From The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp, 1949

On a memorable day in August, 1936, we were sitting together once more behind the screen of pines in our park. It was late in the afternoon, a Saturday. Everybody had stopped working and changed into Sunday clothes. Together we had said the rosary, a ritual which began our Sunday. During the week we had been working on the motet, “Jesu meine Freude” by Bach. Now we sang the movements already memorized, the different verses of the chorale and that wonderful fugue. And then we sang over and over again our newest favorite of which we were especially proud because it was in English: “The Silver Swan” by Orlando Gibbons. 

All of a sudden we were interrupted by a strange clapping of hands. A little bewildered, a little embarrassed, we went around the pine screen and met –who could describe our amazement? –the one whom we had so far admired from afar as Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, or as Fidelio–none other than the great Lotte Lehmann.

She had heard that we had let our house in previous summers and wanted to inquire about renting it; and now, just by chance, she had heard us sing, hidden behind the pines. Right there and then she proved how really great she was, for only the great ones can appreciate the achievements of others. With what enthusiasm, her beautiful eyes glowing with warmth, she talked about our “art,” which made us blush and want to kiss her.

“O, children, children,” she exclaimed over and over again; “you must not keep that for yourselves. That precious gift. You must give concerts. You have to share this with the people. You have to go out into the world; you have to go to America!”

Her genuine enthusiasm swept us off our feet. Not that we believed it. Even the poor boy in the fair tale must have a hard time to believe it when he is suddently told he is a prince.

“Don’t forget,” our illustrious guest continued, “you simply have gold in your throats!”

But the mere thought of having to step on a stage was so frightening that the gold –hidden in the depths of our throats anyhow –was no temptation at all.

“Tomorrow is the festival for group singing. You have to take part in that contest. You simply have to!” She coaxed earnestly and fervently.

Pale with anticipated stage fright, we insisted: “Nnnno…nnnnever!”

My husband was aghast. He loved our music, he adored our singing; but to see his family on a stage –that was simply beyond the comprehension of an Imperial Austrian Navy offer and Baron.

“Madam, that is absolutely out of the question,” he said and meant it.

“Oh, not at all,” Lotte Lehmann said with a twinkle in her eyes. Finally, believe it or not, she had us all convinced. She herself placed a telephone call, which, at this late hour entered us in the contest.

After Lotte Lehmann had left with renewed expressions of her enthusiasm and best wishes for good luck for tomorrow, we woke up. What had we done?