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.

Hitting a Home Run for Recovery

After my second viewing of the movie “Home Run” a few days ago, I’m left thinking about the face of recovery and why so many people sit in denial about their issues.  By issues I mean unhealthy habits like hiding their hurts, medicating their pain, isolating, and trying harder to make life fit their demands.

Cory Brand, the main character of the movie, played by Scott Elrod, is one such person.  He is a major league baseball all-star who is forced to face his alcoholism after a DUI and team suspension.  In recovery circles, we call it hitting bottom.  It is not a pleasant moment in one’s life, but for those who choose recovery as a result, and work through a 12-step program, their lives are transformed.  I know because I lived through it myself.

Breaking Through the Wall of Denial

Through the use of vivid flashbacks, the movie shows the pain of Cory’s upbringing, as he lived with an alcoholic father who expected perfection from his son at an early age.  The scenes are hard to watch at times as you feel for what Cory went through (rated PG-13).  These painful reminders drive Cory to drink and lash out in anger, unwittingly repeating the generational curse of his father.

Cory is like many of us who have found recovery.   We don’t come easily or quietly.  Our denial runs deep.  What struck me in this story, was that despite his being mandated by his team to attend a 12-step program as a condition of his suspension, he doesn’t embrace it until later on in the movie.  He just goes through the motions.  His life continues to spiral out of control until he finally realizes he can’t do it on his own.  That is the point in which one really starts recovery—coming out of denial.

Why Recovery?

Step 1 of Celebrate Recovery reads:  “We admitted that we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”  That brings me to a misconception that is dealt with in a powerful way in the movie.  Recovery gets a bad rap because most people think that recovery is for “those” people.  You know who I mean—alcoholics, drug addicts, and people who REALLY have problems.  That is so far from the truth.  I won’t give away the story, but suffice it to say, that just because someone is a Christian or lives their life in a Godly manner doesn’t mean they’ve had it easy.  We all carry hurts inside of us, and we all have to deal with life’s problems.

Celebrate Recovery - A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery – A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a Christian 12-step program that helps people with their hurts, habits and hang-ups.  It’s for anyone who struggles in life.  Typical struggles that people address at CR are anger, fear, grief, guilt and shame, holding on to the past, inability to forgive, isolation, need to control, finances, eating disorders, alcohol or substance dependency, pace of life, rejection, relationship problems, sexual addiction, stress, and emotional, physical, sexual or spiritual abuse.

CR is often described as guided sanctification.  That’s just a fancy theological term for becoming the person God intends for us to be.  CR gives one tools to take responsibility for our actions, offer forgiveness to those we have hurt, forgive ourselves, learn to lean on others for help, and to give back from a grateful heart.  All this transformation comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and a relationship with Jesus that is core to this biblical program.

See the Movie for Yourself

In my opinion, “Home Run” hits a big home run for recovery.  It is a realistic view at how turning our lives over to Jesus brings about healing, wholeness and transformation.  It brings about freedom from our past and hope for the future.  In Cory’s situation, it gave him a chance to restore a broken relationship, giving him a new lease on life.

Even if recovery isn’t for you, I’m sure there is someone you know who needs a program like Celebrate Recovery.  With the end of baseball season looming, it’s the perfect time to view this movie.  “Home Run” is available on Blu-Ray/DVD, on demand, or watch it online on youtube.  To find a Celebrate Recovery program near you, click this link.  You or someone you know will be glad you did.

Home Run Movie Photo

Holy Week, Holy Movies

One of the things I remember about the Easter season growing up were the religious movies we watched.  My first recollection of a spiritual movie was “The Robe”.  Even as a child I was moved by it and the message of ultimate sacrifice and unconditional love the lead characters (Richard Burton and Jean Simmons) displayed in the final scene of the movie.  (I won’t give away the ending if you’ve never seen it.)  It is still one of my favorite Easter movies.  “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston was also a family favorite.The Robe

In 2004, Mel Gibson produced “The Passion of the Christ” taking spiritual movies to a new level.  It was violent and highly controversial.  It was incredibly gripping and painful to watch.  I left the theater emotionally raw after watching the realistic depiction of Jesus crucifixion.  At the same time I remember thinking it would be something I should see every year as a reminder of what Jesus endured for the sake my soul.  Nine years later and I still haven’t been able to watch it.  The visual images are that powerful in my mind.

