The Decamerous Sisters Club David G. Pace
Time Commitment: 8 minutes
Originally Published In:
Quarterly West

My only brother Brent was patient zero. It was he who first heard on National Public Radio about the musical group Pink Martini and in turn began infecting my sisters with the hysteria of the group’s hot Latin, jazz and classical mix. But it was my brother-in-law Scott who is responsible for bringing my sisters to near ruin. He was the one who, munching Cheerios one morning at the table with his children, read in the newspaper that the Martini was due to perform in our home state of Utah. Without thinking—I am sure he was not thinking he told his wife, my sister Stephenie, who screamed so loudly at the news that five-year-old Ben turned to his younger sister Gracie and said, “My Heck! What’s with mom?”

Which leads me to Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, for giving children to each of my ten sisters. For it was my nieces and nephews thirty-seven at last count who I am sure acted as anchors to the Decamerous Sisters Club which seemed poised, last May, to cut loose and follow Pink Martini out of the valleys of Utah to become devoted “roadies.”

Scott probably knew what he had done by noon. That was how long it took for Stephenie to order tickets for her nine sisters and two brothers, and their spouses, after activating the Emergency Broadcast System, a pyramid-styled network which disseminates information to our clan in about, say, three seconds. Even my parents found out instantaneously since they were at the time in New Zealand where tomorrow is today.

The Martini features the retro, club-styled singer China Forbes doing a decidedly non-perky, non-Doris Day version of “Que Sera Sera,” among other songs, some original to the group. When I was told that my sisters who range in age from 47 to 22— had taken to raucous dancing to the debut recording of a band out of Portland, Oregon, I assumed it would be something like early Barry Manilow—a node on the observable web of popular culture that inexplicably turned radioactive for a time. But I was wrong. Martini is known not only for a distinctive sound but its impulse to individually re-think and re-encapsulate the standards. This includes old favorites, ranging from the pensive, sighing “Children of Piraeus” to Ravel’s “Bolero” in which group founder, the diminutive, platinum blonde Thomas Lauderdale, athletically plays the piano as overlay to a cello, all with a steady accompaniment of conga drums.

The outburst in question occurred in a rented condo at the Green Valley Spa in southern Utah. It was there that the Decamerous Sisters Club met for its quarterly sisters retreat a weekend affair which the men in the family tend to steel themselves before, during and immediately afterwards. And it was there that the obsession with the Martini came to full flower. Even my regal mother is said to have participated in the orgy of dancing sisters. Apparently, the Club plus mom had just returned from attending a sober afternoon “session” at the local Mormon temple and were still in their Sunday best when Rachelle (mother to Sam, Rich and Joe) began almost imperceptibly to sway to the album’s opening strains of

Amado mio

love me forever

and let forever begin tonight.

It’s a rendition of the Doris Fisher/Allen Roberts piece infused with harps, horns, bongos and Ms. Forbes’ full-throated scoops and wails.

Even earlier than the spa incident, at a sisters’ retreat in a Park City hotel, my oldest sister Debbie, mother of six (Andria, Michael, Tim, Ben, Jake and Pace), was seen doing a residual jig at the stove during the final strains of the album’s title song:

I don’t want to work

I don’t want to lunch

I want only to forget

and so I smoke.

The rumor is that Robert Redford, upon learning of this transitive, rabid lot, put the kibosh on any visit of the Decamerous Sisters Club to the rentable cabins at his Sundance mountain resort.