Vocalist China Forbes began singing with Pink Martini in 1995 and has since co-written many of the ensemble’s most beloved songs with Thomas Lauderdale. She takes the stage at Orchestra Hall with Pink Martini and the Minnesota Orchestra on March 9 and 10.
How did you become part of the ensemble?
Thomas Lauderdale—Pink Martini’s founder and pianist—and I met at Harvard. We had a musical collaboration and friendship and when he eventually formed Pink Martini he invited me to fly from New York to Portland to sing with the band. I became seduced by Portland and hooked on the delightful music and left New York for the Pacific Northwest Chapter of my life. I have never regretted it.
Photo: China with Thomas Lauderdale and other members of Pink Martini
What is your earliest musical memory?
Singing along with Donna Summer at the top of my lungs and declaring that I wanted to be a singer. I taught myself to sing by copying her and many other singers until I found that I had voice of my own.
What or who influences you most musically?
Voices are my inspiration. I love so many different voices and I learn from them and aspire to improve my own instrument. Challenging myself by singing opera and classical music has been a joy and I have grown so much from performing my favorite arias.
Do you have any special connections with Minnesota?
My only connection to Minnesota is Prince and growing up on his music, as we all did.
What is your favorite venue and/or the most unusual venue or concert in which you have performed?
There have been so many amazing venues so I will go with the first few that popped into my mind: Royal Albert Hall, Red Rocks and always and forever the Hollywood Bowl. However, my favorite thing in the world is to sing without amplification in reverberant spaces like churches, marble lobbies and tunnels.
Photo: China Forbes performing at Red Rocks
What is most enjoyable about being a member of Pink Martini?
Truly it is the camaraderie. I find myself noticing all the time that we are this big traveling circus of totally different personalities and backgrounds, and we make music that reflects that. The music is great, the performances are rousing and delightful, but really the best part are the friendships and the feeling that we all have each other’s back, and we have been doing this for so long that we are cemented forever as family.
When you aren’t performing, what are your hobbies or other interests?
I love to remodel and design spaces. I always have a project going at home, whether it is in the planning stage or the building stage. I LOVE to rearrange furniture. I would do that for a living if I couldn’t sing—to make spaces feel better and look better makes me calm and happy. Whenever I enter a room I fix the lighting immediately: turn off the overhead lights and turn on the lamps, dim whatever is dimmable and bring in the warmth. I like to leave a space better than the way I found it.
Photo: China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale
How would you describe Pink Martini in 5 words or less?
Elegant, boisterous, romantic and life-affirming.
What would you like Minnesota Orchestra audiences to know about Pink Martini?
Pink Martini is an organism that reflects back the heart and soul and energy of the audience. We all love what we do and when we get strong energy from the audience it elevates the show to higher heights. What I mean is, we can’t wait to see YOU and what you all bring. Conga line anyone?
Photos Courtesy of China Forbes and Pink Martini.
This interview originally appeared on Showcase Online in April 2016.