Tuba Christmas Rings Out at Rockefeller Center

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“Heavy metal” took on a whole new meaning on Sunday when more than 400 tuba and euphonium players belted out an array of holiday carols for the 40th annual Tuba Christmas at the Rockefeller Center ice rink.

As tourists packed the plaza by the 76-foot-tall Norway spruce, rumbling renditions of “Silent Night” and “We Three Kings” echoed off buildings and carried in the chilly afternoon air.

“It’s just a unique experience. It’s like a special club,” said Erich Baker, a tuba player from Bushkill, PA who was attending his 18th Tuba Christmas concert. "You meet all these people who are a lot like you – tuba players. It gets me in the holiday spirit.”

To underscore his point, red garland and tinsel lined the bell and valves of Baker's tuba. Other players dressed in Santa outfits or wore colorful hats and scarves.

Tuba Christmas started in New York in 1974 by Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher and mentor William J. Bell, born on Christmas Day, 1902. The event has spawned editions in dozens of cities. This year there are 287 Tuba Christmas concerts in the U.S. and six more internationally.

At Rockefeller Center, performers ranged in age from nine to 85. They included father-and-son baritone players Ron and Michael Secchi, from Norwalk, CT. “Some guys take their kids skiing, some go snowboarding," said the elder Secchi. "I took him to Tuba Christmas.”

Above: Performers at Tuba Christmas (Brian Wise/WQXR)