Classical Album of the Week
In March 1965, the film adaption of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The Sound of Music premiered to become one of the most beloved movies of all time.
Fifty years later, we wanted to celebrate that film, along with its equally canonized soundtrack.
The Sound of Music is a staple of our common cultural heritage. Simply mention one of the musical’s many enduring songs — “Do-Re-Mi”, “Edelweiss”, “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”, “My Favorite Things”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” — and most people will be instantly transported to the first time they experienced this timeless classic.
Set during Nazi-occupied Europe, the story tells of a nun who leaves the convent to become governess for a strict navy captain widower and his seven children.
Though fictionalized from the true events, it is based on the real life of Maria von Trapp, as told in her book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. The book was first adapted in the 1956 German film Die Trapp Familie.
The story was then written as a live musical by the legendary duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (Oklahoma!, The King and I). Led by the great stage actors Mary Martin and Theodor Bikel as Maria and Captain von Trapp, respectively, it premiered on Broadway in 1959 — nine months prior to Hammerstein’s death. It won five Tony Award that year.
Inevitably, the musical was turned into a Hollywood film. Directed by Robert Wise, the movie would become the definitive version of the Sound of Music, with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer immortalizing the lead roles. The film earned five Oscars, including Best Picture, and beat out Gone with the Wind as the highest grossing film up to that time. The soundtrack was also nominated for the Album of the Year at that year’s Grammys.
Since then, the Sound of Music has remained a constant periphery force in our cultural vocabulary. Equally popular among adults and children from around the world, the story is just as relatable today as it was 50 years ago.
And what is it about the Sound of Music that makes it so eternal?
The answer might be that this true story speaks to many universal facets of life that are relevant to us all. Maria undergoes a substantial personal growth from innocent young nun into a mature, independent woman who is forces herself to make some big and important decisions. The musical and film are also cunningly packed with edgy and progressive themes of sexuality, masculinity, gender politics and individualism.
And then, of course, there is the music.
Like other famous songwriting duos — Leiber and Stoller, Ulvaeus and Andersson, Lennon and McCartney — Rodgers and Hammerstein manage consistently pen beautiful, catchy melodies with succinct, memorable lyrics that urge us sing along never.
As a testament to its everlasting life, the Sound of Music was once again acknowledged when Lady Gaga, one of today’s biggest pop icons, sang a medley of songs from the musical at last month’s Oscars.
Is this classical music? Is this pop? This unique work may be too transcendent to be categorized. But I’ll hedge my bet that we’re still talking about it another half century from now.
And remember if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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