Tubas gracing the Paramount Theatre

TubaChristmas from 2014 when it was held outside of Younkers. Herald file photo

TubaChristmas from 2014 when it was held outside of Younkers. Herald file photo

“This is not a threat. This is not a drill,” writes Christopher Vondracek in an essay for ClassicalMPR.org. “It will last approximately an hour. Someone will decorate her tuba in neon lights. It’s TubaChristmas. Get wild.”

Tuba what?

TubaChristmas: that one, glorious time of the year when the tuba transcends its usual relegation to the three-note bass line and seizes the melody each December.

While TubaChristmas is a worldwide organization based in Indiana, according to Vondracek,  it wasn’t until six years ago that tuba enthusiast Val Pitzen brought the event to Austin. The Austin CVB and Parks and Recreation now work together to bring the show back each year on the first weekend of December, which will be hosted this year by the Paramount Theatre.

Val herself played enthusiastically in all five of Austin’s past TubaChristmases. Though she passed away earlier this year, her spirit will be strong at next Saturday’s 6th annual performance; around two dozen euphonium, tuba, and baritone players will play a tribute in her honor.

Why tubas? Why Christmas? Well, as Vondracek writes, “Even among musicians, the tuba is a lowly vessel.” Rarely does the instrument take a recognizable string of notes in any performance. But if there’s a time for the underdog to rise up out of the fray, it’s Christmastime. And, as the essayist says, on TubaChristmas, “The great underdog becomes the over-dog. The lineman scores a touchdown. Ringo sings lead.”

The show at the Paramount won’t be all to take in next Saturday: Austin’s first “Christmastime Countdown” will also be in full swing on 4th Avenue, just outside the theatre. Train rides for kids, a karaoke caroling contest, the Austin Public Library’s holiday book sale, Christmas trees for sale by our local Boy Scouts, and door prizes and giveaways are set for the afternoon (beginning at noon). TubaChristmas begins at 2:30pm, which gives everyone plenty of time to slip into the holiday spirit before heading inside for the year’s most euphonious production.

Christopher Vondracek’s essay “Merry TubaChristmas” appears in full on ClassicalMPR.org.

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