They say that the first generation lives it, the second forgets it and the third brings it back. Sofia von Trapp is living proof of that.
Von Trapp and her three siblings are the great-grandchildren of The Sound of Music's Georg and Maria. The Portland-based quartet started touring internationally when Sofia's younger brother, August, was just 7 years old.
The von Trapps' 15-year run ends in Portland this spring, culminating in a sing-along Sound of Music at Cinema 21 starting this Friday, and one last concert at Star Theater. It's a tour that's lasted over half of Sofia's lifespan.
"My oma [grandmother] is coming," Sofia says, "She moved to Vermont from Germany, like my family did, but she still wears a dirndl."
The von Trapps did not actually escape with rucksacks over the Alps, she explains. They took the train to Italy and got into the U.S. on a work visa to play a show in Pennsylvania. After touring the States for about 20 years, Georg, Maria and their 10 (not seven) children settled in Vermont and established a home, which Sofia's uncle still maintains as a tourist attraction. She and her siblings grew up in Montana, after her father fell in love with the Big Sky state on a motorcycle trip through the Rocky Mountains.
"I see my family's story in three ways," she says, "there's what really happened, those stories passed down from our oma and opa. The Sound of Music is a condensed, American version. The four of us are this third generation of von Trapps, just doing our thing."
An international singing career was never the plan, Sofia says. "It wasn't a thing where we were pushed into, or even encouraged to sing," she says. "Our parents can't sing at all—I don't even think they listen to music."
When their grandfather—Kurt in the movie, who was named Werner in real life—had a stroke, the young von Trapps recorded a song to cheer him up in the hospital.
"We sent it to our opa, and people started saying how good it was," Sofia says, then we got booked to open for George Winston at this really random festival in Montana. The next year, we were touring overseas. The Hidden City in Beijing. Opera houses in Europe. I was 13." Now she's 28.
When the von Trapps met Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini on a 2011 trip to Portland, he was magnetic, says Sofia. That's the reason they decided to make Portland their home base.
"We completely fell in love with each other," she says. "It's like a match made in heaven. We had never heard of Pink Martini, then we sang at the Christmas tree lighting with them and he asked us back to record. Two weeks turned into two months, then two years."
Sofia's two sisters are studying foreign policy and business at Portland State University, but none of the four have finished a degree or pursued any other career.
"We met Pink Martini, and how can you not be swept away," Sofia says. "We've been doing this for more than half our lives. Now we're ready to do life."
If all else fails, August von Trapp has a cow in Rwanda to fall back on. "We did sing the national anthem for the president of Rwanda," Sofia says. "And Paul [Kagame] gave my brother a cow. It's still in Rwanda, just chillin' out."