Tuba players celebrate the holiday season with annual concert led by Burbank resident

With Christmas just weeks away, the sounds of carolers singing, Salvation Army bells beside red kettles and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" fill the air.

However, the organizers of the free annual Merry TubaChristmas concert, which is in its 42nd year, are hoping to offer people a change of pace for their holiday tunes.


More than 100 tuba players from Los Angeles County of varying ages and experience levels will be performing classic Christmas and Hanukkah songs at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Hall of Liberty at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, located at 6300 Forest Lawn Dr.

Burbank resident and tuba player Scott Wilkinson, who has played in the concert for about 40 years and has been conducting the performance the last seven years, said that TubaChristmas was started almost 50 years ago by Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher William J. Bell and to showcase what the sometimes-forgotten and underestimated brass instrument can do.

"It's meant to be a jolly-good time for the community and for the tuba players," Wilkinson said. "Part of it was to show the world that tuba players have a unique camaraderie."

Though any tuba player of any skill level can register to perform, Wilkinson said each year the concert includes a fair number of professional musicians, including those from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, recording artists and members of the Hollywood Tuba 12, a group of musicians who perform around the L.A. area.

The tuba lends itself to Christmas songs, Wilkinson said, because of the warm, round tones that emanate from the instrument.

"Brass instruments, in general, are appropriate for Christmas," he said.

Wilkinson, who was a professional tuba player several years ago, said many people think tubas are not as versatile as other instruments, and he hopes the annual performance puts that misconception to bed.

"People just think that tuba players stand in the back of an orchestra or band and play a few notes," Wilkinson said. "TubaChristmas gives tuba players a chance to stand up and be at the forefront and be the featured instrument."

Twitter: @acocarpio