WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 4)
WHERE: Mayo Performing Arts Center, 100 South St., Morristown
TICKETS: $32 to $47
INFORMATION: 973-539-8008; www.mayoarts.org
Elisabeth von Trapp says that her concert on Sunday (Dec. 4) at the Mayo Performing Arts Center with Empire Brass will consists of beloved holiday songs and show tunes.
“These are some of my favorite things,” she says, with a chuckle.
Von Trapp has reason to laugh. “My Favorite Things” is, after all, one of the songs in the “The Sound of Music,” the musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and based on the experiences of her father, her grandfather and her step-grandmother.
The 56-year-old von Trapp has been developing a fan base of her own, through recordings and concerts. She is especially proud of her work with the five members of Empire Brass. “I’ve always been interested in tone,” she says. “I love the way I blend with the sound of the horns. It’s like painting with sound. When I want to be soft, they can be soft. When I’m singing full voice, it’s over the top, it’s so powerful.”
Von Trapp speaks knowledgeably about the nuances of music. That is hardly surprising, since she has been immersed in music since birth. She grew up with five siblings and several cousins on the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont, where Georg and Maria settled after moving to the United States.“My parents worked very hard on the farm,” she recalls. “But when the farming was over, my father would take down his guitar. He was so enthusiastic, so happy.”
As anyone who has seen the stage or film version of “The Sound of Music” knows, Georg von Trapp was a widowed Austrian naval commander with seven children. He hired as a governess a novitiate named Maria Kutschera, who taught the children to sing as a group. Georg and Maria married, and in 1938 they and the children fled Austria shortly before Nazi Germany annexed that country. Elisabeth von Trapp’s father was Werner von Trapp, the second oldest son, who was re-named “Kurt” for the musical and movie.
“That was one thing my father didn’t like, the changing of the names,” Elisabeth says. “I suppose they wanted names that were more lyrical.”
However, Elisabeth von Trapp says she and her family feel great affection for the show. “It crystallized this beautiful moment in (my grandparents’) lives,” she says. “When the movie came out (in 1966), we all drove down to Burlington (Vt.) to see it.” “On our way home, my father opened up in a way I hadn’t heard before,” she continues. “He said that where the movie ends is where they had so many adventures and had so many people. He thought that would have made a more interesting story.”
Elisabeth von Trapp says that many people approach her with questions related to “The Sound of Music.” But she has to explain that her grandfather Georg died eight years before she was born, and she has no memory of the Trapp Family Singers, who disbanded in 1957 when she was only 2. “People don’t realize that the songs (in the musical) were not what my father and his family sang,” Elisabeth von Trapp adds. “They sang traditional Austrian songs.”
She admits that some people come to hear her out of curiosity. “They want to hear what a von Trapp sounds like,” she says with a laugh. But she adds, “They come out of love. They love the show, they love the movie.”
Regardless of the reason, von Trapp hopes that audiences will respect what she tries to convey. “It’s about music,” she says. “Music brings us to a new place, to a moment. When I sing, and when I perform with musicians (like the Empire Brass), we try to transport people.”