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THE LAST WORD

The hills are still alive with sound of von Trapps' music

Saturday, December 7, 2013 - 12:01 am

My vacation in October included a stop in Stowe, Vt. The main reason my wife and I wanted to visit the little mountain village was because we read that it was where the von Trapp family had eventually settled after fleeing Austria and the tyranny of the Nazis in 1938.

We all know the von Trapps as the singing family that inspired the 1959 stage musical and 1965 film musical “The Sound of Music,” which were based on the real-life Maria’s 1949 book, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.”

The von Trapp story has a couple of additional chapters since our vacation with the television remake, “The Sound of Music Live!” which aired Thursday on NBC, and the singing performances of four von Trapp great-grandchildren throughout December in Indianapolis.

This weekend my wife and I are attending the Yuletide Celebration by the Indianapolis Symphony at the Hilbert Theater downtown, where the featured guests are those great-grandchildren of Maria and Georg — August, Amanda, Melanie and Sofia.

In the movie, Julie Andrews played an aspiring nun, Maria, who left the convent to nanny the children of retired naval Capt. Georg von Trapp (played by Christopher Plummer). They, of course, fell in love and lived happily ever after.

Well, the real-life ever-after was in the United States. “The Sound of Music” story line was certainly dramatized in many ways, but Maria really did leave the convent to serve the von Trapp family and really did marry the captain (in 1927).

As in the movie, the family performed at a festival in 1935. Then they became a touring act, and as life became more and more difficult when Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, they fled the country, first to Italy, then to the United States. In this country they performed beginning that same year as the Trapp Family Choir. They changed the name to the Trapp Family Singers and in 1942 moved to Stowe to run a music camp when not touring.

The family fell in love with a farm on top of Luce Hill, which was surrounded by three valleys that reminded the family of Austria. They purchased the property and built a lodge, which eventually opened for guests in 1950.

Up the mountain from Stowe, we visited the Trapp Family Lodge, a luxury mountain resort with Austrian-inspired architecture and European-style accommodations.

Today the lodge is overseen by Maria and Georg’s 10th and youngest child, Johannes, now 74, and his son Sam, 41.

The early von Trapps may have stopped touring as a family act in 1955, but the family has never stopped singing.

George von Trapp died of lung cancer in 1947 in Vermont. Maria von Trapp also died in Vermont of heart failure in 1987.

Both are buried along with Maria’s stepdaughter Martina in the family cemetery at the Trapp Family Lodge.

Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel.