Last Saturday, the Christmas spirit took musical form at Baltimore’s Harborplace Amphitheater where over 200 tuba and euphonium players converged for the city’s 28th annual TubaChristmas event. To people standing up front, it felt like the group had enough combined lung power to rattle the windows off of the nearby shops as they played classic melodies like “Silent Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” The mild December afternoon invited hundreds to gather and appreciate this unusual spectacle, a concert that resembled an enormous brass-wielding group of Christmas carolers.
TubaChristmas was founded in 1974 by musician Harvey Phillips as a dedication to his late tuba instructor William Bell, who was born on Christmas Day, 1902. It started at New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza and has expanded to 12 countries since. Phillips, who himself passed away in October of last year, was largely responsible for a massive resurgence in the popularity of the instrument over the past four decades.
Lending a portion of their band to the concert were Baltimore’s Marching Ravens, playing in full game-day garb from the back several rows of the amphitheater. The volunteer group is the largest musical organization associated with the NFL.
“The Marching Ravens have been doing this event in Baltimore for years to help support local activity,” said the band’s operations director Dave Wurzel. ”Now it’s international, where cities all over the world play Christmas music on tubas sometime in December. Next week there’s a huge one at the Kennedy Center with probably at least five hundred contributors. Frederick and Philadelphia are today, New York City is in a week or two.”
With well over 200 cities now hosting this event annually, it seems that TubaChristmas will continue to grow on tradition, carrying on Phillips’ passion for music as well as his Christmas spirit.
TRR Commentary by Michael Parsons