Born on May 12, 1957 in Burlington, VT; daughter of Werner and Erika von Trapp; married Edward Hall, 1985; Education: Johnson State College, B.A., M.A. Addresses: Home--P.O. Box 827, Waitsfield, VT 05673 E-mail: vtm@madriver.com.

She is sophisticated and very modern, yet unusually fond of the music of the Trapp Family Singers. A contemporary woman and a product of her times, she enjoys rock and roll, folk songs, and Jimi Hendrix; she has in fact an extremely wide musical range. Elisabeth von Trapp is a rare performer, classically trained and devoid of gimmicks who defies classification. A singer, songwriter, and pianist, her melodic compositions often focus on childhood memories set in the idyllic images of her birthplace of Vermont, enhanced by the crystal delicacy of her own voice.

Elisabeth von Trapp was born Maria Elisabeth von Trapp in Burlington, Vermont on May 12, 1957. She is one of the 29 grandchildren--there were 17 great-grandchildren--of the celebrated singers Georg and Maria von Trapp who fled Austria with their family in the 1930s and emigrated to the United States. Elisabeth von Trapp's father was among the seven oldest of the wartime von Trapp siblings who were born in Austria and traveled to America with their parents. Her mother, Erika, also a native of Austria, arrived in the United States in 1948. In the mid-1950s, around the time of Elisabeth von Trapp's birth, the Trapp Family Singers retired from performance and moved into other professions to better support the growing family. Her father purchased a dairy farm in Waitsfield, Connecticut, not far from the von Trapp family home in Stowe.

Her vivid childhood memories include the beauty of the Vermont countryside and the harshness of the winters, always with the melodies of Viennese classics adrift in the background. Also imbedded in her memory is the day when she went with her father to view the 20th Century Fox feature film, Sound of Music, which her grandparents, her father, her aunts, and uncles were immortalized through the music of Rogers and Hammerstein. She was 11. After the Trapp Family Singers retired from performing professionally, the family not surprisingly continued to sing and play music for personal gratification. Again, Elisabeth von Trapp's early memories include the joy of participating in the songfests and gatherings of her inspirational family.

Von Trapp's father, Werner von Trapp, who was also an accomplished guitarist and a cello player, sang nightly to his six children and kept the spirit of the Trapp Family music alive for them as they grew older. Elisabeth von Trapp studied both piano and violin and spent her tenth year in Austria, where she lived with her maternal grandmother and studied classical singing. After her high school graduation von Trapp returned to Austria intent upon expanding her classical music studies. Pragmatically she opted instead to learn the demanding albeit engaging art of Austrian dressmaking at the Anahof vocational academy. Even as she explored outside interests, by the age of 18 she was singing professionally as well as teaching music and designing clothes. When she returned to the United States, she enrolled at Vermont's Johnson State College. At her mother's bidding, she majored in education and received a master's degree in curriculum development. She funded her education largely through her skill as a dressmaker.

With her post-graduate work completed, and satisfied that she had done the sensible thing, von Trapp continued to support herself as a dressmaker, all the while indulging her passion for music. The undeniable urge was very clearly interlaced with her heritage. She performed whenever possible and in 1985 toured the former Soviet Union in concert; additionally she performed in Israel, Canada, and Austria. Her voice was heard on BBC-Radio, Vermont Public Radio, CNN Spanish Radio, and on Japanese National Radio. On multiple occasions she accepted invitations to sing the National Anthem at Boston's old Fenway Park, and she performed habitually at cafes, concerts, festivals, even weddings and special affairs. She portrayed her own grandmother, Maria von Trapp, appearing as the lead character in two separate stage productions of Sound of Music.Her television appearances extended from CBS appearances on Eye on People, and Fast Forward,to ABC's Good Morning America, Fox-TV's Fox after Breakfast,and BBC-TV. Her live North American performances spanned the continent, from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. to Los Positas Park in Santa Barbara, California. She also performed in Canada at the Bronson Center in Ottawa, Ontario.

Singing, according to von Trapp, fulfilled an innate need, and in 1994 she established her own record label, Von Trapp Music. That year she also released her first CD, Wishful Thinking, a live recording of one of her outdoor concerts. The concert album features von Trapp on vocals, guitar, and piano and the performance included renditions of Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix songs. Throughout her career, critics marveled unceasingly at the clarity of von Trapp's voice, which habitually solicited such commentary as, "[S]he will have the crowd gasping with the sheer beauty of her voice," according to Rachel Kelley, praising von Trapp's "flawless voice" in Narragansett Times(Rhode Island). Ldquo;Also prominent in her trademark sound is a haunting ambience that intrigues yet soothes--golden, warm, clear, ethereal ...," critics applauded unanimously.

