'The Sound of Music' Soundtrack Turns 50: Inside the Original Recording Sessions

Sound of Music
Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment/Legacy Recordings

Julie Andrews starring in "The Sound of Music."

The hills came alive on March 2, 1965, when RCA released a soundtrack to a new 20th Century Fox film that was having its New York premiere the very same night. Eight days later, The Sound of Music had its star-studded Hollywood premiere and by March 20, the LP had debuted on the Billboard album chart, reaching the No. 1 spot on Nov. 13, 1965.

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To commemorate the movie's 50th anniversary, RCA/Legacy Recordings is issuing a newly remastered and expanded edition of the soundtrack on March 10, containing previously unreleased orchestral cues as well as all vocal performances. The set also features new introductory notes written by Julie Andrews and Theodore S. Chapin, president and executive director of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

In addition to the CD release, Analog Spark/Razor & Tie will issue the 50th anniversary edition and the original album on 180-gram vinyl. The latter will also be available on SACD.

The seven actors who portrayed the von Trapp children in the film all recorded their songs for the movie and those are the tracks that appear on the album -- there were no separate recording sessions for the LP. Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich, tells Billboard, "Everything was done live with a full orchestra and Irwin Kostal conducting and [associate producer] Saul Chaplin supervising. All seven of us stood side by side at seven microphone stands and for the songs involving Julie, she was in a small, separate sound booth near us."

Some of the young cast members also spent time in that booth. "My 'So-So' was recorded alone in the booth," says Heather Menzies, who played Louisa. "Julie was there for all of our sessions. She would always put her hand on her head and point the other arm extended to the ceiling during a really high note."

The songs were recorded before filming started. "We went into the recording studio way before our first day of shooting," confirms Angela Cartwright, who played Brigitta. "We had many, many days and weeks of rehearsals, and that was very smart. We knew those songs inside and out by the time we sung our first note."

The songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein held different degrees of difficulty for the cast. While some cite "Do-Re-Mi" as the easiest to sing, Kym Karath, who portrayed Gretl when she was five, tells Billboard she had the opposite experience. "The straight version was no problem at all. But when we were singing it in the carriage, I kept wanting to sing everybody's part. The whole thing went together melodically for me so it was hard for me to just sing 'Do.'"

When asked by Billboard to name their favorite song from the soundtrack, the von Trapp actors came up with different choices.

Menzies: "'So Long, Farewell' because it was so easy to sing and fun to perform. I loved the dance up the staircase -- I was able to use some of my ballet training."

Cartwright: "'My Favorite Things' always makes me smile. It is such a joyful melody. I love 'Edelweiss' and 'So Long, Farewell' too."

Karath: "'My Favorite Things' was really fun to sing. I love the melody and the happiness of it. As a little girl I loved to sing the words, 'Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.'"

Hammond's selection was not performed by the children: "'Something Good,' written specifically for the film, because it carries a powerful message, plus it is beautifully sung."

Fred Bronson is the author of The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook, which is also newly-reissued in a 50th anniversary edition.