“The hills are alive…” The Sound of Music is one of the best-known and loved musicals of all time, not least because it’s based on the inspiring true story of a family who fled from the Nazi occupation of Austria at the outbreak of World War II.
The 1965 American movie took a total of $286 million worldwide at the box office – a record at the time. The timeless musical, starring Julie Andrews as the governess who became stepmother to the seven von Trapp children, won five Academy awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Robert Wise.
It also received two Golden Globe awards, including Best Picture and one for Andrews as Best Actress. It won the award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement from the Directors’ Guild of America and the Best Written American Musical award from the Writers’ Guild of America.
The title song is one of the most famous movie clips of all time.
The musical was based on Maria von Trapp’s 1949 memoirs. Entitled The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, it related how the family feared for their safety after refusing to bow down to the Nazi ideology.
Played by Christopher Plummer, Georg von Trapp was the widowed father of seven children following his wife Agathe’s death from scarlet fever in 1922. Born in 1880, he was a World War I hero. As an Austrian Navy captain and submarine commander, he received awards for valour and became a knight and then a baron.
Following his wife’s death, Georg sought a governess for his children who would live at his estate in Salzburg. At the time, Maria Kutschera, born in 1905 in Vienna, was a novice at the local Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg. According to her autobiography, entitled “Maria”, she found the discipline and rules of becoming a nun quite a struggle.
Maria was chosen because she had trained at Vienna’s State Teachers’ College of Progressive Education. It was planned that she would be the von Trapp children’s governess for 10 months before returning to the convent. However, she developed a loving bond with all the children and Georg fell in love with her. As the relationship developed, he asked her to become his wife.
According to her memoirs, Maria initially had doubts because of her calling as a nun, but she said yes because she had been described by Georg as a “second mother” to the children. Following their marriage, Georg and Maria went on to have three children of their own, although this wasn’t portrayed in the film.
Trapp Family Singers
In 1935, the family’s hobby of singing was brought to a wider audience when Reverend Franz Wasner entered their lives. He recognised the beauty of their harmonies and persuaded them to enter a choral competition at the Salzburg Festival, which they won. This led to their long musical career, as the Trapp Family Singers were invited to perform concerts across Europe.
However, everything was to change three years later. On 12th March 1938, German troops marched into Austria to annex the nation for the Third Reich. Despite an eleventh-hour bid by Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to negotiate with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, diplomatic efforts failed and Austria became a federal state of Germany until World War II ended.
Georg wouldn’t bow down to the Nazis, refusing to fly their flag outside his home and turning down their offer of a Naval command.
Realising his family’s life could be in danger as a result of his stand against the Nazis, Georg and Maria decided they couldn’t compromise their principles and subsequently fled Austria. Here, the film script and reality differ somewhat.
While The Sound of Music portrayed the family as making a daring escape across-country to Switzerland after a music festival during the war, in reality, their disappearance was a much calmer affair. Telling people that the Trapp Family Singers were going on a musical tour of the United States, they packed their bags before the war was declared as if going for a holiday.
In June 1938, the von Trapps travelled with Rev Wasner, their musical conductor, on the train to Italy. From there, they travelled to London, where they embarked on the journey to New York via ship to begin a concert tour.
They never intended returning to Austria and went through the Immigration and Naturalisation Service to enable them to settle in America. For two years, they lived in a bus with “The Trapp Family Singers” painted on the side. The family eventually settled on a farm in Stowe, Vermont, in the early 1940s.
After World War II, they launched a charity called “Trapp Family Austrian Relief Inc” and arranged for many parcels of food and clothing to be sent back to their native country.
Before the film was made, Maria’s memoirs were made into a Broadway show. In 1958, the successful song writing team of Rodgers and Hammerstein began work on the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music, with a wonderful score that has stood the test of time.
It debuted in 1959 and continued for three successful years, completing 1,443 performances. Its continued success led to Hollywood producers wanting to film the musical, with the screenplay based on Baroness von Trapp’s memoirs. They purchased the film rights and the movie was born.
In recent years, a new live show phenomenon has taken theatres by storm: Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music. The musical show invites audience participation and fans can dress up as Maria or any other character, hiss and boo the “baddies” and join in the songs. It’s considered a tender version of the Rocky Horror Show!
Sound of Music Tour 2018
The Sound of Music Tour first took the UK by storm in 2015/16, when it celebrated the original film’s 50th anniversary. Produced by Bill Kenwright and directed by Martin Connor, it is now on a second nationwide tour and is delighting fans old and new.
The Sound of Music UK Tour 2018 features the unforgettable original score by Rogers and Hammerstein and includes classics such as Edelweiss, Do-Re-Mi, My Favourite Things, Climb Every Mountain and the famous title song.
Everyone loves the melodic sound of music but some sounds, such as industrial machinery or building site equipment, are more of a noise nuisance.
As experienced acoustic consultants, Sound Planning specialises in sound enclosures and noise control products throughout the UK… now that’s music to your ears! We can provide a bespoke package for your noise control needs. Please contact us for more information.