Celebrating the Sound of Music’s 50th Anniversary

The 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music was recently marked with lots of fanfare: tributes, release of a 50th Anniversary 5-disk DVD/Blu-ray collection, television programs, and special viewings of the movie in Hollywood, and across America.  I was lucky enough to attend one of the special viewings locally last weekend with some women from my church group.

SOM cast

This is not the first time I’ve written about my favorite musical and probably won’t be the last either.  It has a lot of sentimental significance to me, having first seen it as a young child in 1965, and is another connection that I have with my Spanish family.  When I told Pedro, my Spanish host son, film aficionado, and movie composer himself, that I was going to see the Sound of Music, he relayed that he and his friends wished they could also attend such an event. Unfortunately, no special viewings were planned in Spain.

Recent Media Attention

I’ve been following along with the Sound of Music media attention the past few months.  First was the Sound of Music tribute medley sung by Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 22.  Did you know that Lady Gaga practiced for six months prior to that performance so she could sing it in the same key as Julie Andrews?  They met for the first time when they embraced on stage at the Oscars.

Andrews-Lady Gaga-Oscars

Then on March 18, the ABC Television Network aired, The Untold Story of the Sound of Music.  In this program Diane Sawyer and Julie Andrews, 79, toured Salzburg, Austria and sites from the movie.  The show was a treasure trove of behind the scenes stories and Julie Andrews’ memories of filming the movie.

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Me and 7.3 million other viewers were glued to the television set that night.  My favorite seen from the show was when Julie Andrews recreated the famous wedding march at the Salzburg Cathedral (starting at 6 minutes in the video below).

I’ve never been to Salzburg, but I have been in numerous Cathedrals in Spain in recent years.  It reminded me of those grand Cathedrals, making that scene come more alive for me than ever before.  The scenes with the Alps towering over Salzburg also reminded me of my time in the French Alps last fall.  Priceless!

Then on March 26 in Hollywood, CA, the Turner Classic Movies: TCM Film Festival kicked off when Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reunited to introduce the opening-night screening of the Sound of Music.  They have been good friends for years, but he hadn’t embraced his role in the movie until recently.

Andrew-Plummer-TCM Festival

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, 50 years later, opening night at the TCM Film Festival.

Popularity of the Sound of Music

Here’s some background and historical context behind the musical’s popularity:

  • The Sound of Music is the third highest grossing motion picture in the United States and the most successful movie musical of all time.
  • In 1966, at the 38th annual Academy Awards, the Sound of Music won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture.
  • The soundtrack to the Sound of Music peaked at Number 1 on the Billboard charts on November 13, 1965, edging out HELP! by the Beatles.
  • Salzburg has only 150,000 people live there, but attracts 6.5 million tourists annually, most in search of reliving the scenes from the movie.  (A bucket list item for me too!)

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Those numbers don’t lie.  So what’s the big deal about the Sound of Music?  Why does it resonate with so many of us?  Why does it resonate worldwide?

Here’s what I think:

The Sound of Music portrays a message of hope, sacrifice, courage, love, and faith.  It’s a movie about following your heart and standing up for what you believe.  It is interspersed with a powerful message of trusting God and His timing.  It’s the classic triumph of good over evil—with the added bonus of a love story.  Plus it’s a real-life story with songs that compel us to ‘sing once more’ (a line from the song “The Sound of Music”).

Both of the main characters had strong convictions.  Captain von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer, was loyal to his country.  However when he was ordered to serve as a military officer for the Third Reich, he and his family fled his beloved Austria, leaving their home and possessions behind.

Maria, played by Julie Andrews, brought her cheerful disposition and Christian beliefs into the von Trapp home as a governess, the 12th in a long line of successors.  She had to face her fears as she left the Abbey to follow God’s will in this new position.  She stayed true to her religious and moral convictions in caring for the children despite Captain von Trapp’s attempt to run the house like a military compound.  That meant no play time for the children.  They were to march around the grounds for recreation.  Maria brought music and laughter back to the home, and melted the Captain’s heart in the process.  She was not meant to be a nun, but her identity in Christ was strong and led her to serve in His Kingdom in other ways.

