The Pentacrest — Friday, Dec. 13 at 12:30 p.m.
In most places around the country, sleigh bells and carolers (who may or may not be “a-wassailing”) are the sounds of the season, but in Iowa City, there are also tubas.
Since 1973, tuba, sousaphone (the wrap-around tuba for marching) and euphonium (think tuba, but smaller) players have gathered on the Pentacrest for Holiday Tubas. The core of the group is made up of students from the University of Iowa’s tuba and euphonium ensemble (known more formally as Collegium Tubum), but anyone with a tuba and a heart full of holiday cheer is welcome to join in, according to John Manning, UI associate professor of tuba and leader of the Holiday Tubas since 2004.
“We ask them to meet us at noon [on Friday, Dec. 13] inside of the Old Capitol building and we start playing at 12:30 and conclude at 1pm,” Manning said in a UI press release. Most of the participants have already met for two rehearsals, “but rehearsal is not mandatory for participating in the performance.”
“It started as a lark and now it’s a tradition,” Robert Yeats, the now-retired UI music professor who first assembled the Holiday Tubas in 1973, told the Gazette in 2000. For 30 years, regardless of how cold the weather got, Yeats dressed as Santa and directed the tubas.
In recent years, it’s also become a tradition for Holiday Tubas to support the Domestic Violence Intervention Program’s Holiday Store. The Iowa City-based nonprofit provides support and advocacy services for victims and survivors of domestic violence and their families, and its annual store offers its clients a secure place to find gifts for children at no charge.
The Holiday Tubas are asking their audience to a bring new, unwrapped toys to donate, if they’d like to help. There are also drop-off donation spots for the Holiday Store located around Johnson County.
The Pentacrest performance starts at 12:30 p.m. on Friday. Following the final song, cider and cookies will be served in the Old Capitol Museum.