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TubaChristmas puts ‘oomph’ in holiday

12/13/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Shown is the E.J. Thomas Hall stage full of musicians during last year’s TubaChristmas.
Tucker Jolly, a University of Akron School of Music professor, is shown addressing the audience during last year’s TubaChristmas.
Photos: Krista Galloway
DOWNTOWN AKRON — TubaChristmas will help the Akron community kick off the holiday weekend with its two performances at The University of Akron’s (UA) E.J. Thomas Hall Dec. 22.

Tucker Jolly, the UA School of Music professor who founded and organized the local event, said he believes this year’s date is the closest to Christmas the free music event has taken place.

“We’re later this year than we’ve ever been, so I’m not sure how that will play with the crowd or players,” Jolly said.

He describes TubaChristmas as a “giant community sing-along.”

“There’s not many places you can do that,” he said.

According to the www.tuba christmas.com website, the first TubaChristmas was held in New York City at the Rockefeller Center ice rink Dec. 22, 1974. Founder Harvey Phillips created the event as a tribute to William Bell, a well-regarded tuba player and teacher who was born on Christmas in 1902.

The idea spread into other communities. Today, in Ohio alone there are more than a dozen TubaChristmas events during the Christmas season, according to the website.

The Akron event, which is in its 33rd year, usually attracts between 450 and 500 tuba players, Jolly said. The players perform a variety of Christmas classics conducted by Jolly.

“We always start with ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’ and end with ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Jingle Bells,’ followed by ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas,’” Jolly said.

The event is also marked by some elaborately decorated musical instruments.

“I never send out an email saying ‘decorate your tubas’ — they just do it,” Jolly said. “Now we have to run an electrical cord out there because these guys are plugging in lights. They come up with some creative things. One guy had a fireplace on the front of his sousaphone.”

He added the players seem to like the event as much as the audience.

“They just enjoy the whole atmosphere,” he said. “Some people really enjoy the mass ensemble and playing in a big group and in a hall.”

Jolly said he welcomes tuba players to participate. They pay $5 to cover the costs of the event.

Those who wish to play should register at E.J. Thomas between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. that day. The performances are at noon and 2:30 p.m.

Seating is first come, first served. Last year was the first year that some people did not have seats for the first show at E.J. Thomas, Jolly said. The hall, located at 198 Hill St., can seat around 2,800 people, he added.

For details, contact Jolly at 330-972-6641 or trjolly@uakron.edu.

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