Spanish Appeal

When Pedro entered our home and our lives in the summer of 2010, music in general, and the Sound of Music specifically, was one of the ways that our friendship was bridged across cultural, language, and geographical barriers.  It was the universal language of music that connected us.  So I recently asked Pedro more about the significance of the musical to him and how it is regarded in Spain.

Pedro’s first time viewing the movie was when he was about four years old.  Due to the global popularity of the movie, his parents owned it, and he watched it at home with them.  The movie was translated into Spanish, which means that the songs were also dubbed with Spanish lyrics.  The Spanish version of the movie is Sonrisas y Lagrimas.  In English, that literally translates to Smiles and Tears.

SOM SpanishThe musical is a favorite of Spanish children.  Pedro’s nieces learned “Do Re Mi” in school.  That led to my delightful experience singing the song with them while on holiday on Mallorca, Spain with his family in the summer of 2013.

The first time Pedro saw a live performance of the Sound of Music was when we took him to the musical theater in the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth, Washington.  It was there, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, that he watched the musical for the first time in English.  It was a gift for his 17th birthday.

SOM Leavenworth

Naturally, Pedro’s love for movie soundtracks was also nurtured by this great movie at an early age.  That led to his playing many of the songs to the musical in our home that first summer.  Like music brought life back to Captain von Trapp, the summer of 2010 was the summer that music brought me back to life too.  I still have original recordings of Pedro’s impromptu practice sessions on the piano. (Muchas gracias, Pedro!)

Our Girls’ Night Out Movie Experience

I wish I could say that the theater was packed as my friends and I watched the special viewing of the Sound of Music.  I had expected to see a large crowd.  I think the 70 degree whether outside, a rare phenomenon for April in Seattle, had something to do with it.  Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable outing with friends.

One woman had never seen the movie before.  I asked her about her observations, as an objective viewer.  My friend was surprised to learn that it was a true story.  She also had heard some of the songs before, but now had meaning to put to them.  There were a lot of surprising twists to the movie for her, including thinking that the movie ended when the Captain and Maria wed.

Overall, it was an enjoyable movie-going experience.  Having seen the movie on the big screen last year at the Sound of Music Sing-a-Long, I think I was a bit spoiled having watched it so recently.  I wanted to sing at this event too, but that would’ve ruined the experience for everyone else.  So in that regard, it wasn’t the big sentimental teary experience that I thought I might have.

It has renewed my love for the musical again.  I’m still singing the songs around the house and in my mind because “My Favorite Things” isn’t just a song in the movie.  The Sound of Music really is one of my favorite things.

Are you a fan of the Sound of Music?  When was the first time you saw the musical?  I’d love to hear your Sound of Music memory in the comments below.

Going Gaga for the Academy Awards

I woke up yesterday morning to see a flood of social media attention to the 87th annual Academy Awards show. That is nothing unusual on the day following the annual telecast. What stood out was not people weighing in on the winners and losers, but on “The Sound of Music” tribute performance by Lady Gaga.

Going Gaga for the Sound of Music

I am not a Lady Gaga fan, but I am a big fan of “The Sound of Music.” Her performance was incredible, giving me new respect for her musical talent. She was a stunning vision of beauty in a shimmery white sleeveless evening gown and long blonde hair that caressed her bare shoulders. (I was a bit distracted by her obvious love for tattoos, and tried to look past that to enjoy the overall performance.) The stage setting was also beautifully choreographed, with a background of white birch trees, surrounded by a virtuoso of violinists, and framed by twinkling lights arched over the stage.

If you missed her performance, you can watch it here.

I’ve written about my connection with “The Sound of Music” on other occasions—once after attending a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long event, and another post during my adventures in Spain. I felt inspired to write a post about this again the night of the Oscars but decided against it.

“How silly to write about the Academy Awards,” I thought to myself.

After all, isn’t it just an awards show geared to the rich and famous, and full of Hollywood hype? Truthfully, that used to be my opinion of it, not really paying much attention to the awards, and rarely seeing the nominated films. That has changed in recent years with my Spanish connection and friendship with Pedro González Arbona, a young film composer.

