Grade schoolers are not Pink Martini’s usual audience demographic, and pianist Thomas Lauderdale had to correct himself when he accidentally opened Monday’s pre-concert noon performance for all the area schools with, “Good night, everyone!”
But the 10 musicians representing the jazzy, Latin-influenced, genre-defying orchestra adjusted easily in Homer High School’s Mariner Theater.
Between songs in English, French and Spanish, the band members took turns introducing themselves and their musical backgrounds.
Singer and percussionist Timothy Nishimoto told a story of overcoming stage fright, and offered some advice to the students: “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s always good to have a goal in life, but keep in mind that that goal may not look how you think it will.”
The chorus of the band’s first hit, Sympathique, translates to English as “I don’t want to work, I don’t want lunch, I only want to forget, and then I smoke.”
In introducing the song, Lauderdale joked, “We promise to be a good influence” — to which students laughed and booed.
Pink Martini took full advantage of Homer’s musical resources for the show: Several of the instruments and amps the band used were borrowed from local artists, including students. Two student musicians from Homer High joined the band members on stage for the band’s biggest hit, “Hang on Little Tomato.” Senior Carly McLean played the clarinet and senior Miles Catlin provided trombone as Pink Martini singer Storm Large swayed to the beat, smiling.
Toward the end of the show, percussionist Brian Lavern Davis came front and center to ask the audience, “Have you guys been sitting too long?” He invited all the students to stand and join him in a call and response percussion routine — clapping their hands, slapping their legs and chest.
Then he and Large encouraged whoever was inspired to come on stage and dance behind the band for their final number. Several dozen students eagerly obliged. Many formed a conga line and two particularly enthused high schoolers did a Lindy Hop.
At the song’s end, the band received thundering applause.
“The music was really upbeat and moving. I think it’s really special that they care about the students,” said Ellie Syth, a freshman at Homer High, on her way out of the auditorium.
The concert was part of a series of community outreach events organized by Homer Council on the Arts. When HCOA books a performer for a show, an effort is made to schedule a separate, free event for some subset of the community, said Peggy Paver, HCOA’s new director. These events help to cover the costs of hosting performers, as many grant organizations are interested in supporting performances that give back to the community.
In November, Homer will welcome Letters Aloud, a performance group that does dramatic readings of letters written by famous people like Marilyn Monroe and ordinary citizens. For that event, the council has invited hospice volunteers and veterans.
“It’s really the community’s art council, so I’m interested in giving opportunities to not just students but all members of the community, like these folks who give their time and don’t always get a lot of recognition,” said Paver. “To be able to do that through the arts is really neat.”