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Merry Tubachristmas returns to Potsdam

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POTSDAM — Tubas and euphoniums returned to Potsdam Saturday, with 16 musicians performing brass-instrument-only versions of popular carols at Potsdam United Methodist Church.

Merry Tubachristmas is a nationwide annual event, founded in 1974 to honor famous tubist William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas day in 1902.

“You haven’t heard a Christmas carol until you play it on a tuba,” said event organizer Marylee E. Ballou, executive director of the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce.

This was Potsdam’s third time holding a Tubachristmas concert, and this year more musicians than ever joined the band.

Some of the musicians had never participated in the event before, while others were Tubachristmas veterans.

“I’ve lost count of how many I’ve done,” said Carl F. Paulson of Plattsburgh, who plays two or three Tubachristmas events every year, all across the Northeast.

“It’s just fun,” he said.

Crane School of Music professor and Tubachristmas veteran Peter M. McCoy was the conductor of Saturday’s concert.

“When I was asked to conduct this year, I jumped at the chance,” he said.

Nikolas M. Seger, a Middletown native and Crane freshman, is new to Potsdam but no stranger to Merry Tubachristmas. He has played in five previous concerts, all at the largest Tubachristmas concert in New York City.

“It’s quite a different atmosphere, because there’s usually about 400 tubas there,” he said.

Mr. Seger said he loves Christmas music, and the annual concerts give him an experience that few other tubists get.

“It’s nice to actually play the melody for once,” he said.

Many of the tubists were Crane students, not all of whom specialize in tuba. Gillian Macchia, of Orchard Park, is a harpist, but after taking several tuba classes she decided she wanted to stay involved.

“I really wanted to keep playing tuba,” she said.

The audience was urged to sing along to Christmas classics such as “Silent Night” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

The concert was free, but attendees were encouraged to donate money or a jar of peanut butter to help the Potsdam Neighborhood Center.

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