The Sound of Music’s Worst Song – Random Musings

Note: In this post, I refer to The Sound of Music as a “movie.” Yes, I am aware that it is a musical and was a musical before it was a movie. Yes, I have seen both movie and musical multiple times. The song and its placement is the same in both, and since I am more familiar with the movie and I would imagine that is the case for most people, I am looking at this scene as it appears in the film. 


keep-calm-and-climb-every-mountain-3

Okay, before you begin to reach for your battle gear, let me say: I LOVE The Sound of Music. It’s easily in my top ten favorite movies of all time. I’ve seen it more times than I can count, and I could probably quote the whole thing if given some time to do a few more rewatches.

But there’s one part of The Sound of Music that’s always set my teeth on edge. It’s the scene where Maria has just left the Von Trapps and returned to the abbey, where she tells the Mother Abbess that she might be in love with the Captain. Maria is looking for advice, and at first she gets it – the Mother Abbess tells her that she has to go back to the family, she can’t run away from her problems. But the main piece of advice is of course supposed to be delivered through song, this being a musical and whatnot. Therefore, we must consider the Mother Abbess’s main piece of advice to be the song she sings, which takes us to “Climb Every Mountain.” And what does this song tell Maria to do?

Climb every mountain
Search, high and low
Follow every byway
Every path you know

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream

Ugh.

Basically, the Mother Abbess just handed Maria a musical Hallmark card. Every line of this song is one cliché after the next. Worst of all, it does absolutely nothing to help Maria.

True, the song does fit in nicely with the ending of the movie, where the family literally has to climb mountains to escape Austria, but that only makes the song worse. It almost sounds like it was written solely to be a nice little cap on the story, and then they realized they’d have to include it in the middle of the movie somewhere for the song itself to make sense.

If someone came to you and told you that they might be in love with someone and they were afraid to face this person, what advice would you give them? I’m serious – what would you say? Remove this scene and the song from your mind and imagine that Maria is coming to you instead of the Mother Abbess. What would you tell her?

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t tell her to go climb a mountain and follow a rainbow. I’d most likely get a blank stare of confusion back. And, come to think of it, we never see Maria’s response or really any reaction to this song. Because well, how do you react to it? I’ve always imagined Maria saying afterwards “Well, that’s lovely, Reverend Mother, but what should I say to the Captain?”

Even the song itself isn’t very good, especially when you compare it to the others. It’s slow, it’s uninteresting, and, depending on my mood, unbearably screechy. Unlike the other songs in the musical, which say something different as the song develops, “Climb Every Mountain” just repeats itself, except louder and in a different key. “But wait!” you protest. “Doesn’t ‘Edelweiss’ also repeat itself?” Not musically or thematically, no. “Edelweiss” is such a meaningfully subtle song that it fits in well with the scenes in which it appears. It’s true to the story and characters. It is a song that could only be from The Sound of Music. 

“Climb Every Mountain” has no character. There’s no place for it. It’s so generic that you could honestly put it within any scene and it still wouldn’t make that much sense. Most of all, it’s a drop in the level of sophistication in songwriting, particularly lyrically, that we’ve seen from all the other songs in this movie. The other songs are masterfully crafted both lyrically and musically. But not this one. It’s almost like Rodgers and Hammerstein were told they needed to write a song at the last minute and this is what they came up with in their sleep. And the person playing the Mother Abbess in the movie was told she needed to make it as operatic and screechy as possible to give the song some sort of character, even if it was painful.

I kid you not – when I looked at “Climb Every Mountain” on lyric websites, this is how the last verse was transcribed. (Click here if you don’t believe me.)

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find, your dre-e-e-e-e-e-e-eam!

That’s 8 e’s. And an exclamation point.

Now, before you all begin conspiring to kill me, let me say again: I love The Sound of Music. This does not ruin the experience of watching the movie for me. It just makes it temporarily unbearable, is all.

And if you like the song, fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for me personally, I don’t see what purpose the song serves to the story, characters, or overall theme of the film. I mean, is the theme of The Sound of Music follow your dreams? Is that really what it is?

I mean, I guess you could argue that is the theme in some general, generic sense, but I think the movie goes deeper than that. The other songs go deeper than that. Even the cutsie, fun songs which don’t really go too deep go deeper than “follow every rainbow till you find your dream.”

Ugh. 

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