Julie Andrews returns to host 'Great Performances' on PBS

Julie Andrews will host PBS' Great Performances

Julie Andrews will host PBS' Great Performances "From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2014." Photo Credit: PBS

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The sound of music still warms Julie Andrews' heart, particularly on New Year's Day.

The Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Kennedy Center Honors recipient has been the host of the Vienna Philharmonic's traditional holiday concert of Strauss selections on PBS' "Great Performances" for four of the past five years. She returns to the Musikverein to preside over the program for the fifth time Wednesday (2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., WNET/13), as Daniel Barenboim conducts the orchestra. The Vienna State Opera also will perform again.

"I'm a huge fan," Andrews says of Barenboim, who also was the conductor the first time she succeeded Walter Cronkite in hosting the special in 2009. "I couldn't be more thrilled, and what a kudo for PBS that he's doing it. It'll be a good one."

Andrews gets to tour Vienna sites in the course of the show, but she knows its overall effect is very dependent on the music chosen. "Of course, it's mostly dedicated to the Strauss family," she says, "but sometimes, it's also to do with Haydn and the fact that he lived there, or that Mozart went there to visit somebody.

"They always finish with 'The Blue Danube Waltz,' so last year, we did a moment where I was standing by the Danube [River]. Those kinds of things are lovely, as are the castles and the homes and the museums that we visit."

Since she prepares for the concert while celebrating the holidays with her family, Andrews allows "it's a logistics thing. Just before Christmas, I'm in Los Angeles. For the second year in a row, I helped the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the L.A. Philharmonic -- of which I'm a very proud board member -- with their children's concert. The kids are bused in from areas that are in need, and they sing Christmas songs and just have a ball."

After Carrie Underwood starred in NBC's live, much-watched production of "The Sound of Music" last month, ABC gave Andrews' classic movie version its annual holiday season telecast. That film marks its 50th anniversary in 2015, but the same milestone is being reached in 2014 by the Disney favorite for which Andrews won her Academy Award, "Mary Poppins."

As part of the celebration, the movie has just made its debut on Blu-ray, and its soundtrack is being added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

"It's sort of unbelievable, slightly mind-boggling to me," Andrews says of the "Poppins" anniversary. "It's not 50 years, is it? It doesn't feel like it. I lost 20 years somewhere. I think this thing called life got in the way."

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