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Tubas take over Christmas in West Reading

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 08 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 10 2012 06:07:08 AM CST

Tuba Christmas

READING, Pa. -

When you think of Christmas, visions of trumpets and trombones probably dance in your head.  But what about tubas?  One Christmas tradition in Berks County is literally "booming."

It was a good crowd for Saturday night's Christmas concert at West Reading's Scottish Rite Cathedral.

"We come every year," said Tammy Essler of Bern Twp.

But there was something a little off -- a little unusual -- about this show.

"It's a lot of fun," said George Morneau of Wernersville.

That's because all the instruments here -- all 50 or so of them -- were tubas.

"It's actually really neat," said Essler, whose son plays the instrument.  "You don't typically get to hear the tuba play the melody line."

This is "A Tuba Christmas," where anyone with said instrument can get on stage and join in.

"It's open invitation," said Tuba Christmas coordinator Bryan Snyder.

The tuba's booming baritone typically plays "second fiddle," so to speak, to other instruments.

"It's a different sound," said C.J. Ehlinger of Douglassvile.  "You're thinking, 'Well, tubas -- how can they sound for Christmas?'  But they actually make it so nice and mellow."

Tuba players said their beloved instrument doesn't get enough credit for its versatility.

"The tuba has a very wide range," said Morneau, who performed on stage.  "Ordinarily we play, 'Oompah oompah oompah oompah,' but on Christmas we get to play melodies."

And the growing crowds here seem to agree.

"We've had over 100 spectators," said Snyder.

In fact, this event has gotten so popular, they actually moved it this year to a larger location.  For the past decade, Berks County's Grings Mill hosted A Tuba Christmas.  But the event got too popular.

"The fire marshal kind of kicked us out because we got too big for the barn," saidSnyder.

Fans said the new venue is the perfect Christmas present.

"It's a lot more open," said Essler.  "You don't have to sit so scrunched together."

Tuba Christmas concerts go on nationwide.  They began in New York City in 1974.