Climb Ev'ry Mountain

:For Judith Durham's 1971 album of the same name, see Climb Ev'ry Mountain (album).

"Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. It is sung at the close of the first act by the Mother Abbess. It is themed as an inspirational piece, to encourage people to take every step toward attaining their dreams.


This song shares inspirational overtones with the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel. They are both sung by the female mentor characters in the shows, and are used to give strength to the protagonists in the story, and both are given powerful reprises at the end of their respective shows. As Oscar Hammerstein II was writing the lyrics, it developed its own inspirational overtones along the lines of an earlier Hammerstein song, "There's a Hill Beyond a Hill". He felt that the metaphors of climbing mountains and fording streams better fitted Maria's quest for her spiritual compass. The muse behind the song was Sister Gregory, the head of Drama at Rosary College in Illinois. The letters that she sent to Hammerstein and to Mary Martin, the first Maria von Trapp on Broadway, described the parallels between a nun's choice for a religious life and the choices that humans must make to find their purpose and direction in life. When she read the manuscript of the lyrics, she confessed that it "drove [her] to the Chapel" because the lyrics conveyed a "yearning that … ordinary souls feel but cannot communicate."

Although this song has parallels with "You'll Never Walk Alone," the song shares musical similarities with the song "Something Wonderful" from The King and I. Both songs are played at a similar broad tempo, and both songs have accompaniments punctuated by heavy chords in the orchestral score.

The song has often been sung by operatically trained voices in professional stage productions. In the original Broadway production it was sung by Patricia Neway, in the original London production it was sung by Constance Shacklock, and in the original Australian production it was sung by Rosina Raisbeck.

In the original stage play, the Mother Abbess sings the song at the end of the first act. When Ernest Lehman wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation, he shifted the scene so that this song would be the first major song of the second act. When Robert Wise and his film crew were filming this scene, Peggy Wood had some reservations about the words, which she felt were too "pretentious." So they filmed Peggy Wood in silhouette, against the wall of the set for the Mother Abbess' office. Peggy Wood's singing voice is dubbed by Margery MacKay, the wife of the rehearsal pianist Harper MacKay, as Wood was not able to sing the high notes of the song. Rodgers wrote the piece in the key of C, with a modulation towards the end of the piece into the key of D flat, making the last note that the Mother Abbess sings an A flat (Ab5), though in the film it was sung a tone lower. With the popularity of the stage play it would seem Peggy Wood was not alone. Given the range of the piece and the average age of the actor playing Mother Abbess, the oldest character in the story, the song has proven daunting for many actresses over the years.

Other versions

  • 1959: Tony Bennett had a minor hit single (#74) of the song
  • 1960: Andy Williams on his album The Village of St. Bernadette
  • 1990: The Fleetwoods on their album, The Best of The Fleetwoods
  • 1961: Welsh singer Shirley Bassey, as part of a double A-sided single with "Reach for the Stars", which reached #1 in the UK and remained on the charts for 18 weeks
  • 1971: Judith Durham recorded and released a version as the first single from her album, Climb Ev'ry Mountain
  • 1984: Tammy Wynette performed the song at the Summer Olympics.
  • 1989: Sissel Kyrkjebø sang a Norwegian version, "Se Over Fjellet" on the album Soria Moria
  • 1992: Alex Burrall's version in the movie The Jacksons: An American Dream, portraying Michael Jackson (6–8 years of age) at a school pageant show
  • 2000: Christina Aguilera on her concert DVD My Reflection
  • 2003: Guy Sebastian's interpretation on Australian Idol season 1 when he performed it on the 1960s theme night (recorded it for the B-side of his #1 single "All I Need Is You")
  • 2013: Australian operatic mezzo-soprano Jacqui Dark for ABC Classics as part of a compilation album, I Dreamed a Dream: The Hit Songs of Broadway
  • 2015: Jordan Smith on the season nine finale of The Voice
  • 2016: Barbra Streisand recorded the song as a duet with Jamie Foxx for her 2016 album Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway.