Granddaughter of 'Sound of Music' duo to perform

Her 'Sound' blends folk, classical, rock music

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2008

Elisabeth von Trapp will bring her own sound of music Friday night to Topeka.


The descendent of the musical family whose flight from Nazism in Austria inspired Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 S.W. 8th.

Von Trapp comes to Kansas from Vermont, where her grandparents settled because the landscape around Stowe reminded them of their homeland.

Her father, Werner, who was portrayed in the musical as the stoic Kurt, purchased a dairy farm about 35 miles south of the von Trapp family's New World homestead after he left the Trapp Family Singers.

However, music never ceased in her childhood home.

"As a child, my father played guitar and sang with us every night," said von Trapp, who has a sister and four brothers.

Werner von Trapp died Oct. 11, 2007, at age 91.

Elisabeth von Trapp, 53, was a mere girl when she met Mary Martin, who in 1959 debuted the role of Maria on Broadway and earned a Tony Award for it.

At a photo shoot in front of the Trapp Family Lodge for the Nov. 23, 1959, issue of Life Magazine, Martin taught Elisabeth and her generation to sing "Do, Re, Mi," "My Favorite Things" and "The Little Goat Herd" from the musical's score.

Von Trapp also recalls accompanying her father to see the 1965 Hollywood version of "The Sound of Music," starring Christopher Plummer as her grandfather and Julie Andrews as her grandmother.

Although Baron von Trapp died before she was born, Elisabeth von Trapp has memories of her grandmother, saying she "was nothing like Julie Andrews."

The musical Maria was all sweetness and light. Although loving and caring, the real Maria, who died in 1987, not only was the driving force behind the family act, she also had temper tantrums, from which she would quickly recover.

Elisabeth von Trapp began taking piano lessons at 8 and by the age of 16 was playing guitar and traveling the back roads of New England, performing with her siblings at weddings, gospel meetings and town halls.

A product of the 1960s, von Trapp listened to The Mamas & The Papas, Bob Dylan and Judy Collins but also heard her brothers' records, which included ones by The Kinks and The Rolling Stones.

When her parents took over the controls of the stereo, it was Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach.

All of that music influences Von Trapp's musical style.

A Nov. 28, 2004, profile of Von Trapp by The Associated Press said of her sound: "Von Trapp does not sing folk, but there are hints of it. Neither is it classical, but a listener can hear that, too. And it's not rock, even though that has clearly been another influence."

Von Trapp, whose strong, soprano voice will be accompanied at Grace Cathedral by her own guitar playing and cellist Erich Kory, said the best term she has heard to describe her music is "acoustic chamber music."

Singing "Bach to Broadway, Schubert to Sting, and everything in between," the tracks of von Trapp's CDs include her self-penned musical settings of the poetry of Robert Frost, Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," Mozart lieder and "Eidelweiss," Hammerstein's last lyric.

Her Topeka concert is part of Grace Cathedral's ongoing Great Spaces Music & Arts Series. A reception following the hour-long concert will allow audience members to meet and greet von Trapp.

Bill Blankenship can be reached at (785) 295-1284 or