von Trapp to perform at Shippensburg University

December 09, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • Elizabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of the Maria von Trapp, will perform at Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Center on Sunday, Dec. 12.
Submitted photo

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Singer Elisabeth von Trapp — whose grandparents inspired the fictionalized musical play and film “The Sound of Music”  — will join Empire Brass for a Christmas concert at the H. Ric Luhrs Center for Performing Arts.

The Sunday night concert is part of her first-ever tour with the Boston-based brass quintet.

In an interview a week before the show, von Trapp spoke of establishing her own artistic identity and advantages that come with being an heir to a famous family name. Her father was Werner von Trapp (portrayed as Kurt in the movie), who settled in the United States when the family fled Austria.

Von Trapp’s vocal repertoire includes classical, pop and rock, and she’s recorded and self-produced several albums, including “Poetic License,” which set Robert Frost’s poems to music.

As for what’s next, von Trapp said she’s working on new material and is looking forward to singing with Empire Brass.

“This opens up more of who I am as a singer, with the tone of my voice blending with the brass,” von Trapp said. “I can be more of an instrument instead of thinking of myself as a singer.”

Q&A with Elisabeth von Trapp


LIFESTYLE: You mentioned that you and your grandmother, Maria von Trapp, were very close. Aside from the singing, what part of her legacy do you think you carry?

VON TRAPP: Believing that music can make a difference and that music has a way of bringing you into a moment that clarifies how you feel. In my relatives’ lives, I think people perceived them to exude faith, which they did. But when they came together in music they had to listen to one another. It became a real choir, a team in tone. All of a sudden the things that were challenges, difficulties, whatever they were experiencing, they fell away. I often heard them remark that that’s when they felt unified because the song required that of them. It helped them have a second opinion on how they should view their lives when they finished singing. I believe that a good concert of live music will do that.

LIFESTYLE: How do you feel about the play and the movie, “The Sound of Music"?

VON TRAPP: I grew up with it just like every other American and I was able to totally enjoy it. Emotionally, I was so removed, but I was so proud of my relatives, so I would be doubly excited. With my cousins, whenever there was a rainy day, we would put the music on and we would enact it.

Of course we did that with “My Fair Lady” as well and other musicals that they had. I also played the part of Maria back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s — that was right after my grandmother passed away. I studied drama, theater and music, and in the process, one of the directors thought I should play the part of Maria. I thought that’s the worse thing to do, but I did it. I entered into the magic of the theater.

I was transformed. “Sound of Music” will always be there. People will always relate to it however they want to. I can’t stop them from doing that. But it adds to the amazing legacy and the amazing unfolding of my relatives’ lives. That it even became a story, that they even had the luxury that they could make it into a story, all happened because my grandmother, having swallowed a fly during one of the performances, started talking to the audience and then realized, “Oh it’s really connecting. I’m connecting with them.”

LIFESTYLE: You were recently in a production of “The Sound of Music” in Michigan. Tell me about that.

VON TRAPP: Well, I was invited. Since it was a three-hour musical, I said why don’t I have one of the songs, ("One Heart, One Mind") I wrote in dedication to my relatives, orchestrated. Then I performed it for the audience to help them get ready to the story. In the lyrics I talk about their lives through song, that they had one choice and that they made that choice. It was through song that they were able to come to that new life, they were able to come to a new haven. And the last verse, I say, “let their song not be in vain, let their faith not be in vain” because in their journey, singing for thousands of people for 20 years, they really were encouraging every community they came to not to lose faith, not to lose hope or lose their courage. That message is still so needed.

LIFESTYLE: How did you harness that and come up with your own identity as a musician?

VON TRAPP: At the age of 18, anything I had ever collected or learned, I just set aside for about a half a year. Then I started writing my own material. I found there was such a joy in being creative. I thought it was an amazing experience. And that’s actually what happens every time I’m doing something new, singing a song that I really love that has the message that I wish to tell people, and it keeps me going. It keeps me excited for the next couple of days, weeks ahead.

If you go ...

WHAT: The Empire Brass present The Sound of Music starring Elisabeth von Trapp

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg Pa. The campus address is 1871 Old Main Drive. The theater is located off Bucks Drive.

COST: Tickets cost $22 to $37.

MORE: Call the box office 717-477-7469 or go to

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