TubaChristmas gives a little oomph to Ogden’s holiday celebration

TubaChristmas gives a little oomph to Ogden’s holiday celebration

It’s not just Christmas. It’s … TubaChristmas.

If there’s one thing that could possibly make the holidays a little more festive, it’s playing Christmas music on the tuba and euphonium.

To that end, a group of local musicians will be holding TubaChristmas at this weekend’s lighting and opening ceremony for Ogden’s Christmas Village.

“It’s been happening for years, in big cities around the United States, every Christmas season,” said Stan Renda, Ogden High School band director and organizer of the 2019 TubaChristmas in Ogden. “Tuba players from beginners through 90 years and above get together and rehearse the day of, then perform a concert of well-known Christmas carols on tubas and euphoniums.”

TubaChristmas will be presented at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, in the Ogden Amphitheater, just before the official ceremony to throw the switch on the 2019 Christmas Village display at the southwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Historic 25th Street in downtown Ogden. Local musicians will play a selection of holiday music arranged entirely for the tuba and euphonium.

A euphonium, Renda explains, is “like a baby tuba.” It’s smaller, and uses a mouthpiece similar to that of a trombone — “A euphonium is just a tenor tuba, if you will,” he said.

TubaChristmas started with a “very famous tuba professor” (Yes, like Santa, apparently they do exist) at Indiana University. According to Renda, in 1974 Harvey Phillips had the idea that tuba players were tired of just playing the bass line and wanted to start playing the melody. So that Christmas, tuba players started decking their tubas with Christmas lights and playing out in cities and communities at the holidays. It then spread to other communities around the country.

Renda said he’s been told that Ogden used to hold a TubaChristmas, way back in the early 1990s. But since then, the only places in the state that have held the quirky holiday celebration are Logan, Salt Lake City and Provo.

“But ever since I moved here from Salt Lake, I thought Ogden has needed a TubaChristmas,” said Renda, who is in his third year of teaching band at Ogden High.

The 30-minute set on Saturday evening will include some holiday standards — tunes like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” — and then conclude with the fitting “We Wish You a Tuba Christmas,” according to Renda.

The TubaChristmas band will be made up of about 20 to 30 tuba and euphonium musicians from throughout the area. The members will come from Renda’s students at Ogden High as well as other schools, plus some friends and a few more recruits.

Recuperating from recent hand surgery, Renda won’t be playing for TubaChristmas, but he will be conducting the concert.

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Renda says he followed his siblings into the oversized instrument.

“My older brothers played tuba, so I played tuba,” he said. “It’s a cool instrument. But I was just a little guy, so I had to sit on two phone books to reach the mouthpiece in beginning band.”

Renda praises the instrument for having such a unique sound. He says it’s one of the things that attracts him to the tuba.

“It’s really smooth and open-sounding,” Renda said. “It’s like a subwoofer when you hear it. You actually feel the music.”

And the tuba, according to Renda, creates the very foundation for orchestral music.

“Sometimes, if you don’t have a tuba in an orchestra, you may not notice,” he said. “But you will feel that something’s missing. It’s like if you didn’t have basses in a choir, to provide that foundation.”

Our TubaChristmas organizer even knows a few instrument-related jokes. His favorite? “How do you fix a tuba? With a tuba glue.”

Renda said he hopes to make the concert an annual event in Ogden.

Any tuba players interested in performing at TubaChristmas are invited to register at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at Ogden High School, 2828 Harrison Blvd. The only rehearsal for that evening’s concert will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that same day. Registration for the TubaChristmas band is $10.

For more information, email rendas@ogdensd.org, or visit the TubaChristmas Ogden Facebook page.

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