Tracking down Julie Andrews in Salzburg, Sherpas in Nepal

Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas ABC, tomorrow, 9-10 p.m. Stars: Julie Andrews, Pl'acido Domingo, John Denver. Producer: Nick Vanoff. Director: Dwight Hemion. If ``The Sound of Music'' was your cup of sugar, you'll be happy to know that Julie Andrews is back in Salzburg in a Christmas special. As might be expected, it is warm and charming - and very sweet.

``The Sound of Christmas'' is the middle segment of ABC's full night of Christmas specials tomorrow night. There's a Muppet special at 8 o'clock (fine for Muppet fanatics and nobody else); then Julie Andrews and her friends come on at 9. And finally at 10 there's a delightful repeat of ``A Christmas Memory,'' the award-winning Truman Capote drama starring Geraldine Page, about Christmas in the rural South in the 1930s.

``The Sound of Christmas'' is basic-ally a Julie Andrews walking, singing, dancing tour of Salzburg, in which she is joined by Pl'acido Domingo, John Denver, and the King's Singers. Everybody, however, plays second fiddle to the scenery.

The stars sing duets with each other, act playful with each other, perform such holiday standards as ``Silent Night,'' ``Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,'' ``Edelweiss,'' ``Ave Maria,'' and ``The Twelve Days of Christmas.'' They visit the Saalbach ski lodge and Leopoldskron castle, as well as the church in which Julie, pardon me, Maria Von Trapp, was married.

I guess it's good, clean fun. And you will adore it if you go for things overwhelmingly cute and sugary. So, call me Scrooge. Sherpa PBS, tomorrow, 10:30-11 p.m., check local listings. Producer/director: Robert Godfrey.

In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest. With him was Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa guide.

Since that time, the Sherpas, the indigenous people of the region, have had to compensate for the loss of contact caused by the closed border between the lowlands of Nepal and the high plateaus of Tibet by acting as guides and porters for a growing horde of Western trekkers.

But the traditional life of the Sherpas (meaning ``they who came from the East'') and their centuries-old culture are managing to withstand the invasion of the West, although it is certainly going through many changes.

That's what this jewel of a film is all about. ``Sherpa'' tells the story of the emerging new-old life style of these people by tracing the life of Nima Tenzing, his wife, and their two children. This prizewinning film allows you to spend the day at home with the family, takes you to a Buddhist monastery with them, and to school with the children.

It reveals a culture that combines a medieval life style with elements of contemporary fads and trends. The Sherpas can be carrying baskets on their heads while wearing blue jean jackets.

The schools that Hillary built are educating the children, but at the same time introducing strange and foreign ideas into a fragile society.

``Sherpa'' is beautifully photographed and sensitively written. It is a tale of change, of evolution, and of what civilization likes to call progress.

As a matter of fact, it may make you wonder whether progress is all it's cracked up to be.

Arthur Unger is the Monitor's television critic.

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