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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This Week in BAM History: The Trapp Family Choir, 1939

If you’ve seen The Sound of Music, then you’ve heard of the Trapp Family Singers (sometimes billed as the Trapp Family Choir). This large Austrian family of musicians rose to prominence during the Second World War, and their story became emblematic of the struggle for life meaningfully lived under fascism. On the evening of November 6, 1939, the Trapp Family Choir performed their unique repertoire of sacred, secular, and folk songs at BAM. 

The Trapp family had been on tour for nearly a year, after permanently leaving the Austrian Anschluss. Alas, contrary to the final scene of The Sound of Music, they did not “climb ev’ry mountain” and flee the Nazis by night, singing all the while. Instead they boarded a train in the middle of the day, after having signed all the requisite papers. With tour dates booked, contracts signed, and benefactors waiting in cities across Europe and the US, they landed in Ellis Island in late October and within days were filling BAM’s Music Hall with songs like “Innsbruck, Ich Muss Dich Lassen,” and madrigals such as “Now Is the Month of Maying.”

The Trapp Family, circa mid-1940s
Led by musical director Rev. Franz Wasner (who was in fact a priest, not the impresario depicted in the character of Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music), the Trapp Family Choir’s American tour was so successful that they decided to settle in Stowe, Vermont. While in the past 70 years various versions of their story have circulated the globe in the form of stage productions, films, and biographies, the Trapp family has remained in Vermont, where they now give regular concerts at the Trapp Family Lodge.

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