Category Archives: Austria

Christopher Plummer, Actor from ‘The Sound of Music,’ Dies at 91

The film version of The Sound of Music was released in 1965. When it was showing in Hong Kong, my childhood best friend who currently lives in London, saw it seven times.

When my daughter was in the second grade, she participated in the children’s theater and played the goat in The Sound of Music. I still have the costume made for her performance.

Fast forward to 2013 when Lynton and I took a trip to Austria, we went to Salzburg and Vienna. My daughter did her summer study in Salzburg and visited the movie site. Although it was not part of our itinerary to visit the movie site, the tour bus passed by the Von Trapp family home and I took a photo from distance.

When Christopher Plummer died yesterday, it brought back a lot of memories.

The story of Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer as Capt. Georg von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.” It was his best-known film, but for years he disparaged the role as an “empty carcass.”
Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp

The prolific and versatile Canadian-born actor, Christopher Plummer, who rose to celebrity as the romantic lead in perhaps the most popular movie musical of all time, won an Oscar, two Tonys and two Emmys. His performance as Captain von Trapp in one of the most popular movies propelled a steady half-century parade of television and film roles.

He died on Friday, February 5 at his home in Weston, Conn. He was 91. His wife, Elaine Taylor, said the cause was a blow to the head as a result of a fall.

The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical drama film produced and directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, an adaptation of the 1959 stage musical of the same name, composed by Richard Rodgers with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.  

The musical and the movie was generally based on the first section of Maria’s book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers published in 1949. There was interest from various quarters in buying the film rights. In 1955, the von Trapp family was strapped for money and Maria sold the rights to German movie producer Wolfgang Reinhardt for a flat $9,000.

She and her family would see no royalties from the two subsequent German films based on the von Trapp family’s adventures, or from the Broadway production of The Sound of Music, which ran for over three years, or from the film version, which has grossed around $300 million.

The Sound of Music – Edelweiss (Reprise)

 The Story of the von Trapp Family

Georg von Trapp, born in 1880, became a national hero as a captain in the Austrian navy during World War I. Georg von Trapp, born in 1880, became a national hero as a captain in the Austrian navy during World War I. They had seven children together. After World War I, Austria lost all of its seaports, and Georg retired from the navy. His wife died in 1922 of scarlet fever. Her death devastated the family and unable to bear living in a place where they had been so happy, Georg sold his property in Pola (now Pula, Croatia) and bought an estate in Salzburg.

Maria Augusta Kutschera was born in Vienna, Austria. She attended the State Teachers’ College of Progressive Education in Vienna. Soon after Maria graduated from college, and because of her religious awakening, she entered the Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg in Salzburg as a novice. When Georg von Trapp approached the Reverend Mother of the Abbey seeking a teacher for his sick daughter, Maria was chosen. Maria tutored young Maria and developed a caring and loving relationship with all the children. She enjoyed singing with them and getting them involved in outdoor activities. During this time, Georg fell in love with Maria and asked her to stay with him and become a second mother to his children. Of his proposal, Maria said, “God must have made him word it that way because if he had only asked me to marry him. I might not have said yes.” Maria Kutschera and Georg von Trapp married in 1927. They had three children together.

The family lost most of its wealth through the worldwide depression when their bank failed in the early 1930s. Maria tightened belts all around by dismissing most of the servants and taking in boarders. It was around this time that they began considering making the family hobby of singing into a profession. As depicted in The Sound of Music, the family won first place in the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936 and became successful, singing Renaissance and Baroque music, madrigals, and folk songs all across Europe.

When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, the von Trapps realized they were on thin ice with a regime they abhorred. Georg not only refused to fly the Nazi flag on their house, but he also declined a naval command and a request to sing at Hitler’s birthday party. They also realized the Nazis’ anti-religious propaganda and policies, the pervasive fear that those around them could act as spies for the Nazis, and the brainwashing of children against their parents. They weighed staying in Austria and taking advantage of the enticements the Nazis were offering against leaving behind everything they knew. They decided they could not compromise their principles and left.

The family did not secretly escape over the Alps to freedom in Switzerland, carrying their suitcases and musical instruments. They left by train in June, pretending nothing, and traveled with their musical conductor to Italy, not Switzerland, later to London. By September, they were on a ship to New York to begin a concert tour in Pennsylvania. In the early 1940s the family settled in Stowe, Vermont, where they bought a farm. They ran a music camp on the property when they were not on tour. 

Georg died in 1947 and was buried in the family cemetery on the property.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Plummer

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/05/movies/christopher-plummer-dead

https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter/von-trapps-html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trapp_Family

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_von_Trapp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sound_of_Music_(film)

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Silent Night – The Composition, The Story of WWI, and The Choir

Silent Night is one of my favorite Christmas Carols. I would like to review some of the stories behind this 202 years old popular Christmas music.

The Composition

Chapel2.jpg
The Silent Night Chapel is located in Oberndorf dei Salzburg, Austria, where the song was first performed

“Silent Night” (German: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) is a popular Christmas Carol. The lyrics were written by Joseph Mohr in Salzburg, Austria. The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf.

Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment. The first performance of the carol was on December 24, 1818, in the Christmas Eve mass.

Over the years, because the original manuscript had been lost, Mohr’s name was forgotten and although Gruber was known to be the composer, many people assumed the melody was composed by a famous composer, and it was variously attributed to Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven. However, a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr’s handwriting and dated by researchers as c. 1820. It states that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818. This is the earliest manuscript that exists and the only one in Mohr’s handwriting. (Source)

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The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914 by Naina Bajekal

German and British troops celebrating Christmas together during a temporary cessation of WWI hostilities known as the Christmas Truce.
German and British troops celebrating Christmas together during a temporary cessation of WWI hostilities known as the Christmas Truce. Mansell—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In 1914, just a few months into a war, Pope Benedict XV, who took office that September, had originally called for a Christmas truce, an idea that was officially rejected. Yet it seems the sheer misery of daily life in the cold, wet, dull trenches was enough to motivate troops to initiate the truce on their own…

It’s hard to pin down exactly what happened. A huge range of differing oral accounts, diary entries and letters home from those who took part make it virtually impossible to speak of a “typical” Christmas truce as it took place across the Western front… Nevertheless, some two-thirds of troops — about 100,000 people — are believed to have participated in the legendary truce…

Most accounts suggest the truce began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve, “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere”, as Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it in even greater detail:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons, and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.

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I chose this arrangement of Silent Night performed by the Winchester Cathedral Choir on December 27, 2010

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