It's TUBACHRISTMAS time in Kingsport

J. H. Osborne • Dec 22, 2019 at 10:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Tuba and euphonium players from near and far will gather Monday to perform a free concert of Christmas carols. The event is part of an annual international celebration that started in 1974 at Rockefeller Center’s ice rink in New York City, local organizer Hunter Mullins said.

Mullins will be conducting, as will guest conductor Dr. Preston Light, a Dobyns-Bennett High School alumnus, who has a doctorate in tuba from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and has played with a number of major symphony orchestras.

“I’ve been a part of the Kingsport event since Hunter started it,” Light told the Times News on Friday. “When he first called me with the idea to do one in our city, I was very excited. The Tri-Cities has a strong music community and has produced quite a few professional musicians.

“Every year we have been growing in numbers, and it is always a joy to be a part of the event. When Hunter asked if I would like to guest conduct this year, I immediately said yes. I did my undergraduate at Tennessee Technological University and studied with R. Winston Morris. Morris is a legend in the tuba community because he was the first person to create a tuba ensemble.

“Being steeped in that history, I have a deep love for the tuba ensemble. TUBACHRISTMAS is all about continuing the history of the men and women who laid the foundation for the tuba and euphonium community, and I’m proud to be a small part of continuing that tradition. Events like these are what first led me to being in band, and has led me to get a doctorate in music and jobs teaching at universities and playing with major professional orchestras around the country. If even one person is touched by what we do at an event like TUBACHRISTMAS, it can have have such a lasting effect on their future. I hope many people in the community will join us Monday as we share our music and get ready for the holiday season.”

Mullins is band director at John Sevier Middle School and this is his seventh year heading up the local TUBACHRISTMAS concert.

The event is open to anyone with a tuba or euphonium and usually attracts about 40 performers from near and far, Mullins said prior to last year’s event.

This will be the seventh consecutive year of having a Kingsport TUBACHRISTMAS concert. It was an event for awhile years ago, but that had stopped in the mid-1990s.

Mullins said there’s a “core group” that shows up each year, as well as newcomers. And the local event has drawn participants from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

Those folks, however, don’t come all the way to Kingsport just for the concert. A lot of them are people traveling for the holidays and just happen to be passing near Kingsport at the right time. Mullins said college students are “the lifeblood” of the core group.

There’s a website that lists all the dates, times and locations of TUBACHRISTMAS concerts around the world. The concert here is the only one in our region, according to that online listing.

The concert itself will last about 40 minutes and feature songs from a standard book, used at all TUBACHRISTMAS events since 1974, that has about 30 songs in it. The audience is often encouraged to sing along.

If you want to go as an onlooker, it’s free. Participants pay a $10 registration fee (and if they don’t have one already — and most of them do — they must purchase the songbook for $20). Money raised goes to the Harvey Phillips Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to developing, expanding, and preserving the musical arts.

Registration is at 5 p.m., rehearsal will take place at 5:30, and the concert follows at 7. All three will be held at the Renaissance Center (1200 E. Center St.).