Hearty warriors of Hyperborea at Tuba Christmas

There must have been a time, in sunnier days, when the idea of 400 tubas playing holiday tunes in Skyline Park sounded like a really cool idea. In fact, the Tuba Christmas Concert, now in its 29th year in downtown Denver, bills itself as "one of the most celebrated and longest-running holiday festivities in Colorado."

But that was before the weekend arctic blast presented special challenges to the hearty horn players -- as well as their shivering audience. With the temperature sinking below zero (wind chill around minus twenty), the Hyperborean nature of the event finally became clear.

Roughly a hundred or so tuba musicians actually made it to the park this year. A few had frozen valves -- the brass, not the players -- and had to be thawed out in a special heating tent. But what the ensemble lacked in numbers was compensated by teeth-chattering gumption and some festively decorated horns. Led by Bill Clark, music prof and tuba guru at the University of Colorado at Denver, they oompahed their way through the usual deck-the-halls repertory, cheered on by the frozen-faced crowd.

Clark seemed as happy with the occasional squawks as the crisp notes. "You should have heard us at rehearsal," he said.

All told, it was a heroic performance -- enough to warm the cockles of even the most brass-resistant, on a day when any warmth at all would do. -- Alan Prendergast


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