A lower brass Christmas; Musicians perform in Eighth annual TubaChristmas concert
Published 8:03 am Monday, December 4, 2017
The Eighth annual TubaChristmas concert was held Saturday morning at the Paramount Theatre.
The audience sang along to songs like “Deck the Halls” and “Joy to the World” as 30 tuba, baritone, euphonium and sousaphone players played a variety of holiday favorites.
The musicians, some of whom had played together before and others who were brand new, came together from all over the area to perform.
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Four professional musical conductors participated in this year’s event, dividing their time between conducting and performing. Among them was Eric Heukeshoven, assistant professor of music at St. Mary’s University in Winona.
“I’ve done numerous (TubaChristmas concerts) in other cities over the years,” he said. “I’ve been a euphonium player almost all my life.”
Heukeshoven previously performed at the Paramount with Les Fields and the Turkey River All-Stars several years ago. Saturday’s performance was his first TubaChristmas concert in Austin.
“I was invited to come,” he said. “It was an honor. I know one of the other conductors and we play together on occasion and she said, ‘Oh, you have to do this.’ So I said, ‘I’m there! Tell me where and when.’”
Other conductors for the concert were Becca Combs-Cawley of Stewartville Middle School, Christoph Dundas of Austin High School, and Dennis Conroy of Hayfield High School.
The opportunity to perform attracted musicians of all ages and experience.
One such musician was 12 year-old Landon Nemitz of Austin, who was performing in his first TubaChristmas.
“I thought it would be fun if I could come and play because I like doing concerts,” he said.
Nemitz, who used to play the French horn, switched to playing the baritone one month ago. His favorite song: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Some musicians proved that you are never too old to perform, such as Laurens Blankers of Owatonna. A euphonium player, Blankers will be turning 85 in January.
“How many football players at 85 will still be playing football?” he asked with a laugh.
Blankers, who has been a musician for over 70 years, came to Minnesota a few months ago from Nashville, Tennessee, where he played in TubaChristmas concerts over the past 20 years.
“I looked on the Internet and learned about the show in Austin, and I realized I could get here,” he said. “I’ve been planning to do this since I’ve come to Minnesota. I’m delighted to be here.”
But for many of the musicians, it was not just about the music. It was about the experience.
“I think it’s an interesting thing,” Heukeshoven said. “There is a real camaraderie in the low brass section of the concert band. There’s also a rather warped sense of humor between everyone, but it’s just really great. It’s just a great event.”