vulture asks

Vulture Asks: What’s Your Favorite Song From The Sound of Music?

This Thursday on NBC, the hills will be alive once again … with the sound of groaning. No matter how hard she tries (and no matter how good she sounds!), Carrie Underwood will never satisfy those of us who have the 1965 Julie Andrews film so ingrained in our hearts and minds. Argue all you want that they’re actually doing the original musical version (blah blah blah, the songs differ just a bit); if we’re talking The Sound of Music, we’re automatically comparing it to the film. Now that that’s straight, let’s all discuss our favorite songs before they are possibly destroyed forever.

Amanda Dobbins: The thing about acting out The Sound of Music when you’re an only child is that you get so tired — there are seven Von Trapps, and they insist on running around and hanging out of windows and stuff. If you are trying to play every part — as I did — you only make it through “Do Re Mi” before passing out. So “The Lonely Goatheard” was appealing to me from a logistical perspective; since it’s a puppet show, I was allowed to stand in one place. I’ve also never been a person who can remember all the words to songs, so the yodeling was helpful. (Pretty sure most of my age-5 performances consisted of me screeching “Yodel-laaaay-heeeeeee” for a couple of minutes and then moving on to the party scene.) And I mean, who didn’t want one of those insane gilded puppet theaters with the multiple backdrops and an actual balcony from which to control your “goats.” (Stuffed rabbit, in my case.) I tried to build one once. It was cardboard, and it fell over. In retrospect, my Sound of Music reenactments were not very good.

Kyle Buchanan: There are a couple of things that you don’t realize until you rewatch The Sound of Music as an adult. One is that Captain Von Trapp is the Mr. Darcy–est person who ever Mr. Darcy’d. Another is that the Baroness is actually the best: She’s kind of fierce, she has a fun sense of humor, and she’s super progressive with a gay best friend; if she wants to shoo Maria away with a little white lie, who can blame her? (If there’s anything we’ve learned from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle or from Ethan Hawke’s marriage to Uma Thurman, it’s that you should never trust the nanny.) But the real revelation that comes when you revisit this classic is that the stealth best song is actually “Something Good,” the gorgeously shot, gently sung love ballad that comes in the second half of the film. I am already preparing myself for Carrie Underwood to scream-belt her way through it.

Abraham Reisman: Gentle, fragile, bland: These words could be used to describe “Edelweiss,” but also to describe the kid who sang it in my local middle school’s production of The Sound of Music. Randall (the kid in question) was a prepubescent, slightly pudgy, borderline-albino gent who could barely remember his lines. No idea how he got cast as Captain von Trapp, but the director was stuck with him. I had already graduated when the show happened, but, like the hero in an action flick, the director brought me out of retirement for one last job: to teach Randall how to be a confident leading man. After weeks of my last-ditch tutoring (Stage Kissing 101, Rudimentary Line-Memorization, Basics of Not Crying Backstage), opening night was upon us. I wish I could say this story has a glamorous ending, with Randall blowing us all away once the lights went up. But no, he was truly abhorrent from his first scene. The poor guy was a mumbling black hole of self-doubt. And then, as the show ground through its final scenes, he sat alone onstage to perform “Edelweiss.” His voice kept cracking and he forgot most of the words (“Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you, uh, Edelweiss … “), but I found myself somehow enchanted. It fit perfectly, I think: At that moment, the von Trapps should be scared out of their minds! They’re defying the freaking Nazis in public! Most productions’ confident, bombastic renditions of the song sap away that vulnerability. There are many versions of that weird, nationalistic (one might even say quasi-Nazi) tune, but Randall’s will always be my favorite.

Patti Greco: I’ve never actually seen The Sound of Music — or at least not the whole thing — but “So Long, Farewell” is my favorite song by default, because I once sang the Louisa part (“I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly”) in an elementary school play. I was maybe 8 or 9, which means I was still a giant ham and probably more excited-nervous than scared-nervous to take the stage. I remember rehearsing a lot at home. I tried my lines with vibrato and without vibrato; with hand gestures (to indicate flitting and flying, of course), and without. I remember the afternoon of the show itself, my mom’s friend came over. She and this friend were brainstorming names for their nonexistent cleaning business (a detail I surely wouldn’t recall if this weren’t such a pivotal moment in my life) and I kept interrupting. I needed to go over some last-minute performance tweaks. “Should I do it like this? What about like this? Like this? This?” Oh, Little Patti, if I could just travel back in time, give you a hug, and let you know that none of it mattered! But it was a big deal to me then, my first solo. Truth be told, I will still sing my verse from time to time — meaning whenever The Sound of Music is mentioned — and, when I do, I feel wistful. That solo was also my last.

Margaret Lyons: After “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Edelweiss” is probably the best-loved waltz in America, no? And for good reason: It’s so gentle and timeless that people often think it’s a legit folk song. I was in a chorus when I was a kid (well, I was in many choruses, because that’s how I do), and we were of course singing an arrangement of “Edelweiss,” which I think is a legal requirement for all children’s musical ensembles. Anyway, my teacher — whom I worshipped — made a big deal about the vowel sounds in “blossom of snow / may you bloom and grow,” because that first blo syllable can get really gross and horrible if it’s too “blaaahh.” (We referenced The Nanny in discussing what sound to avoid.) You want your mouth to be like a circle, not like a smile — that’s how you get sloppy, stretched-out sounds. I think about this every time I hear the song, obviously, but I also think about it whenever anyone’s voice bothers me, which is pretty often. Think of that “blossom” sound as a beautiful bubble floating out of your mouth, people! Round sounds. You want round sounds.

Lindsey Weber: You can really learn a lot about someone based on their favorite things. Really, Maria? (Or Mother Superior, who sings this song in the musical’s version.) “Raindrops on roses”? “Bright copper kettle”? Someone get this baroness an iPad or something. I’m mostly joking. What’s nice about Maria’s listicle (ah, just imagine if the song were BuzzFeed’ified: “15 of Maria von Trapps Favorite Things”) is how each thing she mentions sums up more of a feeling than a specific possession. Sure, I don’t want kettles or mittens for Christmas per se, but I’ll take a cup of hot tea and cozying up in a blanket while I watch snowflakes fall outside. “Brown paper packages” are hidden treasures; “crisp apple steudels” are recipes passed down from your great-great-grandmother; “girls in white dresses” are just waiting to roll down a hill and cover themselves in grass stains. “My Favorite Things” happens to be my favorite song from The Sound of Music, and that’s not just an excuse for a clever headline.

Now it’s your turn. Did we forget your favorite? Are you a secret fan of Saul Chaplin’s “I Have Confidence” (a song that appears just in the film version)? Or are you pissed we left off “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” because of the synchronized gazebo dancing? Tell us.

What’s Your Favorite Sound of Music Song?