The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Christmas is Tuba Time. Who knew? | December 18, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s the holidays.

At a time when so much music for the holiday season is predictable from year to year, here is a kind of music that is unusual – at least to The Ear.

Apparently, for some years now Christmas has been a time to celebrate the tuba (below) worldwide.


The music they play isn’t classical, but it is seasonal. And it is a good excuse to celebrate and orchestral instrument and member of the brass family that too often goes largely unnoticed.

If you go to YouTube and type in TubaChristmas, you can find samples of TubaChristmas celebrations and concerts in Chicago, Portland, Rochester, Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, New York City, Washington, D.C. and many more.

The Ear hasn’t heard if there is a TubaChristmas celebration in Madison or anywhere else in Wisconsin. If there is, please leave word in the COMMENT section.

Below is a photo from Getty Images of more than 400 tuba players – called “tubists” in the profession – who gathered in Chicago for 2003 Tuba Christmas. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear tubas playing carols at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago in 2013.)


Maybe you knew about it, but The Ear sure didn’t, even though he should have.

And in case you didn’t either, here is a link to the story that aired this past week on “All Things Considered” for National Public Radio (NPR):

It is a fine story about the event – complete with some tuba music — along with its origin and some background about the tuba.


And let us now what you think of the tuba and of TubaChristmas.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. I played baritone horn in TubaChristmas several years ago & was unaware it continued. But in it, I met players from the Waunakee Community Band in which I’ve now played about 6 years. TubaChristmas is always a fun event. It wouldn’t surprise me if Walker has done away with chairs to “save” money, but who’s to say it couldn’t still happen while standing?


    Comment by Larry Retzack — February 5, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

  2. As you apparently already now know, there was a tubachristmas performance in the rotunda of the WI State Capitol on December 10. I only know because my 70+ year old neighbor (who had not had his tuna out in 7 years) and his 19 year old euphonium playing granddaughter (who came over specially for it from Cedar Rapids) played in it.


    Comment by Mary Rathbun — December 19, 2016 @ 6:44 am

  3. By now you may have heard from numerous tuba and euphonium players.

    This web site tells the Wisconsin locations of Tuba Christmas performances:

    Six Tuba Christmas performances were scheduled in Wisconsin this year. This year’s events have already taken place. The Madison TC is played in the Capital Rotunda typically with 100 – 120 musicians. The reverberation in the Capital is amazing!

    I regret that I was unable to do a Tuba Christmas this year. I try to do it most years.

    So be on the lookout for next year’s event!

    George Shook


    Comment by George Shook — December 18, 2016 @ 9:31 pm

  4. TubaChristmas (all one word) has indeed been an annual event in the Madison Capitol rotunda for years. Evidently better publicity is warranted, although the event in Madison is well attended. Here is a link to a YouTube of the 2016 performance Our 12yr old daughter was thrilled to join the 150+ low-brass musicians this year! I think the musicians ranged in age from 11 to 82.


    Comment by Sultan of Squeeze — December 18, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

  5. The Tuba Fest was started at Indiana University by Harvey Phillips and has apparently spread across the country and perhaps worldwide. It was always a wonderful event!


    Comment by Wini Bowen — December 18, 2016 @ 2:19 pm

  6. There was a Tuba Christmas concert in the Capitol last Sat., the 10th. They do this every year. They were supposed to start at 2, but started late because they had trouble finding enough chairs. I figured maybe Gov. Walker had sold some to pay for his trip to the Middle East.


    Comment by Genie Ogden — December 18, 2016 @ 9:09 am

    • Thank you Genie for your reply.
      Shame on The Ear for not knowing about this traditional musical event being held right here in Madison.
      But in the future more publicity from the organizer about the tuba event would be appreciated.
      Happy Holidays to all tubists!


      Comment by welltemperedear — December 18, 2016 @ 11:21 am

      • Yes, they usually have a lot more publicity about it. I just happened to see something on the noon news the day before. But there were a lot of spectators. A few may have just happened to come in to see the tree, and hear the lovely music. It was an excellent concert, as usual.


        Comment by Genie Ogden — December 20, 2016 @ 1:47 pm

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