When he's done talking about his father's legacy championing the tuba - and the hundreds of cities that host Tuba Christmas events as a result - Thomas Phillips has one request.
"Whatever you do, just don't put down the tuba," he said on the phone from his home in Bloomington, Indiana.
Those who have participated in Victoria's incarnation of the annual event, launched 39 years ago by Phillips's father in New York City, will be familiar with one of its principal roles: correcting the sometimes limited image of the brass instrument.
Victoria's 34th annual Tuba Christmas will be held Saturday at Market Square from 1 to 3 p.m. More than 60 tuba and euphonium players are expected to perform. Donations will be collected for the Times Colonist Christmas Fund.
"The nicest thing I hear back from people is, 'Wow, I didn't realize the tuba had such a beautiful voice,' " Phillips said. "When they all play together, it feels like a big church organ or a male glee club."
Harvey Phillips hosted the first Tuba Christmas in 1974 at Rockefeller Center as a tribute to his teacher William Bell, who was born on Christmas Day. Since then, the tradition has spread to Victoria and 256 other cities across the United States, Canada, Costa Rica and Switzerland. A Tuba Christmas in Anaheim holds the Guinness World Record for largest tuba ensemble, with 502 participants playing 15 carols in 2007. But Phillips says that's only because the Guinness officials couldn't attend an even bigger Tuba Christmas that occurred simultaneously.
"Lots of things don't last for 39 years. Marriages don't last 39 years," Phillips said. "But this is a continuation of a legacy that Dad's left for everybody."
In Victoria, Eugene Dowling is also aiming for a local record. Last year's Tuba Christmas was one musician short of reaching its goal of 70, which would be the highest local participation rate yet.
Dowling has been a longtime proponent of the instrument. In addition to hosting Tuba Christmas for 34 years, he has taught at the University of Victoria's School of Music for 36 years and also spent 25 as principal tuba with the Victoria Symphony.
He echoed Phillips's sentiments.
"Any time I play in public it's like missionary work," he said.
"There's always someone who doesn't know what your instrument is capable of."
Past players at Victoria's Tuba Christmas have included students, symphony professionals, members of the Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific, kids as young as 11 and one 90-year-old Salvation Army musician. One player, aside from Dowling, hasn't missed a single Tuba Christmas in its 34 years.
Bringing together veteran musicians with budding new ones is another one of Dowling's goals. He first considered a career in tuba as a youngster, after seeing Harvey Phillips perform.
"I thought, 'You can do this as a living?' That makes a kid practise more and get inspired," he said.
He hopes to bring together a new generation of players with current professionals through Tuba Christmas in Victoria.
"They might sit next to a professional. It's a wonderful thing," he said.
This year's Tuba Christmas will be followed by a Tuba Christmas Reprise, Sunday at 2: 30 p.m. at UVic's Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Admission is by donation and the concert is a fundraiser for tuba and euphonium projects within the school.
HOW TO DONATE TO THE CHRISTMAS FUND
If you would like to help this year, here's what you can do:
* Make a donation online HERE
* Mail or drop off a cheque made out to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, B.C. V8T 4M2
* Use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438, Monday to Friday, 8: 30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* Look for Times Colonist Christmas Fund drop boxes around the city
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