ORONO — Seventy years after the Trapp Family Singers filled the old Bangor City Hall with the sound of music, Elisabeth von Trapp will perform Dec. 11 at the Collins Center for the Arts. While her iconic ancestors, who later inspired a hit Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, sang a cappella sacred music and folk tunes during their Nov. 25, 1941 show, von Trapp will be accompanied by the Empire Brass quintet. Her Orono performance will end with a “Sound of Music” medley, in which a guitar solo of “Edelweiss” flows into a chilling rendition of “Stille Nacht.”
“When Elisabeth sings, you can almost picture Julie Andrews twirling around on that mountaintop in the 1965 film…,” reported People magazine in 1997. “[But] for every ‘Edelweiss’ she croons (these days, in clubs and small concert halls), she belts out a Kinks number.”
Born in 1955, the same year the Trapp Family Singers retired, Elisabeth learned to sing from her father, Werner (Kurt in the Hollywood movie), one of the original seven children born to Baron Georg and Agathe von Trapp. Following Agathe’s death in 1922, Georg married Maria Augusta, with whom he had three more children. The family fled Nazi-occupied Austria for the U.S. in 1938, eventually settling in Stowe, Vt., near Elisabeth’s family home of Waitsfield, where she still lives.
“Inspired by her father’s guitar playing and singing,” states von Trapp’s website, “Elisabeth has carried on the legacy of the … Trapp Family Singers. She began taking piano lessons when she was 8 and by the age of 16 she was playing guitar and traveling the back roads of New England, performing with her siblings at weddings, gospel meetings and town halls.”
Von Trapp has sung at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and performed the national anthem at Fenway Park. She has performed at European cathedrals while finding time to record five self-produced CDs.
Back in the days of 78 rpm records, the Trapp Family Singers relished the standing ovation they received in the 1,700-seat City Hall auditorium, now a parking lot at Hammond and Columbia streets. The Bangor Daily News praised the Community Concert Association show and mentioned that “… not one [of the girls] wears lipstick or crimson finger nails.” Baroness von Trapp hosted the performance while her non-singing husband Georg looked on. Fellow Austrian Dr. Franz Wasner conducted the singers.
Before heading on to another venue, the family visited Indian Island in Old Town, which Maria Von Trapp mentions in her 1959 book, “A Family on Wheels.” Friends and relatives in Europe often asked about various Indian tribes, and now she had first-person stories to share.
Twelve days after singing in Bangor, following a concert in Lowell, Mass., Maria Von Trapp returned to the stage and told a stunned audience that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging the U.S. into war. She then sang “America.”
Tickets for The Sound of Christmas with Elisabeth Von Trapp and the Empire Brass are available at the Collins Center for the Arts box office, 1-800-622-8499 or 581-1755.