Becca Luke explains her sentimental connection to the beloved Nazi-and-Nun musical.
The Sound of Music is based on the real story of the Von Trapp family who fled from annexed Austria in 1938 to America to sing. While the musical takes many liberties with the factual events and alters the characters, the sentiment of a family unified through music and resisting the Nazi regime is accurate. As Johannes von Trapp, the youngest child of Maria and the Captain said in a 1988 interview with the New York Times: “The Sound of Music simplifies everything. I think perhaps reality is at the same timeless glamorous but more interesting than the myth”.
The musical follows the young nun Frauline Maria as she is sent to become a governess for a widowed naval captain with seven troublesome children. She finds herself in a home run like a military operation with children who act more like soldiers than kids. Quickly Maria makes her mark, teaching the children to sing, making the clothes they can play in and challenging their father’s distant attitude. The musical sees Maria gain their trust and break down the emotional barriers the family erected following the death of their mother. The Sound of Music has a darker undercurrent as it portrays the political instability of interwar Austria in the latter half of the 1930s. It appears as if Maria has ingrained herself within the Von Trapp family until the captain introduces his future wife and Maria, distraught, runs back to the nunnery. The reverend mother convinces her she must return and face her fears; in this case, facing the captain and confessing her love for him. She is welcomed back and Maria and the Captain wed. The musical ends when Hitler invades Austria in 1938: the family have to hide in the nunnery to evade capture, before escaping to Switzerland across the mountains.
This musical has held a special place in my heart since I was a young child. It was a favourite of my grandmother, who enjoyed many holidays to walk in the hills of Austria. I can still vividly remember being taken as a young child to Edinburgh to see Connie Fisher star as Maria Von Trapp on stage. I was mesmerised by the costumes and music and completely swept up in the atmosphere. One of my dearest childhood memories is going on a tour in Salzburg of the locations used in the film adaptation.
The opening credits of The Sound of Music present Maria, dressed in a habit, running across the Austrian hills. In this first song, she sings “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely” and immediately I was hooked. If I have learnt anything about myself since moving to Glasgow for university, it’s how much I rely on silence to feel serenity. In escaping the hustle and routine of the nunnery to the surrounding Salzburg hills, Maria captures the constant pull the Munros and lochs of the Scottish Highlands have over me whenever I find myself “stuck” in the city. As John Muir so accurately put in an 1873 letter to his sister, “the mountains are calling and I must go”.
The moment of the film that resonates with me the most is when the Reverend Mother is giving guidance to Maria upon her return to the nunnery, unsure how to cope with being in love with the captain. She says to Maria “Whenever God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window”. Whilst I wouldn’t consider myself especially religious, the idea of having faith that everything will be okay brings me peace in the darkest of moments. Choosing to have the mindset of seeking the positives, the opportunities, the windows encourages me to believe that I can survive anything life throws at me. In the same conversation, the Reverend Mother sings “Climb every mountain”. In this song she tells Maria to never give up, to constantly seek and fight for what will make her happy. To me, that sums up the magic of this musical: persevere, have faith and when all else fails, escape to the mountains.