TUBACHRISTMAS coming Friday to Kingsport's Renaissance Center

J. H. Osborne • Dec 20, 2018 at 1:24 PM

KINGSPORT — Tuba and euphonium players from near and far will gather Friday 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 Wednesday.

Mullins will be conducting, along with guest conductor Alex Lapens.

Mullins is band director at John Sevier Middle School and this is his sixth 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. And this year it will include three eighth-graders from Sevier playing their first TUBACHRISTMAS gig.

“This is our sixth consecutive year of having a Kingsport TUBACHRISTMAS  concert,” Mullins said. “It was an event for awhile years ago, but that had stopped in the mid 1990s. We have a core group that show up each year, as well as newcomers. We’ve had people participate from New York and Pennsylvania. A family from the D.C. area usually join us. This year we know we have someone coming from Charleston, S.C.”

Those folks, however, don’t come all the way to Kingsport just for the concert, Mullins said.

“We’ve always gotten good participation out of people who are traveling for the holidays and just happen to be passing near Kingsport at the right time,” Mullins said. “They don’t mind taking a few hours to stop here and play in the concert. We’re not that far off Interstate 81 or Interstate 26. We’re on their way somewhere else, and they want to participate in a TUBACHRISTMAS concert. College students are the lifeblood of our core group. That’s the reason I schedule our concert so close to Christmas, to give as many as possible the chance to be on break.”

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.

“It’ll last about 40 minutes,” Mullins said, noting the concert’s lineup of songs comes from a standard book, used at all TUBACHRISTMAS events since 1974, that has about 30 songs in it. “It’s short and sweet. The audience usually is begging for more. It’s also a sing-along. We encourage the audience to join in on each song.”

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, Mullins said.

Planning and scheduling may go on all year, but the concert itself comes together in just one day within a short time frame.

Registration is at 5 p.m. at the Dobyns-Bennett High School band room, where rehearsal will take place at 5:30 p.m. The concert follows at 7 p.m. at the Renaissance Center (1200 E. Center St.).

Mullins said he and other event participants owe a huge thanks to band parent Cindy Turner Lemons for helping in multiple ways and are very grateful to Renaissance Center staff and the Symphony of the Mountains for the loan of music stands.

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