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The American

Melanie von Trapp The UK is alive with the sound of new music, as one of the current generation of the legendary von Trapp family tells The American


t’s impossible to talk to a member of the von Trapp family about their new album, Dream A Little Dream (reviewed below) without visions of the movie that immortalised their ancestors, The Sound of Music. But please don’t confuse fact with fiction - unlike the people who have asked the present-day von Trapps ‘Where are the other three, I thought there were seven of you?’, or ‘I thought you’d be much older!’. The four young people now performing under their famous name are Americans, born in the mountains of Montana, rather than Austria. Their forbears did not actually sing ‘Edelweiss’ or ‘Lonely Goatherd,’ nor are they related to Julie Andrews! In fact they are not even directly related to the real-life Maria. They are the great-grandchildren of Captain Georg von Trapp and his British first wife, Agathe. Incidentally, Agathe’s father, Robert Whitehead, invented the torpedo. Ironically, Captain von Trapp used torpedoes on ‘the other side’ in World War I as a U-boat captain. Now named simply ‘The von Trapps’, rather than ‘...Singers’ or ‘... Children’, Melanie, Amanda, Sofi and August have performed professionally together for over twelve years. Could they have been computer programmers, teachers, or astronauts, or were they always destined

28 May 2014

to be singers? “Growing up, music was something we did to pass the time, it was a fun hobby for us together and with Grandfather,” says Melanie. “Our parents can’t sing a note, and my father is so shy. It was a shock to everybody when we started doing this. August is the youngest, he was about seven when we started. Our mom is adventurous, and a big supporter of having big experiences and seeing the world, so she saw it as an opportunity for a different education. It was never a grand goal to become famous, or have a glamorous career. It was just a bunch of fun. The four of us got along so well and we’ve had so many interesting experiences on the road.” They have, at least temporarily, forsaken their Montanan peaks to head west, to a place that has become a catalyst for creativity. Melanie explains: “When we met Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini, he lured us to Portland, Oregon, and we’ve never left. We’ve been there a year and a half now - we live together. It’s hipster central, for one thing, the food is amazing, and the coffee dominates the scene. And it’s also extremely wet there, which I think is a step up from the freezing cold of Montana. It’s a lot of fun, the people are different and crazy, and it makes us feel more comfort-

able about creating our own music. Thomas is the unofficial mayor of Portland, and he’s introduced us to so many different kinds of people. Being under his mentorship has been the wildest ride.” Although a mentor, Lauderdale is not a Svengali molding the foursome. “We were already looking for a new direction for our music, to grow out of being The von Trapp Children,” Melanie says. “We had been working on that for two or three years, and when we met Thomas he saw that. It would have taken much less time if he’d just told us what to sing and how to perform, but it was more like a friendship. He drew out of us what we liked, and made it happen. Of course we want to pay homage to the family history and the legacy of The Sound of Music, but it’s time to come out with our own personalities. We never knew if we could do that until meeting Thomas.” As well as debuting a new von Trapp sound - and trademark Pink Martini treatments of songs in languages from Japanese to Hebrew there are also new von Trapp songs on Dream A Little Dream. “My brother August disappeared for three days and came out with the song ‘Storm,’” says Melanie. “He’d written all four vocal parts. All of a sudden he’d found this songwriting

The American May 2014  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.

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