As he prepared music for a Christmas tree-lighting celebration two winters ago in his hometown of Portland, Ore., Thomas Lauderdale — founder and overall musical mastermind of the wildly multicultural pop ensemble Pink Martini — received a call from the Oregon Symphony.
The orchestra, for which Lauderdale was a board member, was welcoming to town The von Trapps. The four great- grandchildren of Baron and Maria von Trapp, the singing family that inspired The Sound of Music more than a half-century earlier, are now a professional vocal group with a zest for the same kind of global musical cuisine favored by Pink Martini.
"The symphony called up and said, 'Hey, we've got the von Trapps. Do you mind if they come onstage with you?'" Lauderdale recalled. "So I, who love The Sound of Music and have only wanted to again and again play Lonely Goatherd, just flipped out. So they came onstage, and it was love at first sight. Then I made a few recommendations about pieces they might consider adding to their repertoire. Suddenly, we're working on a full-fledged collaborative album."
On Tuesday, the full fruits of that alliance will be released by way of a new recording, co-credited to Pink Martini and the von Trapps, titled Dream a Little Dream. But Friday, both groups, along with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, bring their own sound of music to life with a performance at the Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington.
"It was such a natural fit," said Sofi von Trapp, 25, of her siblings' collaboration with Pink Martini. She and her three siblings are the g randchildren of Werner von Trapp, who was renamed Kurt in the movie. "It just happened so organically because we love Thomas' tastes. We completely fell in love with his style and arrangements, and how friendly the music sounded. But it was also really smart and interesting.
"I called him up about two months after that and asked if he had any musical suggestions because by that time, we were a little stagnant with our music. We weren't even sure if we were going to continue singing. We loved it, but we didn't have a really strong direction to go in. So we thought, 'You know, Thomas Lauderdale would probably know some really interesting things that keep us going.'"
Lauderdale's suggestion was a playful 1920s German folk song Die Dorfmusik, which becomes a polka party of sorts on Dream a Little Dream with the von Trapps' vocals dancing like snowflakes alongside Lauderdale's piano accompaniment. The song takes its place on an international summit of an album that also includes the Israeli lullaby Hayaldah Hachi Yafa Bagan, a Brazilian carnival treatment of the ABBA hit Fernando, a version of the title tune prefaced by a snippet of Debussy's Clair de Lune, three songs from The Sound of Music (including Edelweiss, sung by Charmian Carr, who played eldest daughter Liesl in the 1965 film version of the musical) and three more originals composed by the youngest of the von Trapps, 19-year-old August.
Lauderdale said, "My goal with this album was to give the von Trapps as much of an education as I could in terms of how to put an album together and, basically, how to have a career and not depend on anybody else. So I feel like this album does that. It allows them to go into any direction that they think fits from this point forward, which is very exciting.
"I felt so nervous that they would be mismanaged by ... well, somebody. This way, they've got their own education and they can choose to do whatever they want to do.
Said Sofi Von Trapp: "I never really talk about our albums very much or try to sell them. But I really believe in this one. Thomas has been such a blessing in our lives, so I'm really excited about people hearing it."