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From the Publisher: From Salzburg to Stowe


Published June 19, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 19, 2024 at 10:58 a.m.

Original movie poster for The Sound of Music - MOVIEPIX/GETTY IMAGES
  • Moviepix/Getty Images
  • Original movie poster for The Sound of Music

Who picks the stories that end up in Seven Days? Some ideas come from readers. Others, from the press releases and event notices we receive. And our reporters and editors never stop looking for the next great yarn. Possible topics and approaches get vetted and discussed in weekly editorial planning meetings. There's one for news, another for culture.

The gatherings are pretty casual compared to what you see in journalism movies; nobody is forced to pitch stories. But to show up empty-handed on a Wednesday morning is the grown-up equivalent of coming to class without doing your homework. Roughly 12 hours after the last issue has wrapped, our staff writers better have an answer to the question: What's next?

Frankly, I don't think any of us expected it to be The Sound of Music. I'm talking, of course, about the 1965 movie adaptation of the musical based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, which follows a musical family that escaped Nazi-occupied Austria at the start of World War II. Culturally speaking, the story is as old as the hills of Stowe in which the clan eventually settled and built a successful tourism business.

For my generation, the film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer was nothing less than a soul-shaping history lesson in four-part harmony; the song "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" still gives me goose bumps. Ditto my Seven Days colleague and contemporary Mary Ann Lickteig, who immediately understood the significance of Lyric Theatre and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra teaming up to perform the score live this summer at Trapp Family Lodge, a first for the venue. She noticed tickets were selling fast and reported that in a February story. A couple of months later, as the June concerts approached, we wondered: Should she write a follow-up feature?

Ja, as they say in Salzburg. Well in advance of the show, which has since grown to four performances, Mary Ann got to work. She combed through Maria's book, studied the family tree and met three of Maria's grandchildren. In the weekly culture meeting, she shared some of her findings: discrepancies between the real story and the one depicted on stage and screen; fun facts that illustrate the story's enduring appeal; and the burden that puts on family members who tire of talking about it yet recognize that their lodge continues to benefit. Fifty-nine years after the movie memorialized their plight, only one of the original Trapp Family Singers, Johannes, is still alive. But the "Edelweiss" fans keep on coming to Vermont's Tyrolean Graceland.

Similarly, the culture team was all ears for The Sound of Music. Every one of them, from senior editor Candace Page to rookie reporter Hannah Feuer, had seen the movie — some, multiple times. It didn't take much prompting to get them to weigh in on their favorite things: the opening shot of Maria twirling in a high Alpine meadow; the gazebo scene with Rolf and Liesl; the scary part at the end when the fleeing family hides from the Nazis in a graveyard.

Over the weeks it became clear: As a work of art, The Sound of Music has staying power. The story behind the movie, however, is not fully understood. Since it involves Vermont, where so many von Trapps still live, we decided the tale merited retelling. Mary Ann's reporting — and the in-house reaction to it — was all the evidence we editors needed to elevate her feature story to a cover one.

Hope it makes you want to climb a mountain and burst into song.

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