The Hills are Still Alive

The Hills are Still Alive

Musician Elisabeth Von Trapp on growing up with The Sound of Music, a few of her favourite things and singing in Salzburg for the film’s golden jubilee.

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Elisabeth Von Trapp.

In the spring of 1965, cinema halls across the US came alive with some wildly catchy tunes in a Robert Wise musical. At the premiere held at Rivoli Theatre in New York, the cameras flashed and the crowds descended to spot the cast. Starring newcomers Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music got the world humming to a handful of splendidly structured Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes. Be it Andrews’ pitch-perfect affirmation, When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything in Do-Re-Mi, or Captain Von Trapp’s (Plummer’s) goodbye to his homeland in the soulful Edelweiss, the hills came alive with the sound of music and warmed many hearts.

The adaptation of the 1959 Broadway musical, based on the memoirs of Maria Von Trapp, The Sound of Music was the story of a young Austrian woman studying to be a nun but sent to be a governess to Captain Georg Von Trapp’s seven children. After bringing music to their lives and marrying the Captain, she creates a family music group, which after Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938 has to flee the country.

“The memory of sitting with my grandmother, my parents and cousins and watching that film is etched so clearly. In fact, I have spent a large part of my childhood watching it,” says Elisabeth Von Trapp, Maria and Baron Von Trapp’s real-life granddaughter, over telephone from Vermont, USA.

She lives near the Von Trapp family lodge where her grandparents are buried. Elisabeth adds that the family had no income other than that drawn from their musical performances when they came to the US. Their success as a musical troupe helped them settle there.


Elisabeth’s performances mostly range from Bach and Beethoven to jazz and Broadway but they are not complete without songs from the film. Now, in the year that the film is celebrating its 50th anniversary, Elisabeth is set to go back where it all began, Salzburg, and perform at the Mirabell Palace Chapel, the location where Do-Re-Mi was filmed. She will also be a part of an eight-day “Enchanting Danube” cruise to host a concert and regale the audiences as a part of a boutique river cruise by Uninor. “Going to Salzburg, it feels as if I am coming home. For me, this is where myth and reality come together. As for people, it’s here that the film becomes real to them,”
says Elisabeth.

Talking of her grandmother, Elisabeth says that the real-life Maria was quite different from the character people saw onscreen as Andrews. “What was, however, common was that she knew how to seize the moment. She was never scared. In fact, the family crest has an engraving by her, which says ‘Nothing frightens me’. And then, of course, she was a fabulous storyteller and so, so eloquent,” says Elisabeth, with a laugh, remembering her way up through a narrow corridor to the family house as a child to run in unannounced and greet her grandmother. She would later surround her along with her brothers and sisters and listen to her stories.

Now, Elisabeth is set to breathe life into the hills, just like her grandmother did almost 50 years ago. “I don’t want my heart to ever forget the beauty this film gave to my life. The more I get to know this film, the more I understand the depth of what it gave the world — the song of hope,” she says.