Keene State College students and renowned tuba players alike came together to play Christmas music in the Mable Brown Room this past Sunday, December 6.
Associate professor in the KSC music department James Chesebrough, who has been conducting Tuba Christmas on campus for the past ten years, took over for Doug Nelson, a highly esteemed KSC music director, who began the tradition in Keene 25 years ago.
The concert, titled Tuba Christmas, typically features the tuba, euphonium, sousaphone and baritone horn, among other low brass instruments. Players of these instruments come from all walks of life – young adults at KSC to professionals from across the country.
Audience members told Chesebrough, “It just wouldn’t feel like the holidays without Tuba Christmas.”
Chesebrough said, “There’s over 250 Tuba Christmases around the world each year, including five in New Hampshire. I believe that [Nelson] started the first one in northern New England when he brought it to Keene.”
Tuba Christmas is an international project, originating in New York City by famous tuba player Harvey Phillips, that has been going on for the last 42 years.
“Tubas typically sit in the back and don’t often get recognized,” Chesebrough said, “It’s nice that Christmas music was arranged for them, and gave tuba players the opportunity to get together and be the stars of the concert.”
One star at the Tuba Christmas concert was Derrick Hegeman, a KSC sophomore who has been playing the euphonium for seven years.
Hegeman, a music and low brass double major, said that this was his third Tuba Christmas and second at KSC.
“I think I would have gone even if I wasn’t required to for class,” Hegeman joked. “I think even after I graduate, I’ll be looking for Tuba Christmases, if not in Keene then wherever I end up.”
According to Chesebrough, the KSC music department puts on over 80 performances a year, but Tuba Christmas tends to get the most publicity.
Chesebrough said, “The crowds are amazing and this year’s was one of the largest I remember seeing.”
Two such audience members, Edward and Barbara Cartier, sat in the back of the packed Mable Brown Room and said that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Edward said, “I played contrabass in the sixties, so I recognize the instrument. [Tubas and contrabasses] are keyed differently, but I wanted to see and compare the difference. It was very nice. The tone was really great. It wasn’t too loud and it was just a very nice sound.”
Barbara added, “I loved it. I loved the mellow sound of that kind of instrument. I’m not very musical, so to me the sound is just nice. I don’t know too much about it, but I know I like it.”
The couple, residents of West Swanzey, said that they saw Tuba Christmas advertised in the paper.
“We moved up here in July to be close to our daughter and son-in-law. They both went to school at Keene State,” Barbara explained, “We’re happy to be near Keene State because there are always these really fun programs going on.”
Jill Giambruno can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org