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Elisabeth von Trapp brings the sound of music to Ashland

Elisabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of the famed Captain von Trapp and Maria from "The Sound of Music," practiced singing the theme from that classic movie about her family as she prepared for a performance at St. Mark's Methodist Church in Ashland. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
September 25, 2013
ASHLAND — The hills around St. Mark's Methodist Church literally came to life with the "Sound of Music" when Elisabeth von Trapp presented a special concert performance last Saturday evening.

Organist and choir director Joyce Ives said the event was a fundraiser for a new roof on the building, but was also a nice way to introduce themselves and their church to other area residents.

"We really wanted people to come here and see what a beautiful church this is," she said.

Not only did the packed house enjoy the beauty of the church, but they also were taken in by the beauty of von Trapp's voice as she sang everything "from Bach to Broadway, from Shubert to Sting."

Von Trapp comes by her talent naturally, many would say, having been born into the famous von Trapp family, whose escape from Austria in the 1930's was told, with a bit of literary license, in the classic musical "The Sound of Music."

Born in Vermont, von Trapp is the daughter of Werner von Trapp, whose name was changed to "Kurt" in the movie.

"For some reason, they changed a lot of the names in the family, like Hedwig, Rupert, Agatha and Werner," she said.

Other discrepancies she noted were the length of time it took the family to leave the country. For the film, it was condensed to six months, but in actuality, it was 11 years, and they did not leave on foot; they took a train to London.

Von Trapp said it was also not true that Maria, as their governess, taught her father and his siblings to sing. In fact, they were all taught music at a very early age.

"It was unheard of for aristocratic children to be illiterate in music," said von Trapp. "Maria became a good musician after they taught her. She was always good when she sang around the campfire with us."

Music was always a big part of their lives, and in 1938, Werner and his siblings toured the United States as the Trapp Family Singers. They gained much notoriety over the years, and when Elisabeth was born in 1954, she said music was always around her.

She began playing the piano at the age of six, when she would walk, "rain or shine," to lessons with her cousin. At 10-years-old, her sister taught her to play the guitar like their father and she, too, began to sing professionally.

"You can reach out to the community through song and that's something my family always did," said von Trapp. "Music helps bring you into a moment and gives you a new perspective."

She eventually went on to earn a Bachelor's and then a Master's degree in music at Johnson State College where she studied under a voice coach from the Julliard School of Music.

From there, von Trapp learned to integrate her own style into the many styles of music she had grown to love. Today, she tours the world with her concerts and said she is thrilled to also perform in her family's native Austria.

"We usually spend two months over there each year and it's wonderful to play my music in Salzberg, where my family was from," said von Trapp.

At St. Mark's last weekend she not only entertained the crowd with her voice and guitar but she invited everyone to join in her song at the end of the evening. Of course, that sing-along included many of the classic songs from "The Sound of Music."

"People were thrilled beyond words," said Ives.

Two women from Laconia arrived an hour early last week, just to make sure they had a good seat for the concert. They said they, too, had grown up loving the film that made the von Trapp family famous and couldn't wait to hear Captain von Trapp and Maria's granddaughter sing.

"This was just so exciting. We didn't want to miss it," they said.

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