A splash of Pink Martini changed singer’s life
Pink Martini is, as founder Thomas Lauderdale has described, as a “rollicking around-the-world musical adventure.”
“If the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band,” Lauderdale said.
The group, known for crossing genres of jazz, classical and pop, is a Victories de la Musicque Award nominee and performs concerts in 15 different languages all over the globe.
The band is also the perfect foil for vocalist Storm Large, who started her career as a rock ‘n’ roll singer in bands such as The Balls and Draumattica, which followed a turn-the-amps-to-11,Led Zeppelin school of thought.
“You know, I’ve always been a big rock ‘n’ roll, Robert Plant howler monkey that freaks out and screams and gets really intense on stage,” Large said during a Park Record interview. “While I’ve always been able to sing pretty songs, but I felt like that was boring. But I have found while singing with Pink Martini that being vulnerable on stage can actually make me stronger than the loudest person in the room.”
Pink Martini will perform the Park City Institute’s George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Center 20th anniversary party at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13. Perla Batalla, a Grammy-nominated world music singer, who last performed in Park City in 2015, will open the show.
Large, who also performed solo in Park City a year ago, said Pink Martini concerts are always exciting.
“I don’t know exactly what we’ll play, yet, but usually it’s just like a big fun party,” she said. “We try to get as many people up on stage to dance and sing with us. It all depends on the whim and fancy of Mr. Lauderdale.”
Large has nothing but respect for her bandleader.
“He is one of the most fantastic musical curators I have ever experienced,” she said. “He’s got impeccable taste.”
Large began working with Pink Martini nearly seven years ago, after her doctor grounded vocalist China Forbes.
“She had an issue with her vocal chords and the doc, who is also my doc and friend, put her on vocal rest,” Large said. “Pink Martini had this tour coming up, so Thomas called me.”
Large had worked with Lauderdale casually in the past on other projects, and he knew she could sing.
“The funny thing was I never saw or heard Pink Martini, but Thomas insisted I fill in for China for a few gigs,” Large said. “Then we found China needed surgery and it got very intense, so the few gigs turned out to be the whole year.”
While Large tried to get out of the opportunity, Lauderdale kept at her.
“To Thomas, when it comes to music, the word ‘no’ is just a delayed ‘yes,’” she said. “So I said yes, and then asked what the first gig was.”
Lauderdale told Large she had four days to learn 10 songs in five different languages.
“The show was actually a four-night run at the Kennedy Center (in Washington D.C.) with the National Symphony,” she said. “I somehow managed to get through them, and that felt great.”
Even when Forbes returned to the fold, Lauderdale kept Large on board.
“It’s been a beautiful and amazing education in music, entertainment, business and travel,” Large said. “I have been friends with each band member individually and have admired their careers, but I never, in my wildest fantasy, imagined that I would be musician enough to hang with them.”
Large enjoys working with Forbes.
“I love her,” Large said. “She’s one of the smartest people I know. She is brilliant. I love her voice. I’ve learned a lot from her. I also love making her laugh.”
Pink Martini in general has been an artistic rebirth for Large.
“It’s taught me that being vulnerable and singing sweetly doesn’t mean I’m being quiet and ineffective,” she said. “Being in the band has extended and broadened my career, and also broadened my idea about myself.”
By that, Large said she has been able to expand her sense of what she’s capable of doing as a person.
“I was an unhappy kid,” she confided. “I was a runaway and my mom was in [psychiatric] institutions for most of my life. So having that kind of a background, I felt I needed to be strong, tough and that I needed to be loud and crazier than the biggest guy who wants to fight you.”
That philosophy seeped into Large’s own art.
“My music was big like me,” she said. “I’m very muscular and my voice was very muscular. I basically grew into my name — Storm Large — which, by the way, is my birth name.”
That philosophy began to shift when she joined Pink Martini.
“I learned that instead of giving the middle finger to my experiences of pain, alienation and sadness, I could be gentle and open, more inclusive and not so aggressive with my persona or voice because I found that I wasn’t the only person to suffer the things I did,” Large said. “With Pink Martini, I realized that there is nothing wrong with admiring and loving things that are beautiful and sweet.”
When she performs with Pink Martini, Large transforms herself.
“I dress up like Rita Hayworth and do my hair and makeup,” she said. “I try to be a good presenter of these beautiful compositions that are tried and true.”
Large did struggle with her new persona at first.
“It was terrifying at first to open up,” she said. “I felt like I would have rather died, because when you open up on the street, someone will kick you in the throat.”
While there are still aspects of being tough and mean, Large has allowed more of her inner self to be displayed and present on stage.
“I found when you open yourself that way and then hit the crazy rock ‘n’ roll banshee wail, it makes more of an impact,” she said. “So it’s been really wonderful for me.”
Park City institute will present Pink Martini, with special guest Perla Batalla, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. The concert is the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Center 20th anniversary party. Tickets range from $50 to $200 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org.
The all-female a cappella choir has scheduled a string of performances in preparation for its Spring Sing.