Nothing Says Happy Holidays Like 125 Tubas Playing Christmas Carols

tubachristmas-16_23095141963_o.jpgImagine dozens and dozens of tubas playing Christmas tunes in unison. It sounds a little weird and maybe a hoax, but Tuba Christmas is most definitely real. The free concert begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 9 at the south end of the St. Louis Galleria near the entrance to Macy’s.

This year marks the 44th annual celebration of Christmas with tubas. The international event originated in 1974 when Harvey Phillips created it as a tribute to his tuba teacher, William Bell. The first Tuba Christmas was held in Rockafeller Plaza Ice Rink in New York City.

tubachristmas-24_23639578611_o.jpgNowadays, you’ll find Tuba Christmas concerts in nearly every big city and even some small ones.

Tuba players are a different breed. The instrument requires a bit of strength to hold upright, and it takes quite a bit of wind power to generate the notes. It’s not a dainty instrument like a piccolo. Nevertheless, many St. Louisans play the tuba, as is evident at Tuba Christmas, where you’ll see nearly 125 tubaists honking out “Silent Night,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and other favorites.

Hiram Martin at Tuba Christmas.

One local tuba player who participates in the event began playing the instrument at a young age. Hiram Martin is a retired area high school bandleader who loves golf, fishing and his tuba.

“I love playing the bass notes!” Martin said. He started out on a much smaller instrument in grade school, the violin. He also plays a bit of piano.

“My band instructor encouraged me to take up the tuba,” Martin said. “One reason was there weren’t many kids interested in it, so there wouldn’t be much competition!”

That’s when he hoisted the 30-lb. beast of an instrument for the first time. He was hooked, and has played it ever since. When Tuba Christmas comes around each year, Martin and thousands of other tuba players around the world will join together for their annual holiday extravaganza.

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Author: Bill Motchan

I am a freelance writer and photographer. For fun, I play golf and listen to Little Feat. I am also on a longterm quest to learn to play blues and jazz piano and organ.