Trapp Family Singers–and a Fly!

When the Trapp Family Singers (Sound of Music) began their U.S. singing tour, they expected audiences who would be impressed by their technical skill and the difficulty of their selections.  Their audiences agreed that they were exceptionally good singers, but that didn’t mean they wanted to listen to a 45-minute-long piece that they knew nothing about!

Their manager said, “There is something you are lacking…something between you and your audience.”

Then came the fly.

The Trapps were finishing a concert of madrigals and motets, Bach and Mozart.  Maria chose a “Jodler”  for the encore.

“In yodeling, one has to take a deep breath and then hold out for long phrases at a time.  We were just in the middle of it when, oh horror!  A fly started circling around my face.  I watched it, cross-eyed, and got panicky,  I knew very soon I would have to take a deep breath, and what if…

“We took our deep breath and it happened.  In went the fly…a good cough would have helped, but to cough the right way on stage is much, much harder than to sing the right way.  I outdid myself in not coughing, but I couldn’t help turning purple.  I happened to have the leading part in this jodler, the melody; but that mountain call had to be finished without it…My brave children tried not to pay any attention to their choking mother, and when they were finished, I was too—with the fly.“

Maria felt she had to apologize.  She announced, “What never happened before has happened now.  I swallowed a fly.”

The audience laughed..and laughed…and laughed.  When they quieted down, she wanted to make up for the spoiled encore with an Austrian folk song.  She explained:  “It describes how a young hunter climbs up in the rocks for hours looking for, and finally shooting, a—”   The animal she meant was a chamois, but instead she said “chemise.*”  Not only the audience, but the rest of the family, shook with laughter.

The missing link had been found–interact with your listeners as if you are at home enjoying a musical party.

  • A chamois is a kind of deer; its hide is the chamois that polishes a car.  A chemise, for those who aren’t familiar with fashion terminology from half a century ago, is a loose-fitting garment that can be a nightgown, underwear, or a simple dress.

 

The Trapp Family Singers: Maria’s Story

Anyone who has enjoyed The Sound of Music is likely to enjoy the true story of the Trapp Family as told by Maria herself in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

Yes, the Captain did summon the children with a whistle.

No, he was not nearly the martinet portrayed in The Sound of Music.

It’s fun to read the biography, picking out the details used in the musical.  The rest of the story, after climbing over the mountains (not true) or supposedly taking a skiing vacation (true), continues with as much drama as the beginning, with laughter and tears.

Maria’s struggle with the language made me laugh so hard I couldn’t talk—and then cry because I wiped my eyes after slicing an onion.  I should have been getting dinner instead of reading.  When I could speak again, I read out loud for any family who were nearby, and it even drew a genuine out-loud laugh from a much-too-serious teenager.  Or maybe his funny-bone was tickled because Grandma looked crazy, laughing so hard.

In Maria Trapp’s words:

I invented a method all my own, in which I tried to apply what I had learned about one word to as many like-sounding words as I could find.  … for instance, I learned “freeze-frozen.”  I wrote underneath in my precious little notebook:  “squeeze-squozen” and “sneeze-snozen”.. When I admired the tall “hice” in New York, I got quite offended because they seemed to overlook the logical similarity between mouse-mice and house-hice.”

Maybe the funniest chapter in the book happens before the Nazis invaded Austria, when the Trapp family joined cousins for camping on an island, “Uncle Peter and His Handbook,” but you’ll have to read The Story of the Trapp Family Singers yourself.

What Terrorism Feels Like

I am Malala, and this is my story…

Terrorism is fear all around you.  It is going to sleep at night and not knowing what horrors the next day will bring.  It is huddling with your family in the center-most room in your home because you have all decided it is the safest place to be.  It is walking down your own street and not knowing whom you can trust.  Terrorism is the fear that when your father walks out the door in the morning he won’t come back at night. ..

And since I had been in the kitchen both times there were [bomb] blasts near our house, I stayed as far from that room as possible.  But how can a person live when she is afraid of a room in her own home?  How can a mother buy food for her family if the market is a war zone?  How can children gather for a game of cricket if a bomb could go off under their feet?”

Malala was 15, in ninth grade, in 2012 when Taliban soldiers shot her in the head because she spoke out for the right of girls to go to school.

In December, 2014, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize for her stand against extremism and her coinntued fight for the right to education.

“On my eighteenth birthday, I returned to the Syrian border to open a school in Lebanon for refugee children and to demand that world leaders invest in books, not bullets.”

In her autobiography, Malala tells about her childhood, the international team that saved her life when she was shot, her long recovery, and her fight for education.

“It is people’s love and encouragement that gives me the energy to continue my fight.  I will never give up on advocating for peace and education for all.  I want to build schools and make sure there are qualified teachers in as many places as I can.  That is something else that hasn’t changed:  I am the same stubborn girl who will never give up.”