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The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Saturday, December 10, 2011

Large crowd gathers for Mason City's 26th annual TubaChristmas
By Kristin Buehner

MASON CITY — Good seats were hard to come by Saturday at the 26th annual TubaChristmas concert at Southbridge Mall.

North Iowans brought lawn chairs or stood along the railings in the mall’s Central Court to hear the deep, rich, rumbling tones of an 80-piece orchestra composed of tubas, sousaphones, baritones and euphoniums playing carols from “Silent Night” to “Felix Navidad.”

Northwood resident Ken Block took one of the few seats still available on a low brick wall edging green plantings in the mall.

He gamely joined in singing the familiar Christmas carols with the rest of the audience.

“My wife and I have been coming to these ever since I retired in 1995,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful sound. I always see some people here that I know.”

Osage band director Jeff Kirkpatrick, conductor of TubaChristmas, stood on a ladder looking down over the musicians who were dressed in Santa hats and other holiday finery.

Many of the shiny brass instruments were decked out in evergreen and twinkling lights by their owners, who came from a 200-mile radius of Mason City to play.

“I felt bad last year because I couldn’t make it because of the weather,” said Doug Meyer of West Bend. “So I really wanted to be here.”

Wearing a red and white striped “Cat in the Hat” type stocking cap, Meyer had decorated the bell of his sousaphone with a snowman, evergreens and flashing lights. Red and green Christmas stockings hung from his black music stand.

During the popular “Chipmunk Song,” all four sousaphone players stood and swayed to the music as they balanced their instruments on their shoulders.

One of them, Cory Low of Osage, was among the younger players in the orchestra. It’s his sixth year in TubaChristmas, he said.

“It’s fun to do,” he said. “It’s a unique sound.”

Tuba player Catherine Hutzel of Nora Springs is in her ninth year of TubaChristmas.

She and her sister Sarah Hutzel, who also plays tuba, were each wearing lighted Christmas ornament earrings. Catherine’s tuba was decorated with Christmas lights.

“I started in seventh grade,” she said. “It’s just something that I look forward to each year. It’s so much different than anything you get to hear. It gets you in the spirit of Christmas.”

TubaChristmas was created by Harvey Phillips, music professor at the University of Indiana, Kirkpatrick told the audience. “There are hundreds of them all over the place now,” he said.

The event is held to promote tubas, euphoniums, baritones and sousaphones and change the public’s perception of these large, low-toned instruments.

“We can play the melody,” Kirkpatrick said.

TubaChristmas started in 1985 in Mason City with six players. The North Iowa TubaChristmas has grown to be one of the larger in the nation and is traditionally the largest in the state of Iowa.

“It was wonderful this year,” Kirkpatrick said afterward. “There was a great turnout of musicians. We had a tremendous crowd.”

Photographs courtesy of Globe-Gazette

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2014



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