This is a program from one of the earliest public performances in the U.S. by the Trapp Family Singers, only weeks after they had arrived in the country as immigrants fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria.
Concert manager Charles L. Wagner (among whose famous clients was 1930s movie musical diva Jeannette MacDonald) brought them from Europe. They had to borrow the money to get here, and arrived with little more than the clothes they had on. Their home-grown family choir, under the direction of Reverend Franz Wasner, was their only means of support and their surprising eventual claim to fame.
But before they became Stowe, Vermont’s famous hoteliers, before Rogers and Hammerstein made them storybook icons with “The Sound of Music” on Broadway and in one of the most successful blockbuster films ever made, here they were, just a few weeks off the boat, performing on October 24, 1938 at Auditorium (later Symphony Hall), in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Most of their program was comprised of classical works, German leider and one bravely attempted American folksong they had learned in their uncertain and as yet heavily accented English. As a tribute to their new home, they embraced Stephen Foster and sang “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Pictured here are Maria Von Trapp (3rd from the right), and her seven stepchildren. Her two daughters with her husband, Georg Von Trapp, were too young to perform with them at this time. Maria was pregnant with their son, Johannes, who would be born in a couple of months.
By the 1940s, the farm in Stowe, Vermont would be their new permanent home and future career, the older boys would serve in the U.S. Army, and Maria would drop the European class conscious “von” from her name when she became a US citizen.
But right now, this moment in October, 1938, 71 years ago tomorrow, it was on with the show.