I just returned from this year's Tuba Christmas concert. This is the tenth year they have had a Tuba Christmas in Southern Maryland although a Tuba Christmas has been around since the early Seventies when the first one was held in Rockefeller Center. There are now Tuba Christmases held throughout the country (and the world).
This year we had about twenty-five tuba players from Maryland and Northern Virginia, ranging in age from "twelve to seventy-four years and thirty-one months" (that last age was issued as a challenge to the mathematically disinclined). There were all types of tubas represented and I have no idea what most of them were, but there were tubas and euphoniums and sousaphones and there were fancy tubas and plain tubas and new tubas and old tubas. In previous years we have had Civil War tubas and homemade tubas, as well as a length of garden hose being used as a "tuba" in a demonstration.
It's a fun time and lasts about an hour. About a dozen Christmas carols are played, with the audience singing along in the second round of each song. (FYI: once you hear it on tubas, you will never think the same way about "Carol of the Bells" again.) In the past few years the audience has continuously grown so large that they have had to keep moving to larger and larger venues. This year about 500 people attended.
So what is about a Tuba Christmas that makes it an annual tradition? First, it's all about people wanting to share their music. They come from all walks of life and all degrees of skill -- one young player admitted to playing the euphonium for only three days, but I'm sure he has played some type of brass instrument before. For some of the players it's a family affair. The audience is both social and appreciative. Kids get to jingle bells during one number -- guess which one. And you get to sing -- some very well and others (like me) not very well.
The concert ended this year just before sunset. As we left, we could see the arching 2-mile bridge above the glittering Patuxent River, limned in a clear pink and orange sky. It just added to the good feeling. After the concert, a number of us stopped by my daughter's house so some could play with my grandson's ball python and others could ooh and aah at Christina's ever-growing Christmas village display (which really should have its own zip code by now).
It was a great day.
For a Tuba Christmas near you, check online at the Tuba Christmas site. They're scheduled at various times and locations this month. If a Tuba Christmas isn't in your area, you are always welcome to stop by Southern Maryland next year.