Local musicians from various areas and ages congregate in Mabel Brown Room to perform holiday music

Kateland Dittig

Equinox Staff


Christmas spirit filled the Mabel Brown Room on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 as tuba players from all around the New England area performed joyful carols.

The tradition continued to live on as the twenty-first annual TubaChristmas took place promptly at 1 p.m.

The entire stage was jam packed with around 50 artists who were prepared to blow on their brass instruments and put on an engaging show in hopes of putting people in the holiday spirit.

The jolly performers, dressed in festive attire, ranged from the youngest of 11-years-old to over 75. Some of the recitalists came from Keene Middle School while others were retired and partaking just for pleasure.

Despite the age difference, all took deep breaths and began the concert.

These musicians are truly talented as the entire production was put together within only three hours.

All of the tuba artists came together at 11 a.m., rehearsed for only an hour, had a break, then performed in front of a full audience.

The orchestra presented 19 songs including classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and many more.  The crowd was invited to sing along. The players would do two rounds of each song, that way the spectators were allowed to listen and enjoy the music the first round, and then sing their hearts out the second time around.

Many got into it as sections of the audience would harmonize and the traditional music really came to life.

Viewer Stephanie Lombardo said, “I like how they played twice so those of us who like to be drowned out when we sing could really give it our all and enjoy it. It was a great way to start the beginning of the season.”

This whole event is known around the world. The late Paul Lavalle conducted the premiere TubaChristmas on Dec. 22, 1974 in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink.

It was a tribute to one of the world’s greatest tuba players and teacher William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day in 1902.

American composer Alec Wilder arranged the music. Decades later, strangers still come together to pay respect and acknowledge the talented artists.

The message is to be proud and embrace that particular brass instrument and compositions.

There is actually a website where tuba folks can find local TubaChristmas performances in their area and participate as well as network.

Senior Sean Meagher, the only tuba major at Keene State College, said, “It’s not everyday you get to play with a bunch of tuba players. It’s really cool to have all these talented musicians come and play these traditional parts together. We’re all playing these carols and creating a fun environment.”

Doug Nelson, the original man who brought TubaChristmas to Keene many years ago, was present during the show.

He spoke of how he started the concert in the Colony Mill, but as it continued to grow larger and larger every year, there wasn’t enough space, therefore it was moved to the student center.

TubaChristmas Conductor and Coordinator Jim Chesebrough said that his favorite part is “seeing who comes out to watch and be part of the audience. It’s not something you think people would come to watch, but every year we have faculty members, parents, students, and people who are pretty high up in the administration here, just because they say it puts them in the holiday spirit.”

Freshman Jack R. Anderson agreed that it got him excited for the upcoming holidays.

He did find it to be somewhat bland, though, as he said, “I think there were too many tubas in one room, all the tones melted together. For the most part there could have been more variety, but then again it was a tuba ensemble.”

Even though he said it was a wee bit dull, Anderson commented on how the conductor was cracking jokes, which made it more entertaining.

Freshman Dani Edwards was thoroughly amused. Edwards said, “It is especially hard to get into the Christmas spirit in college due to all the final exams and homework, so it was relieving to take a break and listen to some classic songs.”

TubaChristmas is a crowd favorite that takes place on the first Sunday of December. Anyone who can read a musical part and isn’t afraid to perform it all in one day is invited to join next year.

If playing an instrument isn’t your thing, then just stop by to benefit from the tuba beats. Senior Joe McConaughy said, “It was a great way to preserve a tradition and it’s a cool little quirk about Keene. Overall it was wonderful and I hope that they keep doing it.”

Kateland Dittig can be contacted at kdittig@ksc.mailcruiser.com

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