More cowbell? Meh… How about more tuba?!
So sorry my kid had to miss this newly discovered event in our world: TubaChristmas. Started in 1974 by Harvey Phillips to honor his teacher, William Bell, (festive name), who was born on Christmas Day (festive birthday!) in 1902, this thing has really grown over the years – from its first performance in Rockefeller Plaza (with arrangements written by Alec Wilder, a songwriter of whom I am a great fan, and who himself died on Christmas day in 1980) this event has spread all across the US. (My cursory research indicates TC happens in a whole lotta states, although I can’t say exactly how many.) There were over 400 tuba players present for this year’s event in Chicago just this afternoon, and I can only guess NYC was not to be outdone by the Second City.
I was lucky to find a shopping mall within a half hour’s drive which hosted a respectable turnout. My kid has been on track for playing the tuba since he was a mere toddler (I’d bring him to my shows with the Prohibition Orchestra of Chicago and it was likely there that the seed was planted as he did his primitive up-and-down baby dance to the catchy two-beat tuba patterns), and he’s asked for a tuba for Christmas this year too – so had he still been here, this mighta been the main event of the year. Instead, this was the day he flew out to be with his father for the break.
But that’s ok. I considered today to have been a reconnaissance mission. Now I know what this thing is all about. Elihu is still such a tiny guy, I’m not quite sure if he’ll be able to join them by next year anyhow. But he does seem pretty motivated. My kid, it seems, really is all about the bass…
A little bit of O Little Town of Bethlehem
Hard to imagine I was ever a film major, huh? At least this’ll give you a feel for the event.
I was surprised that this year Elihu created a list for Santa. He’s so earnest, I don’t think it was created for my audience, but still… ya never know. Note the part (by my fingers) where he writes “baritone horn ?”, then right after “scrap that, Tuba!” !!
Hungry for more? Here’s a piece on the event from the local paper… story and pics (taken with a ‘real’ camera) by Megan Farmer, the press gal seen in the post above.
Post Script: I’m just beginning to learn about this subculture of tubas, and would like to share this writing of Jim Self, a premier concert tuba player from Los Angeles. He talks about playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and mentions in it his visit to the city’s TubaChristmas (yes, all one word). This is the tip of the tuba iceberg… As with everything in life, there’s so much more to it than one realizes at first…