our heads upon the grass and listen to it grow, to be an America that dreams, and believes, for all.

And they kept giving... it was like a good party, where old and new friends keep arriving, and the celebration rises, increases. And I felt the magnanimity, and joy, of their intentions, their rehearsals, their travels, and what they've studied, of inviting people to sing with them, of Storm Large singing with every fiber of her being, if not her actual voice... I felt it all, and was transfixed by the enchantment of being connected, almost tangibly, by the power of music. I couldn't help but think of what I have been fearing, what I have been sad about, and worried over, how recent events have made it hard to feel hopeful, and to not get weary. I thought of all the heavy things, the obstacles before us, but this time with renewed purpose, refreshed with uplifting energy, ambition, and a sense of being connected with the warriors, and singers who have come before us, who have inspired us to stand strong, in love, in light. It was a gift to be reminded of happiness, and harmony. Pink Martini made a very large space feel intimate and safe. We are resilient, we are beautiful, we are hopeful... together, that was the rhythm and tune Pink Martini played, loud and clear. If the world has a house band in 2017, I think it could be Pink Martini, and they invite us to come along.

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