Dear fools of the world: Stop underestimating the mighty tuba!
Due to nearly 200 years of mismanagement from the orchestral elite, the tuba’s mighty, booming voice has been stifled and reduced to shamefully comedic “oom-pah-pahs” by slow-witted, uninspired composers. These tone-deaf idiots remain willfully ignorant of the raw power of the tuba, that when released, rises like a roaring kraken from the waves.
Example: In John Philip Sousa’s magnum opus “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the song’s midpoint solo is provided by the puny piccolo. Its high-pitched trill is an embarrassment, bringing to mind a high-stepping, ineffectual fop limply waving the flag that so many fought and died for. However, as a youth, my eyes were opened to the tuba’s power and possibility at a high school band competition where this song was featured. Instead of a trilling, feckless piccolo stepping to the front, the solo was performed by the mighty tuba! Where the piccolo would’ve squeaked, the tuba boomed, conjuring visions of a towering giant smashing the scattering, screaming enemies of America! The tuba could easily become the most admired and important instrument of the modern orchestra—if only we’d remove its chains.
With that in mind I attended the recent Tuba Christmas in Portland’s Pioneer Square, in which 300 tubas—300 TUBAS!!—gathered to play holiday-inspired tunes. The result was simultaneously great and frustrating.
Featuring various styles of tuba including euphoniums, helicons, baritone horns, and (my personal favorite) the MIGHTY SOUSAPHONE, this very talented orchestra played a range of Christmas faves, of both religious and secular variety, to a huge crowd of passive-aggressive senior citizens, annoying parents of annoyed children, and true tuba enthusiasts. While their performances of “White Christmas” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” (as played by an Oregon Symphony tubaist) were things of sonic beauty, these 300 mighty tuba players were mostly confined to their chairs and staid musical arrangements—chained to the same timid presentation that has plagued this mighty instrument for almost two centuries.
While there was certainly nothing to be offended by in this performance, the organizers seem to have forgotten the potential power in their grasp: 300 MIGHTY TUBAS! Screw the permits, these powerhouses of sound should take over the streets! They should be allowed to release the THUNDER that lives deep within their twisting tubes, and play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with such loud, enthusiastic abandon that sneering senior citizens and annoying families will flee the streets in terror... at first. Eventually they’ll realize the tuba is a benevolent god, one that uses its deafening, boisterous voice to remind puny humans that we all carry such power deep inside—if only we were brave enough to unleash it.
Overall Christmas rating: 13.7 candy canes.