Going Gaga for Nominated Films

Every year, Pedro sends my family his Oscar predictions and posts them on Facebook. He also sends me personal reviews of which movies he thinks I would like, taking into account my dislike of violence and my Christian values. My front row seat to his blossoming music career has also given me insight to the world of film composing. He shares his favorite composers and film music with me as well.

A few days ago, my family went to see “The Imitation Game,” nominated for Best Picture and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. It was a great movie. As a writer I was drawn into the way they told the story, interweaving the past and present from the perspective of Alan Turing (played by Cumberbatch). I loved the history, especially having now traveled to Europe. I loved the unfolding of the story and the development of the characters.   And I loved the music!

the-imitation-game-poster

At the end of the movie, I patiently waited for the name of the composer to appear on the screen. As I watched the credits scroll before me and was immersed in the music, I thought how the music sounded like Pedro’s music. I thought, “Pedro can compose like this.” I’ve seen and heard it before. Regrettably, I didn’t do my homework before going to see the movie or I would’ve paid more attention to the music. That is because the film was scored by Alexandre Desplat (also nominated for Best Original Score)—Pedro’s favorite composer.

Going Gaga for Film Music

I only caught the tail end of the Academy Awards show, rushing home from a meeting at church, just in time to catch Lady Gaga’s amazing performance. Pedro was watching the show live (televised starting at 3 AM in Spain) and texted me during the performance. We both have a love and connection to this musical. He played the music in our home the summer we met and attended a live performance of the musical in the mountains near Leavenworth, Washington. It was a very special and memorable evening.

At the end of the performance, Julie Andrews came out on the stage, hugged Lady Gaga, and thanked her for such a fitting tribute to the movie. Julie Andrews proceeded to introduce the nominees for Best Original Score and made some opening remarks about how music cements our memories in the film going experience.

Pedro texted me: “Here is the moment.” He was predicting Alexandre Desplat to win for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Earlier in the day he said to listen for his scream if Alexandre won the award.

Alexandre did win the award! I let out a squeal myself. Moments later my phone pinged his response: “Incredible,” Pedro texted me. “Did you hear me scream?”

“Si, y mi?” I texted back. (English translation: Yes, and me?)

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Alexandre Desplat acceptance speech for Best Original Score/The Grand Budapest Hotel (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Why was I so excited? Why was I so engaged in the Oscars and interested in this award category? Because I believe in Pedro’s dream, and I know how important film composing is to his future.

However, I’m not the only one. After last year’s winner was announced for Best Original Score (Steven Price for Gravity), Pedro received an email from the producer/director of his movie “Tempting Fate,” offering the same kind of encouragement to Pedro. He sees the possibilities in Pedro.

A few minutes after Alexandre Desplat accepted his award, Graham Moore was announced as the winner for Best Adapted Screenplay (The Imitation Game). In his acceptance speech, he mentioned his attempted suicide as a teen because he felt “different and weird.” He encouraged young people watching at home to keep believing in themselves and that one day they would have their moment. It was truly inspiring.

Going Gaga for Our Dreams

For me, the Academy Awards show is about people working hard, believing in themselves (against the odds) and fulfilling their dreams. Just like I believe Pedro will one day. He has the talent and the gift of composing beautiful music. With a little luck, and I believe the Lord’s favor, he will walk across that stage one day, or at least be nominated, if not in America, in Spain for their prestigious Goya Awards.

So watching Lady Gaga and the 87th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night was very personal to me. My heart has been blessed with the sound of music:

  • Pedro’s simple piano playing of the Rogers & Hammerstein classics,
  • Pedro’s first solo piano compositions (Introducing Pedro González Arbona),
  • Pedro’s movie soundtrack pieces for “Tempting Fate,” and most recently
  • the release of his full orchestral album, Memories.

I went gaga for Lady Gaga’s tribute to the musical that has touched my life, and I continue to go gaga for the future of Pedro González Arbona. (I am his American manager after all.)

Congratulations Alexandre Desplat and all the winners and nominees of the 87th annual Academy Awards. Dream on!

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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