In 1943, the hills of Minot, both the North Hill and the South Hill, came alive with the sounds of music, thanks to a visit from the Von Trapp Family Singers, who presented a concert at Minot State Teachers College to a capacity audience.
The Austrian musicians had fled from their castle in the Tyrol Mountains near Salzburg in 1938 because they refused to bow to Adolf Hitler’s control of their homeland. Traveling to New York City, they arrived “nearly penniless,” but earned a living by singing across the U.S. on annual tours.
On this date in 1943, a New York Times article summed up the end of the Trapp Family Singers tour, which had brought them to Minot in November. The Minot State College student newspaper reviewed the concert, breathlessly pronouncing it “superb,” not only for its “precision of timing, [and] entrance of voices,” but also for its “clarity of diction.”
The concert began with Baroness Maria von Trapp introducing her husband, Baron Georg von Trapp, who did not perform any music that evening, and her seven daughters. Three of the family were absent that night, two sons who were serving in the U.S. Army ski troops, and the youngest son, Johannes, who was too little at age 4. Present also was Dr. Franz Wasner, their priest who was their “musical and spiritual director.”
The loveliest music came right away – Mozart’s “Ave Maria,” a choral number that showed off the family’s “beautiful blend of voices, especially in the pianissimo passages.” Because all the daughters had perfect pitch, the intonation was faultless.
The Trapp Family concert included choral and instrumental music, featuring the “fine flutish tones of the recorder and the delicate tones . . . of the spinet” piano. The evening’s highlight was J.S. Bach’s chorale “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” full of both “grandeur” and a “simplicity of faith” by which both Bach and the von Trapps were known. In closing the concert, Maria von Trapp told Minoters of the “gratitude and love she and her family” felt for the “land of their adoption,” and the audience joined with the Trapp Family in singing “America the Beautiful.”
The Trapp Family Singers also came to Fargo on their tour in the last months of 1943, bringing the sound of music to North Dakota in the midst of the turmoil of World War II.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.
Sources: “New Program by Trapp Singers,” New York Times, December 20, 1943, p. 26.
“Trapp Family Opens Minot Concert Series,” Red and Green [Minot State Teachers College], November 24, 1943, p. 1-2.
“Trapp Family Delights Group,” Fargo Forum, November 28, 1943, p. 13.
“Life Visits the Trapp Family in Vermont,” Life Magazine, November 8, 1943, p. 126-127.
Joan Gearin, “Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family,” Prologue Magazine, vol. 37, no. 4, Winter 2005,www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter.