Thursday, December 11, 2008

Trapp Family Singers

I recently finished reading The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp. It was a very interesting book especially since I had grown up with The Sound of Music. This will not really be a book review of it. Rather it is a list of things that I found interesting basically in the order they occur in the book.

1. Maria was about 20 when she married Captain Trapp whose oldest child was about 14 or 15.

2. In order to protect her honor, Captain Trapp left the country directly after their engagement and did not return until 2 weeks before the wedding. At that point she was at the Abbey doing prayers and meditations in preparations for marriage. Can you imagine what would happen if every bride spent 2 weeks in prayer and meditation before marriage?

3. The children all call her Mother. There is never a mention of step-children or half-sister or anything.

4. Christmas is such a spiritual and Christ-centered holiday for them. They attended several times in the period before Christmas. Letters were written to Jesus as the giver of all good gifts instead of to Santa. Saint Nicholas was (in real life) a bishop and after Christmas someone dressed up as him and came to the house. He announced some of the various sins of each person and asked if they solemnly promised to act better in the coming year. The candles on the tree represented the light of Christ coming to earth.

5. Even as a very wealthy woman, Maria gives birth at home. Even in America where she is told that the hospital is the way to go, she responds that hospitals are for sick people and babies must be welcomed into a home.

6. When Austria is "liberated" by the Nazis, the government schools are used as weapons against the parents. The students are told that their parents are old fashioned and won't understand the new ways. They are asked to spy on their parents and report to the teacher (a dedicated party member).

6. When Captain Trapp, the eldest son (a doctor), and the singers are all offered prestigious positions within the Reich, a family conference is held. All of them, even the young children, agree that they would rather give up their position (Baron's family) and likely wealth than to align themselves with Hitler.

7. As soon as they are on the boat headed for America, they diligently try to learn English.

8. They never conform to American fashion, but stay with their Austrian costumes. Maria says it is cheaper and much less stressful to not have to change one's wardrobe at the whim of fashion.

9. Their conductor is a Catholic priest. When they build their own home in Vermont, they build a chapel. (Their home in Austria had a chapel as well during their last years there.) This is where they worshipped twice daily as a family.

10. One of the things Maria liked most about Americans, was that they came to their concerts even though the Trapps were all registered as enemy aliens with thick German accents.

11. Over time Maria came to see that it was OK to do school in a bus while on tour. It was a slow progression from boarding school, to school at home, to school on the bus.

12. When they were not yet citizens, two of the Trapp sons fought in Italy for the USA.

13. Maria was also impressed at the generous spirit of Americans. Shortly after the war ended, they Trapp family started using their concerts as relief efforts for starving Austrians. Over time they shipped 300,000 lbs. of food and a great deal of clothes to the poor from their homeland.

14. Their home in Austria had been used as Nazi headquarters in that part of Austria. After the war, they were told that it was still their property and they could do with it what they wanted. The thought of owning property where Hitler had stayed and shot people from the balcony was horrifying to them. They sold it as quickly as possible.

15. It was a truly joyous thing for them to become American citizens.

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