Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Question For The Von Trapps ~ Popular Music?

Pictured above is the current generation of Von Trapp Singers, the the great grandchildren of Captain and Maria Von Trapp from the Sound of Music.

During the War the Trapp family ran a singing camp, using an old military camp, previously intended to be torn down. They salvaged it, restored it when use of materials was highly restricted and began sharing their rich musical heritage and love for music to the people of the United States who came from miles around. It was the same camp at which they had sung for the soldiers during their first summer after moving to Stowe, Vermont.

"The Trapp Family Music Camp had turned out to be the answer to the question which had been asked hundreds of times backstage after a concert, at parties, in letters:

'How could we do what you are doing: sing in our family?'

In that ten-day course we try to make the people acquainted with as much musical literature as possible, from easy beginnings to complicated cantatas and fugues. The excuse, 'We couldn't possible sing--we have no piano,' is being discarded, as we usually sing down at the brook or under the old butternut trees outside of the recreation hall. Besides the singing, we also try to revive those beautiful old folk dances from all nations, and we try to show our friends at the camp that the best recreation is the kind where one does things oneself with others joining in: singing, dancing, playing games, telling stories, reading aloud, enacting those wonderful old folk customs throughout the year, following the word: 'A family which sings together, plays together, and prays together, usually stays together.'

Our age has become so mechanical that this has also affected our recreation. People have gotten used to sitting down and watching a movie, a ball game, a television set. It may be good once in while, but it certainly is not good all the time. Our own faculties, our imagination, our memory, the ability to do things with our mind and our hands--they need to be exercised. If we become to passive, we get dissatisfied. "

Chapter 17, "Snapshots Of The Camp", from Maria Augusta Trapp's, "The Story of The Trapp Family Singers" includes a question and answer session that captured some wise directions about the use of music in the home.

"The camp had a question box. Towards the end of the Sing Week one evening would be devoted to answering and discussing questions.

'What do you think about popular music?' was one of the most frequent questions.

Father Wasner would attend to the questions concerning music. With emphasis he would declare:

"The mere word 'popular' means 'of the people,' but these tunes going under that name have nothing at all to do with the people. They are artificially made up by some individual, put on the market with the aid of great publicity, but after two years they are completely forgotten, which only shows how little popular they have been. Neither the words nor the music express the true sentiments of the people. That's why they have no strength to survive.' And then he always pleaded: 'But there is such genuine folk music in this country, real pearls of folk songs throughout the hills and dales of New England and down the Appalachian Mountain range, the cowboy songs in the West and the Negro spirituals in the South. These are the ones which deserve the word 'popular,' as they come out of the people, and will live through the centuries."

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