GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Musicians from all over the region usually gather at the historic Ariel Opera House in Gallipolis, Ohio for the annual Ariel Merry TubaChristmas the second Saturday of December, though this year, plans were changed due to the pandemic.
A news release from the Ariel states, “In this most unusual year when we cannot gather in person, we are presenting a virtual Merry TubaChristmas. Visit https://arieltheatre.org/ and enjoy selections from several different years.”
Lora Snow, executive director of the Ariel, recently spoke with the Tribune about this year’s virtual celebration and finding a way to carry on the tradition.
“The holidays are an important time for people to gather together and they love live performances,” Snow said. “Music is an integral part of our lives and it can lift spirits and enhance our lives. It is especially important this year when we need to remain distanced from one another to try to bring that to people in the best and safest way we can.”
According to the Ariel news release, TubaChristmas is part of a nationwide celebration of low brass music created by Harvey Phillips. Now in its 47th year, Merry TubaChristmas is presented in over 250 cities throughout the United States and in several foreign countries.
“Phillips was inspired to create TubaChristmas as an annual event honoring his teacher, the late great tubist William J. Bell who was born on Christmas day in 1902,” the release shared. “Every Christmas season, tuba and euphonium players of all ages gather to pay respect to all the great artists and teachers who represent their heritage. Every TubaChristmas performance features traditional Christmas carols especially arranged for low brass by American composer Alec Wilder who died on Christmas Eve 1980. Through Wilder, TubaChristmas concerts pay grateful tribute to composers who have embraced these noble instruments with solo and ensemble compositions.”
Snow spoke about how TubaChristmas began at the Ariel.
“We began TubaChristmas at the Ariel Opera House in 2012 at the request of Jason Smith, Professor of Tuba at Ohio University and principal tubaist with The Ohio Valley Symphony. We formed a committee with Jason and two other low brass musicians Jeannie Wilson and Timothy Huffman and put it in place. It has grown each year both in performers and audience.
“The Ariel’s Merry TubaChristmas is part of the nationwide TubaChristmas organization which is in its 47th year. They take applications from all over the country and they schedule groups and organizations so performances are balanced out across the country. The national organization selects and arranges the music.”
When asked her opinion about some of the most memorable selections from past shows, Snow stated, “I’ve heard lots of TubaChristmas performances, but the big thrill for me is when those musicians take the Ariel stage each year and start the first song filling the air with those glorious low brass sounds that complement the Ariel’s amazing acoustics so well.”
Despite a year that cancelled, or altered, seemingly every event in the area, Snow shared her hopes for 2021 at the Ariel.
“The Ariel is ready to go whenever we can re-open our doors safely,” she said. “We have the best ever Ohio Valley Symphony season planned as well as all the other shows that make up the Ariel’s event calendar. Visit our website at arieloperahouse.org and visit our Facebook page to keep up with all the Ariel has to offer. You can also find a just completed video history of the Ariel from 1895 to the present. There are lots of photos of the restoration work done by so many community volunteers.”
Beth Sergent contributed to this story.
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