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The Sound of Music: A Drink with Jam and Bread

 01 Aug 2018  Blog

The Sound of Music is one of the most famous musicals in history - partly because it's based on the true story of how the von Trapp family bravely escaped from the Nazi occupation of Austria during World War II.

Originally a Rodgers and Hammerstein stage show, it was released as a film in 1965 and was an instant box office hit, grossing $286 million worldwide - a new world record at the time. It won five Academy awards, including Best Picture.

The musical is based on Maria von Trapp's 1949 memoirs, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, describing their flight from Nazi-occupied Austria after they rallied against their oppressors, putting their lives in danger.

Starring Julie Andrews as the former nun Maria, who became stepmother to seven children, the film also won two Golden Globe awards, including best actress for Andrews and best picture. The accolades were endless, including an award from the Writers' Guild of America for Best Written American Musical.


Cast and plot

Christopher Plummer stars as widower Georg von Trapp, a retired Austrian Navy officer, who is bringing up his seven children alone following his wife's death from scarlet fever. Life at the von Trapp household is regimented and emotionless until he enlists the services of novice nun, Maria, as a governess.

Maria, who had trained at Vienna's State Teachers' College of Progressive Education, was employed initially for 10 months as governess to the von Trapps. However, her carefree, happy demeanour brought joy to the household and Georg fell in love with her.

When he proposed, Maria was torn between her present life and her religious calling, but according to her memoirs, after Georg said she had become a "second mother" to the children, she said yes, as she loved them dearly.

Originally, Hollywood actresses Grace Kelly and Shirley Jones were in the running for the role of Maria, but when director Robert Wise and screenwriter Ernest Lehman saw footage of Andrews in Mary Poppins, they immediately snapped her up for the movie.

As the film progresses, dark clouds are gathering after Captain von Trapp is offered a commission in the German Navy and is told to report to the Naval base at Bremerhaven. He is strongly opposed to the Nazi ideology, but turning down the commission puts his life at risk and the family know they must escape from Austria immediately.

In the film, the escape is a daring trek across Switzerland after the whole family flees during a music festival. In reality, the family went on a musical tour to America, but never intended returning to Austria, settling in the States instead.

After World War II, the family launched their charity, "Trapp Family Austrian Relief Inc", to send food and clothing back to their struggling countrymen in Austria.



The Sound of Music is filled with many wonderful songs, including the famous title song, Climb Every Mountain, Edelweiss, Do-Re-Mi and My Favourite Things.

One of the most memorable is Do-Re-Mi, which was Maria's way of teaching the children how to enjoy themselves. First, she makes them new, colourful outfits out of old curtains, before taking them cycling and enjoying fun outdoors.


She uses Do-Re-Mi to teach the children the notes of the scale, as they weren't permitted to sing after their mother's death, since their father deemed it a frivolity. The lyrics are a clever play on the solfège - the collective notes that make up the musical scale.

Maria substitutes nouns and verbs for each note, so they are easier for the children to remember. Instead of singing, "do, re, mi", she teaches them, "doe, ray, me" - a female deer, ray "a drop of golden sun" and "me, a name I call myself."

When Maria gets to the solfège symbol, "ti", she substitutes "tea, a drink with jam and bread." This would have been an easily-remembered refreshment, since tea with jam and bread was a popular light meal throughout the 20th century.


Jam sandwich origins

Jam sandwiches were said to have originated in the UK in the 19th century, particularly among the working classes, as they were a relatively cheap, yet nutritious way of feeding the family - due to the fresh fruit. They were also something children would enjoy, since they were sweet.

Jam sandwiches had become popular for lunch, or as a light snack, from the late 19th century. This could have been because the taxes on sugar were lifted in 1880, so it became much cheaper to make jam, as all that was needed was fresh fruit and sugar.

In addition, the repeal of the corn laws meant cheap imports into the UK, so by 1872, the first British mill was churning out cheap white flour. Suddenly, white loaves of bread were available to the poor urban population and they became a staple of their diet, either coated in "dripping" as a savoury snack or covered in jam as a sweet treat.

The custom of drinking tea dates back to the 16th century in Europe, so Maria's song about "tea, a drink with jam and bread", was very apt, since this was considered "afternoon tea" and was a popular snack that everyone could relate to.


Make your own jam

There's nothing better than growing your own fresh fruit to produce the best-tasting jam, with strawberries and raspberries being popular choices.

Remember that the birds will be trying to get to the fruit before you do - so to make sure they don't spoil your crop, use Henry Cowls' fruit cages and bird netting to protect your berries.

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