Totally tubular: The deep sounding joy of TubaChristmas returns

Tuba players come together for the annual TubaChristmas in 2014. Herald file photo

Tuba players come together for the annual TubaChristmas in 2014. Herald file photo

The tubas are coming back to Austin.

This time they’re coming to a new location and they’re coming with a new purpose.

Austin will host its sixth annual Merry TubaChristmas at the Paramount Theatre at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 5.

TubaChristmas had been held in Oak Park Mall the five previous years it was held. The new venue will provide more seating for a bigger audience and space for approximately 50 tuba players on the stage.

N1505P37011H“That will make it kind of nice. In the past we have had limited seating, and now they won’t have to bring their own chairs,” said Nancy Schnable, Executive Director and the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s getting bigger every year for the participants who come to play. It’s getting more well known as time goes on. It’s an incredible event and it highlights the tuba players. Typically tuba players are the ones in the back of the band.”

Last year, TubaChristmas drew players from five different states — including Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. To play in the event, tuba players need to be at the Paramount by 11 a.m., rehearsal starts at 11:30 a.m. and there is a lunch provided. The cost to play is $10 and that goes back to the tuba foundation.

Spectators at the event sometimes join in singing along with the music.

Val Pitzen, center, talks to people at a fundraiser held for her at the Stacyville, Iowa, Community Center Friday night. Pitzen was an enthusiastic fan of the program. Photo provided

Val Pitzen, center, talks to people at a fundraiser held for her at the Stacyville, Iowa, Community Center Friday night. Pitzen was an enthusiastic fan of the program. Photo provided

“When they get into the music and they start singing, it really is a magical event,” Schnable said. “It’s pretty spectacular. It’ll be a pretty massive sound. It’s really spectacular and it’s something you really want to come and hear for yourself.”

TubaChristmas was originally started by Val Pitzen, who passed away this year. The event will pay homage to Pitzen, who chose the first Saturday of December for the event because it falls between her mother and brother’s birthday.

Schnable didn’t say what the tribute would be, but she did say that Pitzen’s tuba will be placed on an empty chair during the performance.

“Val was very passionate about the tuba,” Schnable said. “The tuba will be there and I’m sure she’ll be there in spirit.”

Along with the Tuba Christmas, there will be a Holiday Tree Show held on the open area on 4th Ave NE, which is located by Tendermaid, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Those attending the tree show are asked to bring a canned good to be donated to the Salvation Army. There will be some trees donated to needy families after the event and the a local boy scout troop from Asutin will also be selling fresh Christmas trees.

Last year’s TubaChristmas brought 48 tuba, sousaphone, euphonium and baritone horns to the stage.

Merry TubaChristmas began in 1974 at the Ice Rink Stage of New York City’s Rockefeller Center, where more than 300 tuba, baritone and euphonium players gathered to honor the memory of world-renowned tuba player and Iowa native William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas day, 1902. TubaChristmas was created by Harvey Phillips to honor Bell, and the traditional carols were specially arranged for the first TubaChristmas performance by American composer Alec Wilder, who died Christmas Eve, 1980.

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