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The Von Trapp musical family’s surprising PNG links

Featured in many films and in the hearts of many worldwide, the iconic film ‘The Sound of Music,’ touched the hearts of many. However, the famous film was indeed based on the lives of the Von Trapp family.

The Von Trapp family consisted of 7 children, their father Capt. Georg and mother Agathe Whitehead.

Agathe sadly died from the scarlet fever in 1922 as their third eldest daughter, Maria, recounts her family’s life.

Maria Franziska Von Trapp came from a family that loved music, “Sometimes our house must have sounded like a musical conservatory.

You could hear us practice piano, violin, guitar, cello, clarinet, accordion, and later, recorders. We would gather in the evenings to play Viennese folksongs on our instruments with Father leading on the violin.”

Picture supplied by Von Trapp Family.
Maria with her family, Maria is seated at the far-right. Picture supplied by Von Trapp Family.

The illness that took the life of Agathe, Maria’s mother, also crept its way into Maria’s life, “but I didn’t die, as a result of the illness I was too sickly to walk three miles to school every day. The doctor advised that I stay home,” as Maria wrote.

Seeing how ill her daughter had become, Maria’s father brought in a young governess to teach and to look after Maria and her other siblings.

Maria Augusta Kutschera was a young aspiring nun who became very close with Maria and her other siblings, “my condition brought Maria to teach me gymnasium. She came to us as my teacher and after three years she became our second mother,” said Maria in a post on the Trapp family website.

Capt. Georg Von Trapp fell in love with her second wife Maria Kutschera, they both had three children, Rosmarie, Eleanore and Johannes.

However, several key aspects of the real Von Trapp family were filters and altered, “this was due to the cinematic-lens,” as described by a Journalist on Biography.

A depression that had plagued the economy in the early 1930’s, which had destroyed the wealth of the Von Trapp, “causing them to send away their servants.” Capt. George, with his 7 children (from his previous marriage) had now resorted to turning their family passion into a method to make money. However, as described by Eleanor Von Trapp, “it almost hurt my father to have his family on stage, not from a snobbish view, but more a protective one,” said Eleonare during an interview with the Washington Post in 1978.

Still in the 1930’s, the Von Trapp family fled the Nazi-driven Austria for the US, not through the mountains as portrayed in the film, but on a train and whilst on a singing-tour.

Whilst in the US, Capt. Georg, “who did not know if we should go back to Austria, he took the bible and said, we will see what to do,” said Maria. Capt. Georg opened the Bible on a page where God tells Abraham to take his family and leave. That was reassurance for him to migrate.

As described by Maria, Capt. Georg was also a lover-of music, a stark contrast from the father-role played in the film, “he loved singing with us,” as described by Maria.

The Von Trapp’s continued their singing careers and later purchased a 27-room family home in Stowe in 1950.

Maria later travelled to the island of New Guinea as a lay missionary where the recounts of her life was told by close and dear friends Eddie and Ute Haring.

“We knew our Maria for many years in Port Moresby. She was our son’s godmother,” said Ute.

Whilst in Port Moresby Maria led a very religious and charitable life, “Maria always had prayer meetings in her house and would always be called to break-up fights in the villages around Port Moresby.”

“We always warned her not to drive out there, but she said that she was protected by her faith.”

“Maria visited us in Madang once for several weeks and stayed on our yacht, which brought back happy memories for her. I was teaching that time in the International Primary school and she taught the kids dancing and singing.

We had a special ‘Maria Day’ where we invited all parents and presented the dances while she played the accordion.”

Maria Agatha Franziska Gobertina von Trapp lived a long and happy-life, “it was a surprise that she was the one in the family to live the longest, because of the illness that she suffered when she was young, she had a very weak heart,” said Marianne Dorfer, who runs the Trapp Villa Hotel in Austria.

Her final days were spent playing the accordion and singing songs, songs that carried the Trapp family ‘musical’ legacy till her final passing on February the 18th -2014. She was 99 years old.

6 Comments
  1. Michael Kuweh 11 months ago
    Reply

    I wish to follow the Von Trapp family family and the film, Sound of Music. My childrenoved seeing it, over and over and many many times. I am glad Maria came to Papua New Guinea. I live now in Manus, about 300 kms north of Madang.

  2. Vitus Koian 11 months ago
    Reply

    So Wikipedia got date of her passing as 1987 as wrong. I saw her on TV in 2013. Thanks for this article.

  3. Wera Mori 11 months ago
    Reply

    I am humbled and blessed by this story

  4. Jeffery Saki 11 months ago
    Reply

    Wow this is a story I love. The Von Trapp family music legends has a link to my country

  5. Samson Torovi 10 months ago
    Reply

    My family’s all time favourite
    Now I’m so glad of the PNG connection where we are from.

  6. Gunu 10 months ago
    Reply

    I love to watch Maria’s film with captain’s 7 children over and over again. I’ve watched it once at high school. Great story Love all of it.

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