Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

Before my review I must make a confession. I purchased “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers”, by Maria Augusta Trapp, for my ten-year-old daughter as a Christmas present. My two older daughters are going to be in our church production of “The Sound of Music”, so I thought the story as well as some original recordings from the family would inspire them.

My friend Leticia Velasquez raved about the book, saying it had served as a great inspiration in her own writing career. (I suspect we can look to her for even more insight into this book if she reviews it on one of her blogs.) So as I was about to wrap the book, I opened up to “The Chapter Before the First”, and by the end of the first paragraph I knew I had to read this book myself before Christmas.

First I must say that readers will be surprised by the creative liberties taken in the making of the movie “The Sound of Music”. Maria never really runs away, for example; nor did she dress the children in curtain material. I always wonder why truth must be taken liberties with, to be made more interesting. There is enough in the family’s true drama to fill more volumes than the 312 pages of carefully chosen moments in Maria’s written memoire.

The Story embodies so much that this blog is about. The Divine Gift of Motherhood was one that Maria was at first afraid to choose. But, like the Holy Mother Mary (how aptly named is Maria!), once she discovered that this is God’s Will, she humbly accepts and embraces this calling.

The children and captain captured her heart, and her theirs. Life is made up of Saints’ Feast Days, Birthdays, and Advent, with some normal days in-between. Maria brings the beauty and wonder back into these celebrations for a family that has recently been made motherless. The descriptions of the European Catholic traditions of Advent alone make this book a must-read for those mothers who wish to keep Christ in Christmas.

The once well-to-do family loses everything when they choose following principles over serving Hitler’s Regime. Thus their poor condition as refugees literally forces them into singing for the public, the gift that ultimately made them famous. How concert after concert came at the last minute to keep them out of debt is a tale of faith lived and rewarded.

Maria’s determination to learn the English language is a story in itself. She copies the Americans on the boat and in consequence misuses idiomatic speech in hilarious ways.

The miracle of a baby born despite Maria’s bad kidneys (and a doctor’s stern warning) comes shortly after the family lands in America. She writes the baby “had not been exactly planned for that very moment, and as far as being wanted is concerned, I would have gladly said many times, ‘Oh, won’t you please be so kind as to wait for just six months.’ Yes, many times on the flight, on the boat, on the bus, on the stage. But thousands of years ago God assured us – it’s in the Book – ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways.’ So if there is any planning to be done, why don’t we let Him do it?”

The Trapp Family truly is a light shining on a hill. They show us how it is truly possible to “live in the world, not of the world”, as the Gospel calls us to do. Despite the American music managers’ original rejection of the Trapp Family due to Maria’s lack of “sex appeal”, she (after a trip to the book store in search of the definition) wins their backing. The family insists on keeping to their costume dress, which is both economical and practical.

A family lodge is built in Vermont, and a Trapp Family Music Camp set up in summertime. The little girls are taken out of boarding school and homeschooled, giving them the precious time needed to sing, practice their musical instruments, and enjoy the outdoors. The family takes on a huge effort to collect and bring food, clothing, and other necessities to their fellow suffering Austrians.

A nice section talks about how courtship could and should be; and even this is managed despite the American way of “going steady”. Nice families flock to the Trapp Family Music Camp, and the children make friends with those who share their values; some find their soul mates as well.

The last section is a moving tribute to the family as they were and have become. You will have to read it to see how it turns out.


Leticia said...

Now you know why I love that book, I recently re-read it this summer while we were camping. Maria has inspired me all her life, and if you go to her Lodge in Vermont, you will be reminded of her. It has a tiny stone chapel up a wooded mountain path.
I even visited their villa in Salzburg, by taking the same bus she mentioned taking in the book, and asking neighbors, found the home, now a seminary. Of course, it was on Georg von Trapp strasse!

Christine M said...

It's funny, I just started re-reading this book again recently. I love it. You might also be interested to know that Maria von Trapp wrote several other books - she has a biography called "Maria" (fills in details of her life before and after the other book) and there is also a book about the life of Jesus called "When the King was Carpenter"

Joanna said...

I wish I could see them in their play!!!!!!!!