The tuba may be the most overlooked of all the instruments in the orchestra. Oversized and under appreciated, it’s more often the “oom pah,” rarely the melody. But there’s more to tubas, and tuba players, than meets the eye– like a love for the holidays, and holiday puns! And that’s where Tuba Christmas, an annual nation-wide Christmas celebration through tuba music, and the Tuba Christmas Carols of Wilmington, NC come in.
Tuba Christmas brings together musicians of all ages and skill levels for public concerts of Christmas around the US. According to Daniel Johnson, UNC Wilmington music professor and Wilmington Tuba Christmas organizer, Tuba Christmas is a “tradition dating back to the mid 1970s and now performed internationally.” Daniel explained that players in Tuba Christmas programs include standard holiday carols “but performed by only bass tubas and euphoniums,” a tenor tuba.
In Wilmington, they’ve been celebrating “Tuba Christmas Carols” since 2004, and if their clever button design is any indication, tuba players like a good pun just as much as they like holiday music– “Tis the season tuba jolly.”
The “to be/tuba” pun was one that Daniel saw years ago at another concert and decided to incorporate into buttons promoting the Wilmington events. He said the buttons are used to share holiday cheer and, even better, they “are fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, unisex, and one-size-fits-all!”
The buttons are popular with both audience members and the musicians themselves. One look at the Wilmington Tuba Christmas Carols photo album makes it clear that the players are music lovers as well as button lovers.
Tuba Christmas is a “unique holiday traditional featuring often misunderstood” instruments, Daniel said, and he hopes that by sharing holiday joy through their buttons and performances, people will gain a little more love for the tuba in return.