Archived Story

A brass shine to Christmas

Published 12:01pm Sunday, December 1, 2013
Valerie Pitzen was decked out for the holidays while participating in TubaChristmas in 2011 at the Oak Park Mall. Herald file photo
Valerie Pitzen was decked out for the holidays while participating in TubaChristmas in 2011 at the Oak Park Mall. Herald file photo

Valerie Pitzen loves the used, silver tuba she got from her husband, Ken, for Christmas about five years ago.

“I cried [when I saw it],” recalls Pitzen, who had played the instrument through her college years. “I didn’t realize I missed it that much.”

And now thanks to that one horn, brass instruments — and their owners — will converge on Austin for the fourth-consecutive year.

Austin’s rendition of TubaChristmas — now in its 40th year worldwide — will start at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 near Younkers in Oak Park Mall (it was in the mall’s center court for the first three years). The event features tubas, sousaphones, baritones and euphoniums playing Christmas melodies.

TubaChristmas has been popular across the globe — it began in 1974 in New York City’s Rockefeller Center — but the closest one to Austin before 2010 was in Mason City, Iowa. So after Pitzen shipped her tuba to get fixed up, she and other locals decided to launch TubaChristmas in Austin.

Larry Nerison plays his tuba during the third annual TubaChristmas concert  las year at the Oak Park Mall. Herald file photo
Larry Nerison plays his tuba during the third annual TubaChristmas concert las year at the Oak Park Mall. Herald file photo

“I thought there was a lot of people in this area who could play and would want to,” Pitzen said. “And it’s just nice to have it in the area.”

The performance has taken off since its inception in 2010, when 15 brass players participated. The next year they had 28, then 41 in 2012, and this year they hope for even more.

“It’s really been growing,” Pitzen said.

They even recorded the performance last year, and Austin Parks and Recreation, where Pitzen works, produced it on DVD for all area nursing homes. Pitzen says they plan to do the same this year.

“It was really popular,” she said. “Everybody has loved it. … [Low brass players] don’t get to have the melody a lot of times.”

It’s free for spectators and $10 to participate, which includes a commemorative pin and entry into a drawing for prizes. Participants can register starting at 10:30 that morning, and practice begins at 11. Performers should bring their own instrument, music stand, and of course wear bright, holiday colors.

The event is open to all ages, and Pitzen said last year musicians ranged in age from 11 to 85. It’s also popular among high school band students, and Pitzen said Austin, Southland, Grand Meadow and Hayfield schools will likely all have performers.

And of course, Pitzen will be there playing her silva tuba.

 


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