TubaChristmas: University to offer two holiday concerts

A scene from last year’s Christmas concert. (Photo courtesy of Melinda Rush)

If’you’d like to get an early jump on your Christmas holiday fun, you might consider one or two concerts offered free to the public this weekend by Waynesburg University.

Tonight at 7:30, a concert featuring close to 40 tuba and euphonium (baritone) players will fill the Goodwin Performing Arts Center with song in a special concert of Christmas music titled “TubaChristmas.”

The group is made up of students and community members, some of which come from far away to perform. Conceived in 1974 by Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher and mentor William J. Bell, born on Christmas Day, 1902, TubaChristmas is celebrating its 46th anniversary this year.

According to the group’s website, the first TubaChristmas was conducted by Paul Lavalle in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink on Sunday, Dec. 22, 1974. Traditional Christmas music performed at the first concert was arranged by American composer Alec Wilder who ironically died on Christmas Eve,

Waynesburg University has been staging its own TubaChristmas for at least a decade and maybe even longer. Ronda DePriest, Ph.D., professor of instrumental music and director of the music program at Waynesburg University, said the concert will allow people coming into town for today’s Holiday Open House to stop in at the Goodwin Performing Arts Center on campus for the concert.

“We’ll project the lyrics to the songs on a screen for the audience to read and sing along,” she said. “It’s great family fun and a good way to start off the holiday season.”

Tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m., the Waynesburg University music program will host its annual Christmas Concert in Roberts Chapel. Admission is free, and the public is cordially invited to attend.

The concert will feature both the University’s Lamplighters Concert Choir, under the direction of Melanie Catana, assistant professor of vocal music, and the Symphonic Band, under the direction of DePriest.

“Waynesburg University has been doing an annual Christmas concert since at least when I joined the faculty 14 years ago, and I know it goes back even much farther,” DePriest said.

The music on the program will feature a mixture of traditional and sacred music related to Christmas. The Symphonic Band’s selections, specifically, will focus on the Star of Bethlehem.

“We’ll play carols and music with the word star in the title such as ‘Star Above Shine Brightly,’ ‘So Pure the Star’ and ‘Wondrous Star,’ based on the tune of ‘We Three Kings,’” DePriest said.

Like the symphonic band, the Lamplighters will also perform five or six familiar seasonal tunes like “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” plus a major work “The Midwife’s Tale, performed along with a string quartet.

The concert will conclude with a final longer composition in which both groups will fill the stage with around 100 singers and musicians in the Roberts Chapel, appropriately decorated for Christmas.

The pieces were chosen to bring comfort for the season shared by family and friends,” DePriest said. “

Following the concert, the audience can join a cookie and punch reception on the lower floor of the Roberts Chapel in the Marsh Center.

“This concert is sure to enchant and begin a magical, musical holiday season,” DePriest added.

The Symphonic Band is made up of 45 brass, woodwind and percussion musicians who perform two concerts each semester. Generally, there’s a fall and Christmas concert during the first half of the school year and a midwinter and spring concert the second semester.

The Lamplighters date back to 1961 when Professor James ‘Fuzzy’ Randolph asked a small group of students to get together and sing with him. Since then it’s grown to become a large vocal ensemble with a touring component of 20 students who audition for admission. Last year the touring choir went to Romania and this spring they plan to go on tour to Hershey.

“Students at Waynesburg University can join a music ensemble and gain one college credit,” DePriest said. “We also have many smaller ensembles, so there are many ways for a student to become a part of the music program.”

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