If you’ve ever attended TubaChristmas, I’m convinced you’ll get a higher place in heaven. But not if you only go to the ones staged in Phoenix or Honolulu, or worse yet, indoors. Those are fun in their own way, but they won’t give you any kind of tuba cred.
TubaChristmas is an event best served cold. Very cold. Like it was yesterday in Denver. An outdoor concert in 7° — yes, that’s seven freakin degrees. Standing in snow. In the middle of the day. In the sunshine.
For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of living in America’s icebox, that’s like filling your Jacuzzi with ice and jumping in. For two hours. That’s like sunbathing on an ice floe all afternoon. That’s like being buried alive in a vat of Ben & Jerry’s that you can’t even eat because your lips don’t work.
Here’s me with my lips not working.
Here’s part of the raucous holiday audience, full of good TubaCheer.
TubaChristmas was conceived in 1974 as a tribute to the late artist and teacher William J. Bell, born on Christmas Day, 1902. The first TubaChristmas was held in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink on Sunday, December 22, 1974.
Traditional Christmas music performed at the first TubaChristmas was arranged by American composer Alec Wilder who ironically died on Christmas Eve, 1980. Wilder was a loyal supporter of every effort to improve the literature and public image of tubas and euphoniums and composed many solo and ensemble pieces for them. Tuba players love TubaChristmas because it’s the only time they ever get to play the melody. Ever.
Yesterday’s performance in Denver had about 150 hardy souls playing tubas, euphoniums, baritones and sousaphones. The youngest performer was 8
and the oldest was 88.
The guy behind him in the green got my vote for best costume — red pants, a green velvet Revolutionary war jacket and matching Santa hat.
If the weather would have been about twenty degrees warmer — up to a balmy 30° — at least 100 more performers would have been there. Probably more. Tuba players don’t get much opportunity to perform, singly or in tuba ensembles, so it takes a lot to keep them away.
They come from everywhere —schools, colleges, the community — for a two-hour rehearsal and then the concert.
I was fairly certain neither my camera nor my hands would work too well to videotape outside, so I shot a bit of the warm indoor rehearsal. As it turned out, tubas don’t work so well in cold temps either. Their valves freeze. At any given time during the concert, half the performers were in the neighboring coffee shops and businesses trying to thaw their instruments. They’d come back, and others would take their places to thaw in the indoor warmth. Out of 17 songs on the program, my sons played about four. My oldest told me that after one thaw, he was only out for a few seconds before he froze again. He also said it was the best TubaChristmas he’d ever been to. Tuba players are a resilient lot, and if they were frozen, they’d sing their parts. It is a group effort, after all.
So, here, for your holiday entertainment, melodious tubas in full force during rehearsal with completely warm instruments.
If you want to experience TubaChristmas for yourself, find one close to you, this year or next. They hold them every year and, in Denver at least, they never cancel because of weather. So bundle up and bring a thermos of something warm. Maybe TubaNog. Or Flaming TubaPunch.
Have you ever watched or performed TubaChristmas?