I was six years old when Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “The Sound of Music” was first performed on Broadway in 1959, starring Mary Martin. I was a few years older when the movie, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, came out in 1965. “The Sound of Music” is the musical adaptation of the story of the von Trapp family singers, who escaped from Austria after the Nazi invasion in 1938. “The Sound of Music” has gone on to become one of the most beloved musicals in American theatrical history.
Fast forward to 2004, at the Israeli community of En Hazeva in the Negev Desert, at the juncture of hwy. 90, the Eilat highway, and 227, that takes you to Dimona and Beer-Sheba, at the archaeological site of Tel Tamar. While there I met Maria and Georg von Trapp’s daughter, Rosmarie.
Rosmarie split her time between tel Tamar and her home in Vermont. She had spent a number of seasons already in Israel when I met her. Rosmarie volunteered at the tel, washing clothes, helping out in the kitchen, or wherever she was needed. My earliest memory of Rosmarie was that she tended a couple of noisy geese that she kept at the archaeological site.
In the course of time I became aware that she was indeed one of the von Trapp family singers, but not featured in the movie, because (it was explained to me) Julie Andrews did not want to deal with any more than 7 children—the von Trapps had 10! The youngest three, including Rosmarie, were left out of the theatrical versions.
Rosmarie often played her guitar at the tel. Being a guitar player myself, during our archaeological digs in 2005-2007 I spent some time playing guitar and trading songs with her. One night at the communal fire pit she played and sang “Edelweiss,” a song made famous from the musical. I asked her what she thought about “The Sound of Music,” the musical based upon her family. The answer I got was not one I had expected. She had indeed seen “The Sound of Music,” but only recently. She told me,”You know, Mark, they made many changes to the story of my family. I really was not interested in watching the movie.” Rosmarie had never married, but had a close relationship to her grand-nephew. He asked her one day, “Auntie, won’t you please watch “The Sound of Music” with me?” Rosmarie told me, “Finally I agreed to watch the movie, and you know, Mark? I LOVED it! It was wonderful! It just wasn’t the story of my family.” Much of her family history had been “Hollywood-ized”: Maria and Georg married in the 20s, and were married for several years before the Nazi Anschluss; Maria came into the home of the von Trapps to be a tutor for one of Georg’s 7 children, not all of them; they escaped by train, and not walking over the Alps to Switzerland; they had 10 and not 7 children—Rosmarie was the eldest of Georg and Maria’s own three children; there was teenage love between one of the older daughters and a boy from town, but not the way it was depicted in the musical; and many other alterations to the story.
The last three archaeological study tours I led to tel Tamar Rosmarie was not present. I heard that she had experienced some visa problems, and had to return to the US to get them straightened out. She is still living in Vermont, last I heard, and according to the “Blossoming Rose News and Notes,” August 2017, she still would love to return to Israel. A dear memory I have of Rosmarie von Trapp is of her performing “Edelweiss” to her own lyrics, composed for the groups of volunteers at tel Tamar. Here are her lyrics to the tune, “Edelweiss”:
Every morning we greet you.
Deserts bloom, gone is gloom,
We are happy to meet you!
Rainstorms quicken the Arava
There’s a future for tel Tamar.
Volunteers from near and far
Making the desert a gift to God.
(By Rosmarie von Trapp)
Please share this article with others you know by using the social media icons at the top of the page. Also, subscribe to the Christian Studies blog to receive notifications of articles straight into your inbox.
Austin Graduate School of Theology is an Austin seminary offering B.A. and M.A. ministry degrees, and Austin Grad is accredited by the same agency that accredits Abilene Christian University, Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas State University, The University of Texas, and others. Austin Grad — one of the top Christian colleges in Texas and among the top seminaries in Texas — is affiliated with the Church of Christ and is in conversation with all who confess Jesus as Lord. Austin Grad promotes faith seeking understanding and is committed to providing a high quality education for those who desire to be equipped to expand the Kingdom of God.