Another TubaChristmas

Published 4:07 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

It was good to see the upper parking area full when we arrived more than a half hour before starting time; I have been actively promoting TubaChristmas® for years as a great way to start the Christmas Season. As former Mayor of Columbus Kathleen McMillian said one year, “If this doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, nothing will!”

Of course I missed the Howells, who brought TubaChristmas to Columbus shorty after they came, and some of the odd instruments, not tubas, from concerts past. The late Arthur Kramer always brought his double-bell euphonium, donned the requisite Santa Clause hat, and played a part in the ensemble. A favorite interlude for me is when each kind of instrument is demonstrated by a short solo: Mr. Kramer always played “Little Sir Echo,” with the little tune passed back and forth appropriately between the two distinctive voices of his instrument. He always got a big round of applause.

But the show must go on, and so it did! Dr. Stan Howell cast his mantle onto Manfred Walter, another bona fide character in his own right. Manfred not only led the organized effort to bring us another TubaChristmas, but also proved himself a delightful Master of Ceremonies.

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The formula has remained constant for the years I have attended: the “standard” Christmas Carols played first by the band, then sung by the audience; a bit of the history of TubaChristmas; identification of the various instruments present; “O Holy Night” played as a tuba solo (this year by Kenneth Mace), accompanied on the Steinway concert grand (this time by Tryon’s own Karen Vollmer Killough); and a virtuoso performance by a tuba ensemble (this time a quartet from Winthrop University, from whence also came today’s conductor, Douglas Black, Jr.)  Oh, and Manfred recognized the oldest, the youngest, the person who travelled the farthest to be here, and several groups from various schools.

The big band also plays Bach’s Komm, Süsser Tod (“Come, Sweet Death”) in memory of Harvey Phillips, founder of TubaChristmas in 1974, and an arrangement of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” to end the program.

– Garland Goodwin, Columbus, N.C.