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HISTORY LIVES: Trapp Family Singers at Aldie


In 1938, the Trapp Family Singers emigrated from Austria to the United States and began making concert tours of the country. Martha Mercer, widow of William Mercer Jr. (brother of Henry Mercer), invited the group to perform at her annual Christmas concert on Dec. 22, 1941, at Aldie, her Doylestown mansion. Baroness Maria von Trapp and her seven stepchildren performed. (Her husband, Baron Georg von Trapp, and their three youngest children were not present.)

The Trapp Family performed carols for about 200 guests. Singers introduced music played on recorders. A spinet was also used and an instrument very much resembling a cello played without the bow. Music sung and produced instrumentally included selections dating from as early as 1559.

The first part of the program was as follows: “Whom Have Ye Seen, O shepherds?” “Midwinter,” and “The Holly and the Ivy.” The second part consisted of “Sonata in F” for quartet of recorders, “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” and “From Heaven High I Came to Earth.”

The final portion began with a Tyrolean carol, “Shepherds Wake, For It Is Midnight.” This was followed by “Away in a Manger,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and two Tyrolean carols, “Thy Cheeks So Fair” and “Today the Heavenly Portals Open Wide.”

The program ended with the singing of “Silent Night.”

Legend has it that Broadway actress Mary Martin and other theatrical people were in attendance at the party; and Doylestown resident, Oscar Hammerstein II, would later co-write The Sound of Music, a musical version of Maria’s life.

The Intelligencer, Dec. 23, 1941

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