Tubas oom-pah into Christmas
Paul Bruce plays his tuba decorated with garland Monday night during the annual TubaChristmas concert at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell. The evening marked his 10th year playing in the annual concert that is held worldwide. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
About 35 musicians played as part of the annual TubaChristmas concert Monday evening at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell. The concert marks its 25th anniversary this year. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
Allen Slater, retired Flathead High School band director, conducts the band Monday for the TubaChristmas concert at the Red Lion Hotel. Slater has been organizing the Kalispell event for the last 25 years. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
Joshua Edelen plays during the TubaChristmas concert at the Red Lion Hotel Monday evening. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
The one-day band performs the TubaChristmas concert at the Red Lion Hotel Monday evening. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
A musician wears a TubaChristmas stocking hat while playing during the TubaChristmas concert Monday at the Red Lion Hotel. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
Marty Weimer plays during the TubaChristmas concert Monday at the Red Lion Hotel. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
William Cincis plays Monday during the TubaChristmas concert at the Red Lion Hotel. It was his fourth year playing in the annual concert. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
TubaChristmas was established in 1974 and a button for the worldwide concert event is released each year. Allen Slater, the organizer of the Kalispell event, displays his collection Monday evening at the concert at the Red Lion Hotel. (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
Ahti Mohala plays during the TubaChristmas concert Monday evening at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell. This was his sixth year playing in the concert that he says is “really, really fun.” (Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake)
Daily Inter Lake | December 25, 2022 12:00 AM
Deep, rich and mellow sounds of the tuba, euphonium and baritone blend together in a way that makes the familiar music of the holiday season unexpected during the annual gathering of musicians known as TubaChristmas in Kalispell.
The one-night-only band played “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night,” and “Joy to the World,” spreading feelings of calm and warmth, sprinkled with joy, through the audience Monday evening for the concert at the Red Lion Hotel.
Allen Slater, retired Flathead High School band director, stood before a group of about 35 musicians, some dressed in Santa hats and others wearing scarfs and stocking hats emblazoned with TubaChristmas.
He directed the band through each song while explaining to the audience the significance of TubaChristmas. It’s a tradition that has been happening on the Monday prior to Christmas for over 25 years, but nationally has been happening since 1974.
Musicians have a range of experience — some of the younger musicians just began playing the instrument in school this fall while others have spent years perfecting their craft and have played for decades in TubaChristmas.
“It’s amazing sharing music with people of all ages,” Slater said prior to the performance. “Students coming home from college or university often participate. We also have had community members who play, including a musician at the age of 85.”
On this night the oldest member of the band was 78 and the youngest was 12.
As an educator, Slater enjoys the opportunity to bring all ages together to play.
“It’s great to see the comradery that happens,” he said.
IN THE front row of the band was Paul Bruce wearing a Christmas sweater while playing his instrument decked out with garland. It was his 10th year playing in TubaChristmas, he said, recalling that the first year he had been playing the tuba for just two months prior to the concert.
“It’s fun to be able to bring people together to play the tuba and spread joy,” he said. “It’s great that we can expose people to tuba music.”
TubaChristmas events are held throughout the world. The celebration was established in 1974 by Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher and legendary performer William Bell who was born on Christmas Day in 1902.
The first TubaChristmas was conducted by Paul Lavalle in New York City's Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink on Sunday, Dec. 22, 1974.
To be an official event organizers must register with the nonprofit organization behind TubaChristmas — 280 cities listed events this year. Three TubaChristmas events were held in Montana this year. In addition to Kalispell, similar events were held in Missoula and Great Falls.
Performances rely on a set of music known as the Carols for a Merry TubaChristmas. The music includes 33 selections, including the original 19 traditional Christmas carols arranged by Alec Wilder for the first TubaChristmas performance.
The Kalispell event also relies on three arrangements from long-time Columbia Falls High School Band Director Don Lawrence to fill out its hour-long performance.
THE TUBA is the lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass family. The euphonium is designed almost exactly like a tuba, but plays a slightly higher range of notes. The baritone is a low-pitched brass instrument in the saxhorn family.
Slater describes the experience featuring the tuba, euphonium and baritone players front and center as “stunning.”
“It’s a chance for those who are not necessarily at the front of the band to play the melody lines and be featured,” he said. “It’s the opportunity for those that are used to being the backdrop to and providing the chord foundation.”
Registration for the performers occurs in the afternoon followed by an hour and a half of rehearsal and then the performance is held the same evening.
“It’s the same set of music every year, so someone that it’s their first time or hasn’t been as many times can sit next to a player who has done it many times,” Slater said. “Even when the newer musicians may not know the song, the more experienced ones keep playing and the whole ensemble still goes forward.”
There’s no way to know how many musicians may turn up to perform in the show.
“You never know what’s going to happen, but you do know that people will come and play music to share with others,” Slater said.
Features Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.