Four Iowa cities are hosting holiday oom-pah sessions this weekend. The state’s largest gathering of tuba and euphonium players will take place Saturday at Southbridge Mall in Mason City. Al Zook coordinates the annual “Tuba Christmas” celebration.
He says it’s the 21st year for the event in Mason City. It started with just six tuba players and now involves more than 100 from all over Iowa and southern Minnesota. Zook says people usually don’t get a chance to see tuba players play the melody lines of any songs, including Christmas carols.
He says it’s a mellow, soothing sound that can be heard all over the mall. Zook says the original Tuba Christmas that took place in New York City in 1974 was to honor a former Iowan who was born on Christmas Day. Creston native Bill Bell was born on Christmas Day in 1902, and his student Harvey Phillips arranged to have the first Tuba Christmas at the Rockefeller Center ice rink in 1974, with American composer Alec Wilder arranging the music.
Ironically, Wilder died on Christmas Eve in 1980, so all Tuba Christmas events are held in memory of both Bell and Wilder. For more information about the events in Iowa or nationwide, surf to “www.tubachristmas.com”. Tuba events are also planned in Cedar Rapids and Ottumwa on Saturday and in Creston on Sunday.