TubaChristmas returns for 12th season

WEST BRATTLEBORO — For the 12th year, TubaChristmas will be celebrated in West Brattleboro.

On Sunday, Dec. 15, players of the tuba, euphonium, and baritone horn will gather at First Congregational Church, 880 Western Avenue. Participating musicians will register at 1 p.m., and begin rehearsing at 1:15 p.m. They are asked to pay a $10 registration fee.

The concert starts at 3 p.m., and is open to public. No audience admission fee will be charged. A good-will offering will be collected and donated to the church.

TubaChristmas is presented with the permission and cooperation of the Harvey Phillips Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to “developing, expanding, and preserving the music arts.” It focuses special attention on musical instruments not ordinarily the object of other support.

TubaChristmas was conceived of by Harvey Phillips, tuba performer and professor at the University of Indiana's Jacobs School of Music, to honor his mentor, William Bell.

The first TubaChristmas was held at the Rockefeller Center ice rink in New York City on Dec. 22, 1974, a location that has continued to host an event each year.

Since then, cities and towns throughout the world have adopted a tradition of bringing together musicians to play beautiful arrangements of sacred and secular Christmas carols set for a four-part low-brass choir by Alec Wilder.

In New England alone, 19 TubaChristmas events will take place this season. The event was introduced to Brattleboro in 2008 by Steve Damon, who now hosts one in Bernardston, Mass. Bruce Corwin, conductor emeritus of the Brattleboro American Legion Band, took the reins four years later.

Steve Rice, band director at Brattleboro Union High School, has been organizing and leading the Brattleboro TubaChristmas since 2017.

While many TubaChristmas participants claim tuba or euphonium as their primary instrument, others (such as Rice) are primarily players of other instruments who know how to play low brass instruments.

In honor of the founders of the event, only players of valved low brass instruments such as the tuba, sousaphone, euphonium, baritone horn (treble or bass clef readers) and helicon may participate - no trombones.

The Brattleboro TubaChristmas has become a treasured holiday tradition for many concertgoers. First-timers often express surprise at the haunting beauty of these instruments. Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. Audience members will be invited to sing along with the carols and are urged to bring sleigh bells to accompany the finale.

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