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Alaska Center for the Performing Arts offers virtual rendition of TubaChristmas

(Alaska Center for the Performing Arts)
Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 4:07 PM AKST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2020 at 4:11 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For some, it’s a staple of the season: the big sounds of brass instruments belting out holiday music.

TubaChristmas is an international event that started in 1974 in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza as a way for tuba player Harvey Phillps to honor his mentor, William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas in 1902.

In Anchorage, it has been a tradition going back more than 25 years.

Normally, about 60 local horn players gather in the lobby of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts downtown to a crowd of hundreds lining the steps and balconies to sing along or just enjoy the music.

“So it is very popular people bring their chairs some people bring picnic stuff and go sit up on the different levels of the mezzanine the balcony and just listen to the music,” says Musical Coordinator Neal Haglund. “It’s a really fine area to play because it’s all concrete, steel and metal up there so you really get a good vibrance of the venue up there.”

This year the pandemic took the wind out of the holiday and it looked like Anchorage was going to be another location where the event wouldn’t happen. But people at the Performing Arts Center didn’t want to give up on the tradition, so they decided to take it virtually.

“Players from the community are used to coming and participating in this community experience together,” says Codie Costello, president of the center. “And when you go to look at where it’s happening this year you see canceled, canceled, canceled. There are a few locations including us that are finding ways to do it differently.”

So they decided to record the scaled-down event, using a half dozen horn players socially distanced on the stage.

Costello says a business that is meant to draw large crowds, the pandemic has been hard on the PAC. She says they are still calculating the losses and have already made big cuts.

“We know we’re not the only ones,” says Costello. “We know we’re not alone in this in terms of our industry. At the same time, we’re going to be the last to be able to return to business as usual being an industry that promotes large gatherings it’s going to take sometime before we can truly do that again.”

This recording was the inauguration of equipment provided by ConocoPhilips, equipment that will be used for other PAC projects that are still in the development stage.

The concert can be viewed in its entirety through a link to YouTube at the PAC’s website and sections on their Facebook page.

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