Merry TubaChristmas! Iron Range musicians celebrate the horn and the holidays

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:53 PM CST
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VIRGINIA, MN (CBS 3 Duluth) - From Washington D.C. to Chicago to Minnesota’s Iron Range, tuba and baritone enthusiasts, like Virginia native Tom Baldrica, are tooting their own horns this holiday season.

“Merry TubaChristmas is born out of a tribute to the greatest tuba player of all time, Bill Bell, born on Christmas Day.”

For the last 48 years later, Merry TubaChristmas has spanned 300 cities in the U.S. and several foreign countries.

“It brings tuba players and baritone players together to celebrate the history of our horn, to celebrate camaraderie as low brass players, and to celebrate music educators.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the performance on the Iron Range.

On Saturday, musicians will take to the stage at Virginia High School’s historic Goodman auditorium to perform your favorite holiday classics.

“It’s joy to the world, it’s jingle bells, it’s up on a housetop, it’s silent night. So it’s all the ones you can sing along with, all the songs that you know, you’re just hearing them in arrangements you’ve never heard before,” said Baldrica.

That’s because it’s all centered around the tuba - an instrument Baldrica said is often misunderstood.

“People think sometimes the tuba is nothing more than oom pah pah and a polka band,” said Baldrica while sitting on stage at Goodman Auditorium. “To hear 40 or 50 tubas and baritones playing Christmas carols in four-part harmony is a sound that is just glorious.”

It’s not just the sounds coming together, it’s generations of musicians.

“My family’s mantra our entire life has been ‘music is a lifetime sport.’ To be able to have youngsters come in who are junior high-age players who are 12, 13 years old, to sit alongside seasoned veterans, we’ll say, of 80 years old, 82, 83 years old.”

Baldrica said it’s a performance that hits every note of the holiday season: community, charity, and cheer.

“It’s a Christmas tradition unlike any other.”

Merry TubaChristmas begins Saturday at 1 p.m. at Goodman Auditorium in the Virginia High School. The event is free but if you can bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to the Quad Cities Food Shelf it would be very much appreciated.

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