The lost nun
by Peter Blight
I recently acquired the new (and fabulously mastered) 50th Anniversary Sound of Music soundtrack CD, and I thought it might be an interesting exercise to document exactly who sings on each track. Most of us know by now that Christopher Plummer (who took singing lessons and desperately wanted his real voice used in the movie) was deemed not quite 'on the money' for the final cut, and was dubbed (brilliantly too) by a singer named Bill Lee. For many many years this was never made known to the public, nor the fact that Peggy Wood, herself a fantastic singer in her day, was vocally replaced by Margery McKay - another wonderful performance and a stunningly perfect dubbing job. But what of the singers who sang their own parts AND appeared on screen, and yet were still uncredited? Admittedly there were not very many of these in The Sound of Music - but I'm sure there's one character you'll remember as soon as I say "nun wearing glasses". Sister Catherine, who joins in with the Reverend Mother and four of her friends to sing "Maria", was played by a singer called Ada Beth Lee. She sings some lines of the song solo, and therefore is evident on the soundtrack album. I'm sharing this information with you because it took me ages to work out, first of all, who each nun was, and second, who played them. Google was an enormous help... but why the secrecy about Ada Beth? The other nuns' names were far easier to determine - Portia Nelson, Anna Lee, Marni Nixon (of course) and Evadne Baker. But Ada Beth? Her name appears nowhere. Ada Beth died in 1992, and an obituary I found tells us her husband was none other than Bill Lee (who passed away in 1980). Bill's name was suppressed from The Sound of Music credits everywhere including, and most pointedly, the soundtrack album - Robert Wise and the producers very evidently wanted the world to believe that the Captain's singing voice really was Christopher Plummer. Mind you this was a practice common in Hollywood musicals - Marni Nixon's great off-camera work, for instance, went unlauded for many years. But Ada Beth? Could it be her name was hidden from view lest a savvy viewer or writer got wind of the "Lee" association and blew the whistle on the whole deceptive business? I'm tempted to think so! Please take extra note of the Lees and their great work the next time you see the movie.