Passion of the ChristThis year I have a new favorite spiritual movie that has given me much pause about my Christianity.  It is “Les Misérables”.  Like “The Passion”, it is dark and violent at times, but the music, lyrics, and redemption message, carry you through the movie to its tear-jerking and powerful conclusion.

The movie opens with the song “Look Down” and the release of Jean Valjean from prison after 19 years.  After word of his release, Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, sings about his freedom, while the prison guard, Javert, played by Russell Crowe, reminds him his name is “24601” and that he’ll always be a slave.  Although technically free, Valjean is a marked man and must carry his papers with him wherever he goes.  He is bitter and sings “I’ll never forgive them for what they’ve done”.

Les MiserablesAfter an encounter with a Catholic bishop, there is another moving scene in which we get to witness Valjean’s inner struggle as he decides to reclaim his identity and put the mentality of a slave behind him.  (Click the song link to hear Pedro perform the first three songs of “Les Mis” – Look Down, Valjean’s Soliloquy and The Bishop © 2012 Claude Michel Schonberg.)

These first few scenes set the stage for conflict throughout the movie.  On the one hand you have Valjean, who is stepping into his redeemed identity and living a life of grace and forgiveness (like Jesus).  On the other hand you have Javert, who represents ‘the law’ (like the Pharisees).  Javert is obsessed with tracking down Valjean to return him to prison for breaking parole—much like the Apostle Paul persecuted Christians prior to his conversion.

Throughout the movie, there are encounters between these two characters as their worlds collide in unpredictable ways.  Javert continues to believe (and sings) “a man such as you can never change”.  But even in the face of death, Valjean chooses to do what is right and won’t return to his ways of rebellion and slavery.  Valjean is a changed man.  He is walking out his identity in Christ. In the end (spoiler alert), Javert can’t live with himself and the inner turmoil caused by Valjean’s transformation, and chooses to take his own life—like Judas did.Les Miserables 2

I’ve seen “Les Mis” twice in the theater, bought the video this week and have listened to the soundtrack countless times in the last two months.  Needless to say, I love it!  I’m sure not everyone will agree with my enthusiasm for this movie.  However, with its powerful story, amazing music and compelling lyrics, I think “Les Mis” is a must-see for every Christian—and perfect for Holy Week reflection.  Coincidentally, it ends with the hope of tomorrow—just like we have in Christ.

What’s your favorite spiritual or Holy Week movie and why?

When Life Imitates Art

The entertainment industry is full of stories that glamorize life and give us the message that it is all about us.  I veer away from that kind of ‘entertainment’ whenever possible and instead seek out uplifting stories, stories that inspire or sometimes just head for a good old fashioned romantic comedy–but nothing raunchy. 

It is hard to find that kind of positive entertainment.  But when my movie and theater experiences start to connect with me in a deep way, I need to take notice.  That is what happened to me this past weekend.

anne-frank-diaryThe Diary of Anne Frank

First of all, I went to see The Diary of Anne Frank where a friend of mine was performing.  I wasn’t particularly drawn to the story.  I knew it would be moving and sad.  But I support my friends in this way whenever possible.  It is a small way I can invest in them.  I ended up taking my 14-year old son with me as well so he could write an essay for school.  It lent itself to some good conversation.

Besides the horrific story about the treatment of Jews by Hitler and Anne Frank’s dismal existence living in hiding, what struck me most about this story was about her writing.  Anne Frank kept a diary that was later used as the basis for the books, movies and plays about her ordeal.  She received the diary for her 13th birthday just before the family went into hiding. 

