Bel Air brass players wish a 'Merry Tuba Christmas' to all

For dozens of excited residents at Bel Air Reckord Armory Sunday afternoon, there was nothing quite like hearing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or "Jingle Bells" performed by more than 30 tuba and euphonium players.

The Armory resounded with the booming sounds of brass, as about 150 people joined in singing on holiday classics like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silent Night."

"Merry Tuba Christmas, Bel Air!" Randy Harrison, tubaist and organizer, said to the crowd as he explained the "ground rules" for attendees to sing along to selected songs.

"It's a lot of fun and we just want you to raise your voice in song and really enjoy this holiday," Harrison said.

Attendance seemed a little lower for the event's sixth year in Bel Air, and Harrison said there were only about 35 tuba players, 50 percent fewer than usual. Organizers had set up about 230 chairs, and all had been filled last year.

But those who came, many for the first time, said they and their children had a great time.

LaVaeda Coulter, of Bel Air, heard about Tuba Christmas from another musician and said she did not know what to expect.

"I really did enjoy it," she said. "This was nice, very well-attended."

Several members of the Laisure family, from Essex, said the event has a nicer feel than the much-larger Tuba Christmas in Baltimore, which they said is more of a "spectacle," with about 200 tuba players.

Jim Laisure III, who plays in both Baltimore and Bel Air, said the Armory performance has some advantages.

"You can work a little more on the music and it's more of a choir sound," he said. "It sounds nice in here."

His mother, Marty Laisure, said the sound of the instruments made it special.

"There's nothing like the brass," she said, adding the location was good as well.

"I like it because it's close," she said.

Santa Claus also stopped by the event, helping to ring a bell along with the tuba players' rendition of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

Harrison made the players show off their decorated instruments, which some had regaled with blinking lights, tinsel, wreaths and even stuffed animals.

Some also had special instruments, as Harrison introduced one man playing a serpent, a bass wind instrument that Harrison said is the earliest predecessor to the tuba. Another man played a helicon, "a first attempt at a marching tuba," Harrison said.

The ages of participants also ranged from 12 to 88, he pointed out, and their concert drew a standing ovation.

"It was wonderful," Wendy Merz, who recently moved to Bel Air and brought several children, said about the show.

She said the children's uncle is in the show, which is why she came.

"It was great. We loved it. They played all of our favorite songs," Merz said.

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