Bel Air's popular Merry Tuba Christmas returns Sunday, Dec. 17

Bel Air's popular Merry Tuba Christmas returns Sunday, Dec. 17
Randy Harrison, conductor for Bel Air's Merry Tuba Christmas, leads musicians during the 2016 program. This year's concert is Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Bel Air High School auditorium, starting at 5 p.m. (Jen Rynda/BSMG)

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” so goes one of the ubiquitous holiday songs filling the air and the airwaves this time each year.

Or, how about “Christmas just ain’t Christmas without … ,” goes another.


In recent years, it hasn’t been Christmastime in Harford County until what has become the annual Merry Tuba Christmas has come to town.

The “pop-up” performance of classic Christmas music has become a popular and well attended event in Harford County, drawing brass and other musicians from around the county and the region.

This year’s Merry Tuba Christmas in Bel Air is at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, in the Bel Air High School auditorium at 100 Heighe Street.

This marks the 44th year Merry Tuba Christmas has been happening around the world, though not nearly that long in Bel Air. Sunday’s performance will be the 11th in the town and second to be held at the high school auditorium.

Because of its popularity, the Bel Air concert, which is free and open to the public, outgrew its original venue at the Bel Air Armory.

“TUBACHRISTMAS,” according to its web site, “was conceived in 1974 by Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher and mentor, William J. Bell, born on Christmas Day, 1902. Through the legendary William J. Bell we reflect on our heritage and honor all great artists/teachers whose legacy has given us high performance standards, well structured pedagogy, professional integrity, personal values and a camaraderie envied by all other instrumentalists.”

Musicians are asked to gather at Bel Air High School to register and rehearsals begin at 3 p.m. Organizers ask that musicians “Wear festive clothes, decorate instruments, bring a music stand, and a cloth for water valve discharge.” Participant registration fee is $10.

“The first TUBACHRISTMAS was conducted by Paul Lavalle in New York City's Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink on Sunday, December 22, 1974,” according to the organization’s web site. “Traditional Christmas music performed at the first TUBACHRISTMAS was arranged by American composer Alec Wilder who ironically died on Christmas Eve, 1980. Wilder composed many solo and ensemble compositions for tuba and euphonium. He was a loyal supporter of every effort to improve the literature and public image of our chosen instruments. Through Alec Wilder we express our respect and gratitude to all composers who continue to embrace our instruments with their compositions and contribute to the ever growing solo and ensemble repertoire for tuba and euphonium.”

Randolph Harrison, who can be reached at 410-391-l7832, is the conductor for Sunday’s Bel Air performance.

TUBACHRISTMAS is part of The Harvey Phillips Foundation, Inc., of Bloomington, Ind.

It is “a not-for-profit foundation incorporated in the state of New York dedicated to "...developing, expanding, and preserving the music arts.”