Denise Neil

April 24, 2011

Von Trapp carries on musical tradition

When your last name is von Trapp, you get the question every single day. "The von Trapps?"

When your last name is von Trapp, you get the question every single day. "The von Trapps?"

When you're Elisabeth von Trapp, the answer is "yes" and is always followed by a long inquisition about life as a member of the family from "The Sound of Music," one of the most popular movies ever made.

Von Trapp, the 57-year-old granddaughter of Maria and Baron von Trapp, whose story inspired "The Sound of Music," will be in Wichita on Friday to share stories about her family.

She's appearing at an event called Providing Families Hope, an annual benefit for Catholic Charities St. Anthony Family Shelter. Her act will include several of her favorite songs from "The Sound of Music," and stories from her childhood.

And she has lots of stories.

I spoke to von Trapp on the phone last week as she traveled by car to another of her engagements.

She has clear memories of her grandmother, the family matriarch and the founder of the Trapp Family Singers, who was famously portrayed by Mary Martin in the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, then by Julie Andrews in the movie adaptation.

Both versions tell the story of the musical family, who fled from Austria when it became obvious it could soon fall under Nazi control.

The von Trapps later settled in Vermont, where Elisabeth still lives.

Maria von Trapp lived until 1987, and her granddaughter remembers her as a kind but tough and temperamental woman.

Elisabeth's father was Werner von Trapp, who was called Kurt in the movie.

He died in 2007 at age 91 but Elisabeth remembers him playing guitar throughout her childhood and inspiring her to pursue a career in music.

She also remembers him talking frequently about his family's reaction to "The Sound of Music" when the movie was released in 1965.

At first, the von Trapps were upset by the movie, which portrayed Baron as gruff and unkind. That was the opposite of his true personality, von Trapp said.

But as years went on, family members reconciled their feelings about the movie. She can remember many rainy days in childhood where she and her siblings and cousins would sit inside, playing the music from the Broadway version of the show over and over again.

Elisabeth von Trapp is the only one of the grandchildren who pursued a career in music.

Her appearance will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday at the Beech Activity Center. The event also will include a dinner and silent auction.

Tickets are $100 each. To reserve a seat or a table, visit or call 316-264-8344, ext. 1221.

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