Initially Anne wrote that she kept the diary as a way to get things off her chest and never imagined that anyone would ever be interested in reading it.  While in hiding she heard a radio broadcast announcing that diaries and other important documents would be gathered after the war to preserve for future generations.  That was when she started to think like a writer and began the process of re-writing her diary to publish as a novel.  Of course she never got to see that happen, but she pursued her dream despite the uncertainty of her circumstances.

Why does this strike me so much?  Because over the past year, I have had two areas of writing that have come alive in me.  One is my journaling.  So much has happened to me this year, that if I didn’t journal about it I know my mind would lose it.  It is pivotal, life changing stuff. 

The second piece of writing that I have done is correspondence with a family in Spain.  Each step of the way God has lead me to communicate with this family about what has transpired, to encourage one another and to pray for one another.  The friendship and miracles that have occurred as a result of this connection is amazing.  Like Anne Frank, I know that these pieces of writing are the basis for a book. 

Secretariat

The other movie I saw was Secretariat, about the horse who won the Triple Crown in 1973.  It is another real-life story, but this one is very uplifting.  It is about pursuing something that you believe in.  Check out the trailer and see for yourself.

For me, what was so inspirational was that it was a woman, Penny Chenery, who did all this and she did it later in life.  She had amazing courage in the face of potential devastating financial losses and defeat.  She was pursuing something against all odds.  There is a tender scene toward the end of the movie when everything is on the line and she is privately talking to Secretariat at the stables.  She tells the horse that tomorrow’s results don’t really matter and that she has already won the race–referring to following her dream. 

That is what writing is to me.

Following my Dream

So I have a sense that viewing these theatrical events at this time in my life was intended to give me a message.  God can and does use even these kinds of venues to speak to us.  That is because the Holy Spirit is always with us.  It is up to us if we want to listen and follow His leading. 

This is totally new territory for me to navigate.  But that’s the way God operates.  I know that if I wasn’t being stretched, that I would just chalk it up to doing this on my own.  My goal in all of this is not to become famous, but to be used by God.  If He is in it, it will happen–in His timing and in His way.

Follow your dreams

It Takes Courage

I finally got around to seeing the movie The Help last week.  When I saw the previews for it earlier in the summer, the thing that hit me most was the story about Skeeter’s desire to be a writer.  Even from the trailer when you hear Skeeter receiving advice on the phone from an editor, you can sense that this was going to be a gripping story.  The editor told Skeeter to write about something that disturbs her–particularily if it bothers no one else.  And for me that is the foundational plot of this movie–taking the courage to do something that no one else will do.

Skeeter’s courage is initially based on her desire to write and get a job in New York.  Throughout the movie though you sense that her courage is fueled by her desire to expose the unfair treatment of the black household help in Jackson, Mississippi around the time of the Civil Rights Movement.  Aibileen is Skeeter’s primary source for her interviews.  When Skeeter asks her why she is willing to participate, after initially declining,  Aibileen says ‘God.’

The Help is a very moving story interspersed with humor and some tearful moments.  It is a story about redemption, following our heart and not letting our desire to be accepted or belong dictate what we do or believe.  It is much like our walk with Christ–or what a walk is supposed to look like.  God gives us the Holy Spirit to take those bold steps of courage.  It is up to us whether we will follow Him down a road that may seem scary or uncertain.

As I left the movie, the line that stood out most to me was when Skeeter’s mother told her that sometimes courage skips a generation (referring to her own inability to not cave in to peer pressure).  Then she tells Skeeter that she is proud of her.  I felt a sense of God’s love for me when I heard those words.

I can’t exactly say that courage skipped a generation in my family.  After the death of my mother earlier this year, one thing I have learned is that although she was mentally ill, she did have courage.  She persevered through years of psychiatric treatment.  Unfortunately I didn’t see it in those terms until recently.  Her courage and her faith has inspired me to be courageous too.

So as I start down this path of writing that God has placed in my heart, I will cling to His voice telling me that I am His beloved Daughter and that He is proud of me.

That is where my courage comes from.  What about you?

It takes courage

  • 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.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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