Tubachristmas concert is here on Saturday
By BILL MEG0 firstname.lastname@example.org December 4, 2012 11:14PM
Heather Eidson/Staff Photographer
Updated: January 6, 2013 9:39AM
There are many things I like about Christmas, such as trimming our franken-tree made from several different garage sale trees, baking rosky cookies, and eating Christmas morning breakfast by the fire. Some say that special holiday mood begins with the post-Thanksgiving shopping mania but, for me, what really begins the season is Tubachristmas.
The Tubachristmas concert, as you may know, is the creation of the legendary tubist Harvey Phillips. It is open to all musicians who play instruments of the tuba family, such as the tuba, the Sousaphone, the bright sounding baritone, and the more mellow euphonium. Also welcome are players of older instruments like the hélicon, the ophicleide, its predecessor the serpent, and the double bell euphonium mentioned in Seventy-six Trombones.
I’ve never seen a double bell euphonium, whose smaller bell was used to play higher, brighter notes as well as to store the player’s white gloves when they were not being worn, so I hope somebody brings one this year.
Phillips created Tubachristmas in 1974 to honor his teacher, William Bell, whose birthday was Christmas Day. Bell had quite a career. Originally with John Phillip Sousa, he played with the Cincinnati Symphony until Arturo Toscanini, who had just hired violinist Mischa Mischakoff away from the Chicago Symphony, chose him to play with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
When Toscanini had a run in with NBC management, a common occurrence even then, Leopold Stokowski, the passionate, theatrical, baton-less conductor briefly took over for him. Stokowski, who had also been the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony, took Bell with him when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia suggested that Stokowski form an orchestra for the enjoyment of the common man, the New York City Symphony.
At Stokowski’s invitation, Bell also performed popular versions of Tubby the Tuba and the song that had been a Rudy Vallee number two hit in 1931, When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba (down in Cuba). Several versions of both songs are on You Tube. Trust me, Yuba will grow on you. William Bell spent the last 10 years of his life as a professor at Indiana University. Harvey Phillips was appointed professor there when Bell died. Phillips died two years ago.
Tubachristmas is now sponsored by the Harvey Phillips Foundation, Inc. in Bloomington, Indiana, and is a national celebration of all those who play, teach, or compose music for the tuba family of instruments. Of the 261 nationwide Tubachristmas concerts, seven are in Illinois. Only two of those, Moline and Naperville, occur this Saturday, Dec. 8, so you could theoretically attend three or four if you happen to become a tuba fanatic.
Naperville’s concert is conducted and coordinated by Naperville Municipal Band director Ron Keller, and is open to everyone older than, and hopefully smarter than, a fifth grader. Registration, which costs $5 nationwide, is at 9 a.m. on Dec. 8 in the Community Concert Center in Central Park, with rehearsal beginning at 10 a.m. The music, mostly arrangements by Alec Wilder, can be purchased at registration for $15. Players should bring a music stand and perhaps a chair.
The performances will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday at U.S. Bank on the northeast corner of Jefferson Avenue and Washington Street, and at 12:30 in the food court inside the Westfield Shoppingtown Fox Valley mall. Pay special attention to the Norlan Bewley arrangement of Jingle Bells, which slips in a part of Edwin Bagley’s National Emblem march. I sometimes wish they would play that part twice.
Watching the concert is of course free, as more things in life should be, so it’s a great bargain. Where else can you get such a great big dose of Christmas spirit for such a low price?