Elisabeth von Trapp says she likes to live “in the moment.”
Speaking earlier this month by phone from home in Waitsfield, Vt., near her native Green Mountain State’s capital, Montpelier, von Trapp said “I can’t wait to be there.” With five self-produced albums and many years of singing and strumming around the world, she spoke about the honor of the Ocean Drive church “community” inviting her to perform, and voiced hopes the audience will be “pleasantly surprised” at her variety of music styles.
Praising her late father, Werner von Trapp, and other relatives from the Trapp Family Singers, Elisabeth von Trapp said she works at home and on the road in developing new songs reflecting their influence.
“Years ago, back in 1978, in a return to Broadway of “The Sound of Music,” she said, “six surviving members of the Trapp Family Singers invited the film-cast Trapps, and with the stage children, came for a dinner party. It was just the most wonderful moment when they were all together.”
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Amid this string of frigid weather north and south this winter, von Trapp said she’s “amazed at how cold it is” in the Southeast and that her husband, Ed Hall, often says, “Bring your coolest things for warm weather.”
Question | In December, how did NBC’s live production, and rerun, of “The Sound of Music,” showcasing chops and acting by Carrie Underwood, strike you?
Answer | Each night they were presenting it, I was performing a concert. That’s really the beauty of it: I’m able to do my interpretation and live with my work and live “The Sound of Music” in my own way. It lives on in new generations. ... That’s the beauty of it after all these years: There always is a new interpretation, a new actor, a new chorus.
Q. | What has made “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” stick as a Christmas song through almost five decades? Even Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass covered it.
A. | I do “My Favorite Things” in my Christmas shows, too. I think it has the general sort of approach so that anybody watching it will have a Christmas feeling. ... I often marvel at the fact that we’re allowed one time of year in our culture to enjoy one another and take time off. ... Everybody celebrates in their own way, then I think it opens up that joy when the new year starts. You can choose to be more joyful or more connected, and “My Favorite Things” seems to bring it all together.
I think there’s another layer that I’m learning about “The Sound of Music.” It has a life of its own, and it will continue to bear fruit from where it came. I suppose Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were visionaries; even though their songs are for the stage, and “My Favorite Things” sounds very whimsical, that song was meant to be a whimsical moment in the show. I watch as songs have a way of reaching people.
Q. | How special was your yuletide season?
A. | We just got back from Bethlehem, Palestine, and singing in Manger Square on Christmas Eve. ... Burlington, Vt., is a sister city of Bethlehem. ... It’s rare for me not to be with my mother for Christmas. She was so excited; she said, “You’ll be in the real place.” I sang for a midnight Mass. ... I came away from that thinking this is the greater message that they wish to spread to the world, and how it’s a lifetime experience to be there for Christmas or any other time of year.
So here I am, back in Vermont. ... My parents moved to this Mad River valley; that’s where we grew up; that’s where we found our home. My husband and I love it, and my siblings live in this area. I get to be with family. It’s a very important part of my life for regrouping, where I write music ... and it gives me a chance to unwind. It is a beautiful area.
Q. | How long since you and Ed tied the knot?
A. | We are on our 29th year. Last summer, we spent three months in Salzburg, Austria. My husband’s always wanted to be there. We were sitting in a courtyard ... in a beautiful seminary made into a guest house, and all of a sudden, on our anniversary, he said, “This is the gift.”
Q. | What joys do you seek and find in traveling, and enlightening your life and expression through music?
A. | To discover beautiful places, you get to know our country, and meet beautiful people who host us ... and say you must see such and such. I want a deeper appreciation of the culture we have. Also, that variety and difference are what makes it so glorious. It helps for me for deciding what music to sing and what programs to do. I try to diversify the programs so I have music from all different styles of genres.
People ask if I always want “The Sound of Music” songs. ... It’s much more than that. That was my relatives’ message to me: Learn as much music as possible. ... Take the other journey; it’s important to relate to it and to make it our own.
The message I got from my father is of being loyal to yourself, having truth, and being strong in faith. Faith is often unseen, and it’s belief in the unseen.