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A Tuba Christmas: Annual performance celebrates the season

By Staff | Dec 19, 2018

Shepherd University Director of Instrumental Studies Scott Hippensteel directs the Tuba Christmas concert in Reynolds Hall on Dec. 15. Photo by Tabitha Johnston.

SHEPHERDSTOWN – About 40 tuba players congregated together inside of Reynolds Hall on Saturday, to practice and perform Christmas carols, as one of hundreds of TubaChristmas groups celebrating the season around the world.

For some performers, the event was a new experience. For others, this was one of many they have participated in over the years – or even over this year.

For Amy Flach, of Perry Hall, Maryland, Saturday’s performance was one of two she would be attending this year, as she transported her two daughters and two of their friends to perform at the Shepherd University event on Saturday, followed Sunday with a second TubaChristmas performance in Belair, Maryland.

“They’ve been doing it for seven years now, and it as become a tradition for us every year. The tuba world is just a family – a connection they have across geographical locations,” Flach said, mentioning her younger daughter is a senior at Percy Hall High School, while her older daughter is a Shepherd University Music Education freshman with a tuba concentration.

“It’s just a very unique sound, and it’s the camaraderie of all the musicians together that make it special. It’s got a unique musicality to it,” Flach said of the concert, which is limited to only members of the tuba family, which may also include the sousaphone, baritone, euphonium, helicon, ophicleide, serpent and double bell euphonium.

Although her daughters have participated in TubaChristmas before, Saturday was the first time the family participated in the Shepherdstown TubaChristmas event. For Flach, the drive was worth it, for the experience of participating in the TubaChristmas concert.

According to tuba player Jeff Wilson, of Braddock Heights, Maryland, the best way to experience TubaChristmas is by performing outdoors on the porch in front of McMurran Hall. While the heavy rain on Saturday made it necessary for the concert to be moved indoors, Wilson said he still enjoyed participating, because it was one of a few chances his tuba gets to shine every year.

“The tubas almost never gets to play the melody, so with this, they get to play more than they usual,” Wilson said, mentioning he has participated in about three TubaChristmas concerts ever year, for over 10 years.

To prepare before the concert, the musicians practice from the standard TubaChristmas music book, which includes a variety of Christmas songs, ranging from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” While some participants enjoyed performing the lyrical lines of the Christmas carols, Wilson said his favorite song in the book may be a catchier tune.

“I think ‘Jingle Bells’ is my favorite to play, because in the middle we surprise everyone when we go into a march. It’s probably the one that’s the most fun,” Wilson said.

Saturday’s TubaChristmas concert, directed by Shepherd University Director of Instrumental Studies Scott Hippensteel, was about the 10th annual TubaChristmas concert held in Shepherdstown, according to Hippensteel.