…and so I smoke

China or Storm?  That’s the cryptic question some of us are asking as we anticipate Pink Martini’s next arrival at the Boston Opera House in a few weeks.  Who, we wonder, will be the sultry siren at center stage?  Will it be exotic chanteuse, China Forbes, a local girl from Cambridge who has long been the group’s signature presence or voluptuous Amazonian  Storm Large, an even more locally-local girl to those with ties to suburban Southborough?

As happens, the group’s nucleus first met in a college dorm, in this at case Harvard back in the late ‘80s, when Forbes befriended the gleefully flamboyant pianist, Thomas Lauderdale, who would go on to graduate cum laude.  With strikingly similar interests the two literature students would appropriate the common room to perform, and intermingle arias by Puccini or Verde with “campy Streisand covers.”

A few years after graduation Lauderdale tracked down his old compatriot in New York City, where she’d been writing and singing folk songs, to tell her about this “little orchestra” he had formed back in Portland, Oregon. Called Pink Martini, it was his idea to blend classical, pop and jazz, drawing inspiration from music all over the globe.  Now he needed a lead-vocalist.  As it turned out, he would also get a major collaborator.

The 10 to 12 member unit began to tour in 1994, releasing its first album, “Sympathique” in 1997 by which time it was performing its rich, multilingual repertoire (sometimes in concert with full symphony orchestras) throughout Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, Australia and North America. Although Forbes is only fluent in English, she sings in 15 different languages. And convincingly too.

This is the title song from that first album, “Sympathique” (Pink Martini has since released seven others, all on Lauderdale’s own independent label) and it was such a huge sensation in France that it was nominated for “Song of the Year” at the Victoires de la Musique Awards. While the lyrics are freely drawn from Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem “Hôtel” I have been assured by a certain college student that the song’s many smoking references have little to do with Sir Walter Raleigh (mere speculation).

 LISTEN TO IT HERE – Saturday 2 February

And where does the big (6 feet tall) and bold (known for her commanding stage presence) Susan Storm Large enter the picture?  Born and raised in Southborough (according to her bio), she graduated from St. Mark’s School where her father was a history teacher and football coach.  After attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts she was involved with a number of San Francisco area bands, before deciding to get away from the music scene and attend Oregon’s, Western Culinary Institute.

Large was tending bar at a rock club in Portland when the owner learned of her singing ability and urged her to continue.  As a result she formed a “lounge rock” band called The Balls, which quickly became a local favorite. Large gained national recognition in 2006 as a serious contender on “Rock Star: Supernova” and has since performed in a number of musical stage productions, including her own one-woman show, “Crazy Enough”.

In the summer of 2011 China Forbes took extended leave from Pink Martini to undergo surgery on her vocal cords, and while a number of guest vocalists were scheduled to fill-in, Storm Large nailed it.  When this year’s tour was announced it was noted that half of the schedule will feature China and the other half will feature Storm… Personally I’m glad to have a ticket.

Here’s a splendid YouTube video, featuring China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale, that was filmed to accompany “Sympathique” with Where’s Waldo-like translations in English, Spanish, Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Sign Language…although it’s not clear which form…and perhaps a true cryptologist could decipher even more…

Sympathique

Ma chambre a la forme d’une cage (my room is shaped like a cage)

Le soleil passe son bras par la fenêtre (the sun streams through the window)

Les chasseurs à ma porte (the bellhops are at my door)

Comme les p’tits soldats (like those little soldiers)

Qui veulent me prendre (who want to take me away)

Je ne veux pas travailler (I don’t want to work)

Je ne veux pas déjeuner (I don’t want to eat lunch)

Je veux seulement l’oublier (I only want to forget him)

Et puis je fume (and so I smoke)

 Déjà j’ai connu le parfum de l’amour (Long ago I knew the smell of love)

Un million de roses n’embaumerait pas autant  (a million roses didn’t smell as sweet)

Maintenant une seule fleur dans mes entourages (Now a single flower in my way)

Me rend malade (makes me sick)

 Je ne veux pas travailler (I don’t want to work)

Je ne veux pas déjeuner (I don’t want to eat lunch)

Je veux seulement l’oublier (I only want to forget him)

Et puis je fume (and so I smoke)

 Je ne suis pas fière de ça (I am not proud if this)

Vie qui veut me tuer (This life that wants to kill me)

C’est magnifique être sympathique (It’s wonderful to be genial)

Mais je ne le connais jamais (but I have never known this)

 Je ne veux pas travailler (I don’t want to work)

Je ne veux pas déjeuner (I don’t want to eat lunch)

Je veux seulement l’oublier (I only want to forget him)

Et puis je fume (and so I smoke)

Je ne suis pas fière de ça (I am not proud if this)

Vie qui veut me tuer (This life that wants to kill me)

C’est magnifique être sympathique (It’s wonderful to be genial)

Mais je ne le connais jamais (but I have never known this)

Je ne veux pas travailler (I don’t want to work)

Je ne veux pas déjeuner (I don’t want to eat lunch)

Je veux seulement l’oublier (I only want to forget him)

Et puis je fume (and so I smoke)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s