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A keen world view is reflected in von Trapps' concert

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Sofi, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp demonstrated that they are more than just a re-make of the fabled Von Trapp Family Singers during their concert Monday at the Hilbert Circle Theater in downtown Indianapolis.

The siblings, who call themselves The von Trapps, are in Indy appearing through Dec. 23 as featured guests in the “Duke Energy Yuletide Celebration,” starring Sandi Patty with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra led Principal Pops conductor Jack Everly.

Given the massive attention garnered by the Dec. 5 NBC live production of the stage musical version of “The Sound of Music,” it has been bonus for local audiences to experience the progeny of their von Trapp grandfather (who was Kurt “the incorrigible,” in the 1965 film musical version of “The Sound of Music”) in the flesh, both in “Yuletide” and in their own concert.

The von Trapps, ranging in ages 24-19, have performed for the last 12 years during which they have toured and travelled all over the world, performing with top symphony orchestras in major venues. Most recently, they relocated to Portland, Ore. where they are collaborating with the band Pink Martini on an album that will be released in the spring of 2014.

For their concert, the group, who share a love of world music with Pink Martini (with whom the von Trapps appeared together with the ISO in April of 2012), chose material from the upcoming CD as well as selections from “The Sound of Music” and some Christmas Carols.

As it turned out, the “Yuletide” set with its painted backdrop depicting a castle amidst a winter scene, presumably in the Alps, was an ideal concert setting for these appealing, fresh-faced performers of Austrian descent who were accompanied by on piano by Lance Horne, Ruben Carles on upright bass and Paulo Stagnero on drums.

The von Trapps, who are conspicuous for their exceptional voices, expression and intricate harmonies, sang selections that reflected their status as world citizens—performing songs in multiple languages such as “Carol of the Bells” (English and Ukrainian), “Die Dorfmusik” (German), “Hayalda Hachi Yafa Bagan” (Hebrew – “The Prettiest Girl in Kindergarten”), “Gong Xi,” a Chinese New Year Song, “As Coisas Que Eu Gosto” (Portuguese) and “Kuroneko,” a Japanese tango.

August, who is the songwriter in the group, displayed his gift, accompanying himself on a ukulele in the lilting “Friend,” and as he sang a compelling a Capella composition titled “Storm” with his sisters.

The easy-going quartet, who projected a sweet sincerity, traded off hosting duties as they took turns sharing commentary regarding each song with the audience. One song in particular really spoke to their humanity and generosity. It was “Rwanda Nziza,” which was explained as the Rwandan national anthem and a song about forgiveness written by two prisoners. The von Trapps had travelled to Rwanda to teach music to children and while there, they sang it for the Rwandan President, who, in gratitude, gifted August with a cow (which remained behind). Making for a poignant presentation, images of the group surrounded by Rwandan Children were projected above them as they sang the song.

A highlight of the concert was Amanda’s breezy solo on “Dream a Little Dream” as Sofi played the melodica and August, his ukulele. Another was her lead singing role in a swing-era style interpretation of “Winter Wonderland,” with her sisters.

In a nod to the musical that afforded their family its iconic status, the von Trapps delighted the audience when they sang “The Sound of Music” and “Edelweiss.” It was accompanied by projected images of the Captain and Maria and The von Trapp Family Singers.

Reinforcing their globe-trotting sensibilities which are, in fact, their legacy, the von Trapps’ closing number was “Fernanda,” the ABBA hit, which they sang in Swedish.

“Lonely Goatherd,” yet another song from “The Sound of Music” score was the von Trapps’ encore selection. It was performed with obvious affection.

The von Trapps will probably forever be associated with the film version of their family's story, but, hopefully, as they continue stretching their creativity and pursuing their artistic interests, they may well establish an identity that is uniquely, well-deservedly, their very own.

For tickets and information for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s “Duke Energy Yuletide Celebration,” featuring The Von Trapps, call (317) 639-4300 or visit www.indianapolissumphony.org.

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