HOWARD DUKES, SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE
November 6, 2011

It does not take very long.

Musician and singer Elisabeth von Trapp will be in line at an airport when she mentions her famous surname.

The second party in the conversation will recognize that name, von Trapp, from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and movie "The Sound of Music."

Von Trapp, who performs her "Bach to Broadway, Schubert to Sting" concert Nov. 13 at Andrews University, is the granddaughter of Georg von Trapp and the step-granddaughter of Maria von Trapp.

"The Sound of Music" tells the story of the von Trapp family and the international fame that they received for singing.

The musical also tells the story of how Maria von Trapp came into the family's life, and why Georg von Trapp decided to leave Austria with his family rather than join the Nazi party.

The songs from "The Sound of Music" became pop music standards that have been covered by many artists.

The von Trapp saga is true, and forms part of Elisabeth von Trapp's musical legacy.

"A journalist who interviewed me said that it's impossible to hear the name von Trapp without thinking of 'The Sound of Music,' " she says. "(The reporter) wanted to know if I saw it as a blessing or a curse."

Von Trapp says she can't think of the musical legacy that she received from her grandparents, her father and his siblings as a curse. But the story made popular by "The Sound of Music" contains more than its share of myth, she notes.

The guitarist and singer says that the Broadway and Hollywood writers used their creative license even as they adhered to the facts of the von Trapp saga.

"There are a number of things that are quite different," she says. "The music that is used in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is one thing that (her family members) always responded to."

She notes that the von Trapp family's concert set list included choral numbers by composers such as Mozart and Bach.

Von Trapp also says that the musical and film condensed the timeline. The von Trapps left Austria in 1938 -- 11 years after Georg and Maria von Trapp got married.

Still, von Trapp says that she appreciates "The Sound of Music," books such as Maria von Trapp's "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" and the German movies "The Trapp Family" and "The Trapp Family in America" for sharing the story of the family's courageous decision to leave Austria and eventually settle in America.

Georg von Trapp died in 1947, but the family continued touring and singing until 1957 -- when Elisabeth von Trapp was 3 years old.

Von Trapp says that she has been influenced by her family's music, and although von Trapp's own musical career might be overshadowed by her family, as well as the musical and film, she says that her response is not to run from her family's history. Instead, she finds ways to fuse that history with her own musical style.

"I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, and my family stopped performing in the 1950s, when the music really started to change," she says.

Von Trapp is a classically trained musician, but she is also a guitar player who came of age musically in the 1960s, when artists such as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were bringing folk and other forms of acoustic music to the forefront.

She says that some of her musical influences included those artists.

That didn't always go over well in the von Trapp family home in Vermont. Her father, Werner, was not a fan of "modern" music, von Trapp says.

"My father had a rule that whenever he walked into the house, there had to be classical music playing," she says.

Still, he took an interest in his daughter's musical pursuits. Von Trapp says that she showed her father her compositions, and he was always encouraging.

"He was thrilled that I was writing my own music," she says. "Because he really loved composing."

Social Share

Collect a few of your favorite things as you browse. Learn More

My Scrapbook