When The Sound of Music – the heartwarming story based on the real-life World War II era adventures of the Von Trapp family singers – debuted in March of 1965, The New York Times’ reviewer, Bosley Crowther, summed up and dismissed the now classic film as “romantic nonsense and sentiment.”
A side note regarding the Old Grey Lady’s poor editorial judgment: I guess some things never change.
It may be 57 years since Julie Andrews and the late Christopher Plummer, along with the entire ensemble cast, first entertained and moved audiences with their singing and acting, but many of us still enjoy watching and sometimes even singing along to the now famous and melodic Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes. Of course, we know the film was “Hollywoodized” – but the main themes still resonate and hold up in real life: freedom and family are fragile things, and we will sacrifice everything we have to protect and preserve both of them.
At this point, America isn’t facing anything resembling a Nazi invasion and forced military conscription from an enemy, the underlying storyline upon which the famed movie is based. But the older I get, the more the climactic song in The Sound of Music moves me. It also serves as something of a lesson to hold onto.
Why and how so?
Despite what many people think, the song “Edelweiss,” which audiences are led to believe in the movie is a beloved old folksong from Austria’s past, was actually a newly commissioned piece first for the Broadway musical production of The Sound of Music. movie, and the last bit of music composed by the legendary Oscar Hammerstein before his death in 1960.
Though we hear Captain Von Trapp sing the piece earlier in the film, you’ll recall its most moving rendition is performed during the music festival at the Felsenreitschule – Salzburg’s stone theater cut out of the adjacent mountain.
While the tune is emotional, it’s the meaning behind it that holds such significance. As it is, the “Edelweiss” is a white flower found in remote parts of the Alps. “Edel” translates to “noble purity” and “weiss” means “white.” Austrian tradition held that men, often at great peril, would hike deep into the mountains to find the edelweiss flower as a way to pledge and demonstrate love and devotion for their beloved.
In The Sound of Music, Captain Von Trapp sings the song to bid farewell to his native Austria, which during World War II was invaded, occupied, and then annexed by Nazi Germany. He sings:
Edelweiss, Edelweiss, Ev’ry morning you greet me. Small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me … Bless my homeland forever.
For many of us who champion the dignity of every life, the innocence of children and the first freedoms for which so many have sacrificed their lives across the years, these descriptive lyrics reflect why we care so deeply and passionately. I think of the pro-life movement, now a half-century old, and all the stalwarts who trekked and trudged deep into far reaches to find that metaphorical flower as a means to illustrate how much they love and care.
America’s children are small, pure, innocent, clean and bright. They’re happy to meet us – and they’re counting on us to fight on their behalf to defend them. We pray for the Lord to bless our homeland, and we also ask Him to bless our efforts as we fight for what is morally right and commit to fleeing from evil.
Before the captain sings Edelweiss, and is later joined on stage by his wife, Maria, and their entire family, Christopher Plummer’s character tells those at the festival, “My fellow Austrians, I shall not be seeing you again perhaps for a very long time. I would like to sing for you now… a love song. I know you share this love. I pray that you will never let it die.”
As Christians, we pray the coordinated effort in defense of the preborn and the family will likewise carry on until the Lord calls us home.