Friday, March 21, 2014

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

Just this week I learned that Maria von Trapp, the last surviving child of the first family of Captain von Trapp, passed away at age 99 in February.

Maria is the sole reason for the Captain and his second wife ever meeting. Without her, the family that has captured the hearts of generations might never have come to being.

Our facts are probably colored to great extent by The Sound of Music, the popular musical that catches the spirit, if not quite the reality of the captain and Maria's meeting. In real life some of the details were a little different, though they were just as dramatic, just as romantic, and just as heartwarming.

So today, I present to you The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, by Maria Augusta Trapp

The Book

When Maria set off from the Abbey to be a governess for Captain von Trapp's children, she never knew that her life was about to change. An irrepressible nun who actually did kiss the floor in advance of doing something she knew to be wrong, she wasn't made for the abbey cloisters; and when she met her particular charge, little Maria, she fell in love with her and the rest of the Captain's children right away. Her bright spirit brought much comfort to the family, and when the Captain broke his engagement with Princess Yvonne because Maria would make a better mother for his children, their love story, though not quite as instantaneous as Hollywood's, was a beautiful example of what a nice step-mother can bring to a family.

In this book, the leading up to the marriage is only a part of the tale. We have the real horror of the family as Hitler took over their native Austria; Maria's difficulties in conceiving children that led to the doctor trying to persuade her to abort her youngest son, Johannes; the family's budding talent for music; and Maria's loving descriptions of holiday traditions and special moments. She's as irrepressible in real life as in the film, and makes a host of mistakes in trying to measure up to what she thinks she should be. But Captain von Trapp was such a gentle and loving husband and father that she soon found her rhythm in the home.

When they fled Austria (due not only to the Captain refusing a German post, but to one of the sons refusing a high position as well) the von Trapps set off for America, with Maria in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. Their adventures in America of trying to learn English, trying to connect American audiences with their Austrian music, and making a living in a time of war are part of a story that you won't want to miss. You'll laugh again and again, stop to ponder quite often, and feel right at home with the real-life story of this famous family.

My Thoughts
I've always loved the von Trapp family since my first acquaintance with this book.They are of course a Catholic family and therefore there are a lot of saints and rosaries and Catholic festivals, but that never bothered me personally; it's just part of their story. Beyond that, there are really no warnings to give; there are a couple of childbirth scenes, but they're not at all graphic or inappropriate for a family reading. Probably the only thing I skipped in the family read-aloud was Maria's discussions with her dressmaker on how to hide the fact that she was expecting a child; you'll know why when you get there.

A lot of heroes came out of the WW2 era--missionaries, Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many others. But surprisingly the von Trapps, though they have just as memorable a legacy, aren't thought of in the WW2 hall of fame. They deserve a revival of their life story.

This particular book I'm reviewing today shares Maria's story starting at the time she met the von Trapps; but her childhood and her life after the Captain's death also makes fascinating reading in her autobiography Maria. I also enjoyed the book The World of the Trapp Family Singers, which has a bunch of biographical information and numerous black and white photographs of the family.

If you've never experienced the real story of the von Trapp family singers, please do check this book out. The movie is great fun, but the book is a joy to read as well, and a well-written gem of Austrian culture as well as their family history. The Story of the Trapp Family Singers also has a sequel written by Maria, with further adventures of their family--Family on Wheels.
The Von Trapp Singers

While all of Captain von Trapp's original children that Maria came to teach have now passed away, the three children that Maria had with the Captain are still alive. Not only that, but four of the von Trapp grandchildren are touring and singing today. They just released their newest album in March, and you can find them here. Other albums they've sung are available here. We enjoy their Christmas album very much indeed, and have a few singles from other CDs. It's easy to see how important their heritage is to them as you look at their work; and from all appearances, this next generation of von Trapps is passionate about carrying on the legacy they've been given. These von Trapps are descended from Werner, one of Captain von Trapp's original seven children.

In honor of this family's legacy, multigenerational faithfulness, Christian commitment, and amazing entrepreneurialism; I highly recommend checking out Maria's books, and the music. You'll be encouraged and uplifted by their family saga.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. This is the one you read outloud to us, right? That was such a fun book and I'm glad you posted this. :) It's fun to listen to the Von Trapp grandchildren's music...I especially like the one where they sing "Danny Boy."
    Very fun review today! :D

    1. Yep, this is the one I read! You would enjoy reading it again. :D

      I love "Come Thou Fount", too. And "Mary, Did You Know?". Their voices are so pure and clear to listen to. I'm glad we got that CD together. :)


  2. I love your review of this. You make me want to read it, and perhaps I shall one day. :D We watched The Sound of Music to the point of memorization when we were young children. I haven't watched it for years now, and I'd probably skip some parts of it, personally (parts that I didn't understand when I was younger, but looking back I realize what they were all about :P), but it was a good story. And yes, often I forget that they were connected with WWII--good reminder.

    Great post!

    1. You would love this one! I really think you would. :) We just watched Sound of Music recently, as CG got the DVD, and she and I have been singing Favorite Things together every now and then. :)


  3. Wonderful review! I know Sarah read all of Maria Von Trapp's biographies/autobiographies, and I think I read this book a long time ago. They are indeed such a memorable family, and it was fascinating reading the real-life-account. Also, I do believe later on in life, Maria von Trapp had a real-life conversion when she attended a few Catholic-charismatic meetings with her daughter.

    Oh, and I am so glad you know of the Von Tapp children and their music. Growing up, my three sisters and I have all had a fierce love of music, and enjoy performing/playing/singing music together at concerts and at church. The Von trapp children were great inspiration for us when we first discovered them! I love their youtube performances immensely, though lately, their style of music has changed a little. I still like their work, it is just a little different.

    My favourite bit in The Sound of Music has always been the ending, with the escape... (though I do know their escape was slightly different). It almost brings me to tears at times :D And like Kaleigh said, we also used to skip a few parts when we were little (the romantic bits mostly, and the ones with the baroness). Love the story though!


    'Ahmm. And having a marvelous time!'

    1. She did indeed get converted; that's in her autobiography "Maria". :)

      We actually got to meet the Von Trapp children, and I love their obvious close relationship with each other as siblings. The most hilarious performance was when August and one of his sisters did "Anything You Can Do" and he won all the challenges (traditionally the woman wins the competition in that song, including who can hit the highest note). They also did many songs from The Sound of Music and several classic folk songs/spirituals as well.

      Love that quote from the movie. :D :D No one can top the performances in that Sound of Music; it's like LOTR. It can only be done once. :)

    2. Oh, love that moment when the boat tips! Best scene ever!!! ;D

  4. This review reminded me of the time we were able to see the von Trapp grandchildren perfom some of the songs from the movie. They were a pleasure to hear and to meet in person. It was a good family event that I had not thought about in quite some time. Thanks for the review.

    1. I'm so glad we got to meet them! That was the memory of a lifetime, and I remember really wanting to go and not being sure we could. :D It was special, and I think about it quite often, actually.

      Thanks for commenting! :)



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