Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Maria von Trapp and The Sound of Music

     I was 14 the summer of 1965 when my brother, Walt and I visited our cousins  Shauna, Kevin and Kim in Seattle. The five of us thought it a special occasion when our  Grandmother Cooney took  us  to a  matinee  one afternoon at a downtown theater to see the movie The Sound of Music . I became  totally immersed in the  story of a young  Postulant who leaves the Abbey to care for a widower's young children, teaches them to sing, falls in love with their father, and together they thwart the Nazi's and escape wartime Austria. To this day The Sound of Music is one of my all time favorite stories.   For years I wanted to emulate  Maria von Trapp, not that I could ever sing a tune, but admired her faith and character.  I already  knew a little about her as my grandmother had shared  what a good storyteller she was after attending  a tea  in her home state of Iowa where Maria von Trapp was the guest speaker. Grandma said Maria was full of joy, a  gifted writer,  and wonderful storyteller.

     It was in  the 1950's Rogers and Hammerstein brought the story of Maria and the von Trapp family   to Broadway with their hit musical The Sound of Music,  based on Maria Augusta Trapp's  memoir of the Trapp Family Singers,   published in 1949.  It was later  adapted for the movie screen ,  starring Julie Andrews as Maria, and became one of the most successful box office musicals of all time. Through the years  The Sound of Music  remains popular with audiences,  as indicated by its DVD sales.

     Who of us can't sing along with at least one of the songs from that great musical score:

Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every byway til you find your dream, or

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings , these are a few of my favorite things

     and  from the title song:

The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years. My heart wants to sing every song it hears. My heart wants to beat like the wings of the  birds that rise from the lake to the trees. My heart wants  to sigh like a chime that flies from a church on a breeze, To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over stones on its way , To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray. I go to the hills when my heart is lonely. i know I will hear what I've heard before. My heart will be blessed with the sound of music - And I'll sing once more.

     Oh ! to write lyrics like Hammerstein !  That would be grand.


     I wonder though, how many know Maria von Trapp continued to write after the success of her first book. One of my favorites, titled Maria was a Christmas gift to me in 1973 with the inscription, May the pages of your life always unfold moments of truth, love, anger, despair, and reach the heights of Heaven itself. Love, Mother

    I include my mother's inscription because it dawns on me that not only storytelling and lyrics are important to us as writers, but the writing of inscriptions, too. Their meaning,  and what they tell about the person writing the inscription, and to whom they're writing. In 1973 I was a single young woman embarking on my career in the newspaper business, enjoying life but sometimes  confused about the direction I was taking. My  mother's word were to give me hope and encouragement.
    Other titles written by Maria von Trapp are Yesterday, Today, and Forever (copyright 1975) and When the King Was Carpenter (copyright 1976). A favorite of mine this time of the year is the TRAPP Family Book of Christmas Songs (copyright 1955).  Maria von Trapp writes a lengthy introduction where she highlights the importance of Christmas, explaining many of its longtime traditions i.e.  the Advent Wreath, The Creche, Mistletoe and Ivy, and the Christmas Tree. The Christmas Tree she writes, seems like the prophecy of Isaiah come true: The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree,... to beautify the place of my sanctuary (Is 60:13).  It, too is a symbol of Christ as the Tree of Life.

     We know about Maria Augusta Trapp and the von Trapp Singers today  because Maria chose to write about her life and family, their music, and  adventures they shared.  While not all of us can be Maria von Trapp or experience the escapades she and her family entailed , and probably will never have our life portrayed on Broadway or the big screen by the likes of Mary Martin or Julie Andrews we do have our own unique story to tell , so never underestimate the power of your words,  and what they might mean to one who  reads them.

   *** Trailer for The Sound of Music  - Academy Award winner for Best Movie 1965

*** For more information about Maria von Trapp visit


Patty said...

Truly enjoyed reading your article on Maria and The Sound of Music! I knew much about the movie but not so the heroine. Thanks for a interesting start to my day, Kath!

Anonymous said...

I so agree this article was so interesting about one of my favorite movie and Maria von Trapp. A very amazing woman. Thank You for writing this.


Jennifer Rova said...

An excellent example of how important writing is. Great post!