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Tubas to take center stage at Porterdale Christmas concert

PORTERDALE -- It may just be the most unique event of the holiday season in the east metro area: 50 tuba players, wearing colorful stocking caps with white pom poms and instruments adorned with ornaments and ribbons, will join for a free public performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Porterdale's historic train depot.

This is the third consecutive year of the event, known as TUBACHRISTMAS, which was initiated by Porterdale City Councilman Lowell Chambers in 2009. That first year, 29 tuba players participated.

Last year, the number was up to 41. Chambers is hoping for at least 50 this year, and he's putting out the call now for all interested tuba players to join the fun.

"Tuba players are usually on the back row of the orchestra and sometimes feel under appreciated," Chambers said. "TUBACHRISTMAS is an opportunity for the tuba to be front and center."

Musicians often gussy up for the event in festive and sometimes outrageous attire and decorate their tubas with tinsel, bows and flashing lights.

This year's concert will begin with a rendition of "Jingle Bells" incorporating strains of John Phillip Sousa, Chambers said. The rousing "Santa Wants a Tuba for Christmas" is part of this year's line up. Eastside High School Band Director Alan Fowler will direct.

Audience members are encouraged to sing along to favorite Christmas carols, led by Dan Ragsdale.

TUBACHRISTMAS is a series of festivals taking place between Thanksgiving and Christmas all over the country. It was started in 1974 by the late Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher, William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day. The first concert took place in New York City's Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink.

Now, TUBACHRISTMAS is celebrated in 200 cities nationwide. All tuba players, from middle school band students to seasoned professionals, are invited to participate.

"It's an opportunity for tuba players to meet each other and share their common interest in a light-hearted, festival atmosphere," Chambers said.

Porterdale's TUBACHRISTMAS has drawn musicians from Atlanta, Gainesville, Carrollton, and even Berlin, Germany.

"Downtown Porterdale with its small town atmosphere and intimate environment is the ideal venue for TUBACHRISTMAS," Chambers said. "If we continue at the present rate, Porterdale could soon become the preeminent TUBACHRISTMAS event in Georgia."

Tuba players should arrive at City Hall between 1 and 2 p.m. to register. There is a $5 registration fee. Past participants should bring carol books. Newcomers may purchase a book of carols at registration. Stocking caps are also available for purchase.

A rehearsal will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. prior to the performance. For more information, call 770-784-5894.