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December 22. 2012 10:12PM

TubaChristmas strikes the season's deep notes

COLEBROOK - It wasn't just oom, pah, pah at Trinity United Methodist Church in Colebrook on Saturday.

Nearly 20 volunteer tubas, baritones and euphonium horn players gave the music of the season a rich, resonant tone as they performed traditional Christmas favorites for a packed audience of more than 200 fans.

"You say TubaChristmas to people, and they just kind of chuckle," said conductor Doug Nelson. "But then they come one year, and the next year they come back and bring their friends."

Nelson is a retired music professor who headed the music department at Keene State College for 35 years. He lives part time in Colebrook and started TubaChristmas there after several years of doing it in Keene.

Saturday's event was presented by the Great North Woods Committee for the Arts. Nelson's daughter, Sharon Pearson, was one of the founders of GNWCA.

"We decided to do one of these here to give the group (GNWCA) exposure," Pearson said. "It's probably one of the biggest and most consistently attended event GNWCA does."

She said the TubaChristmas players included retired and active music teachers and other music professionals, as well as those who just love to play.

TubaChristmas was started in 1974 as a tribute to the late artist/teacher William J. Bell. It is a syndicated program of the Harvey Phillips Foundation, Inc., which helps groups gather all over the country to play Christmas music specifically arranged for the lower brass.

Jo-Ann Paulson came to Colebrook with her husband, Carl, from Morrisville, N.Y. She calls herself "a tuba groupie" and says she gets goose bumps when she hears the low notes.

Her husband plays his 1933 tuba for several TubaChristmas events each year, and they made the trip to Colebrook's for the fourth time.

"We come because this is a wonderful one, the talent pool is much higher at this one," she said. "This is so much fun, and the people that support it really come to hear a concert."

Marian Tichy of Pottsville, Pa., made the nine-hour trip to participate in Colebrook's TubaChristmas for the first time. She and her decorated tuba have attended various TubaChristmas performances since 2001, and she has the TubaChristmas buttons to prove it.

"A tuba is a fun instrument to play," she said. "At TubaChristmas, we get to shine, and I love Christmas carols, so it's a win-win situation."

Lynn Rathbun of Norway, Maine, didn't know what to expect when she made the trip for the first time with her friend Darlene Thibeau, a baritone player.

"I didn't even know I liked horns, and I love these," Rathbun said.

Thibeau said, "I've played everything from piccolo to baritone, and I love the brass sound best."

The audience agreed, singing along with favorites such as "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night" and enthusiastically applauding such unusual numbers as "Carol of the Bells" and "Waltz of the Flowers" from the "Nutcracker.''

Nelson said, "I enjoy having an audience that's learning what these instruments can do. It's not just oom pah or Dixieland for these horns, and this shows their potential."

For more information about TubaChristmas, go to www.tubachristmas.com; for information about other events sponsored by the Great North Woods Committee for the Arts, go to www.gnwca.org.

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Kristi Garofalo may be reached at kgarofalo@newstote.com.


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