In 1996, two years after the release of her concert album, von Trapp released a second album, comprised almost exclusively of her own compositions, both lyrics and music. The title song of the album, an Elisabeth von Trapp original, was written in tribute to the von Trapp family, One Heart, One Mind. According to von Trapp the song defines the Trapp Family's secret to their beautiful performance. Through the lyrics she extols, "One heart, one mind, dreams met in time." Yet despite the heartwarming musical legacy she inherited from her family, von Trapp marveled publicly that she is the only living von Trapp to continue the family tradition of singing publicly. With that in mind, she successfully recruited her father to contribute some organ playing on the recording, and assorted cousins of the von Trapp clan to sing background vocals. The album, a tribute to her ancestry, inspires with subtlety a medieval mood. Others heard on the album include Erich Kory on cello, and Charles Eller on piano and keyboards. The trio of Von Trapp, Eller, and Kory in fact has performed together many times, and, as von Trapp described to Kelley, a "wonderful sonality" is achieved in the musical experience of singing with cello accompaniment.

In 1996, von Trapp also released a collection of Christmas music, called Christmas Song,an eloquent tribute to her childhood memories of a "farmhouse ... filled with friends and family ... the walls resounded with Christmas Song." On Christmas Song,von Trapp avoided the typical fare of seasonal recordings, and reviewers recommended the album for year-round listening. Among the 13 selections on the album, von Trapp sings the French folk song, 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime;the Appalachian carol, I Wonder As I Wander; Rogers and Hammerstein's Edelweiss ;and the classic chant, Dona Nobis Pacem. Pamela Polston noted in Seven Daysvon Trapp's uncanny ability to "make German sound silky.... [She caresses] the syllables so lightly you can barely tell she's singing in that guttural language." Again observers and critics hailed her voice, and her remarkable music.

Von Trapp with her delicate crystal-toned voice left an indelible mark at New York City's Grand Central Terminal in 1997 where she sang in the midst of extensive renovation and construction that transpired in the background. The terminal, replete with jackhammers and assorted other irritating noises, posed a hostile venue for von Trapp. Regardless, her powerful performance, which was an audition for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's "Music Under New York" program, left a distinct impression on the audience. Her voice resounded so clearly that, "you could hear her pitch like a bird's song traveling in the recesses of Grand Central," said one of the judges who was quoted by David Gonzalez in New York Times.

Von Trapp met her husband, Edward Hall, in 1974 while a student at Johnson State College, The couple married in 1985 in a chapel behind the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Hall, who is an attorney, doubles as a manager for his wife and her exhausting professional agenda. In addition to concerts and recording sessions, von Trapp lends her endorsement as celebrity spokesperson for Geiger's of Austria, Inc. Geiger's, a clothing company in Schaz, Austria, features a clothing line that, like von Trapp, imparts a distinctive and modern outlook. Her public appearances for Geiger's conform very well with her trademark "music for the people" paradigm. As with her concert in Grand Central Station, von Trapp entertains for Geiger's in unobstructed and open areas, in department stores and other venues that encourage direct interaction with the audience.

In reaching out to people, von Trapp brought her musical message to the children of Austria in May of 2000, when she visited that country at the invitation of an association of English-speaking teachers. The trip was an attempt by the educators to impart to the students the painful realities of the Second World War, events that originally led von Trapp's ancestors to abandon their life in Austria. Elisabeth von Trapp performed in concert and lectured to students, speaking of her family's experiences under Nazi repression. On her journey, prompted in opposition to a sudden surge of popularity of an extremist right-wing faction in the Austrian government, von Trapp urged her audiences to reject the neo-Nazi resurgents that threatened Austria in 2000.

by Gloria Cooksey

Elisabeth von Trapp's Career

Established Von Trapp Music, 1994; Wishful Thinking (recorded live), 1994; One Heart, One Mind,1996; Christmas Song,1996.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

PeriodicalsOnline

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 8 years ago

Dear Elizabeth: Just love your cd's...God has indeed blessed you with a marvelous voice. My question: We have stayed at your lodge several times and several years ago purchased a dress and cape for my American Girl Dress at the gift shop. I truly cherish these beautifully made dresses and now have grandaughters with the American Girl dolls....we are reading your families books currently and I would just love to give each of the girls at least the Austrian dresses with your label in them. If this is possible, please reply. God bless you for blessing us. Love, Dorothy