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Tuba Christmas returns to Market Square on Saturday with a new conductor

Scott MacInnes, who studied under Tuba Christmas founder Eugene Dowling, takes the baton for Saturday afternoon’s performance at Market Square.
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Scott MacInnes, the new conductor of Tuba Christmas, with a tenor tuba and a new friend in Market Square. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Scott MacInnes pulls a gleaming tenor tuba from its case, and soon, deep mellow notes are floating through the air at Market Square.

On Saturday afternoon, MacInnes will be joined by dozens of tuba, trombone and euphonium players in the square for Victoria’s 45th Tuba Christmas, which raises money for the Times Colonist Christmas Fund.

“It’s awesome that such a lowly instrument can provide so much happiness,” said MacInnes, who will be conducting the festive ensemble for the first time.

“Tuba Christmas brings people together in a positive way but is also used to raise donations for those in need. Whether you’re a performer, or someone listening, or you want to donate because it’s happening, there’s just so many different positive levels in the musical community and in the homeless community in Victoria.”

Tuba Christmas was founded 45 years ago by Eugene Dowling, a tuba player with the Victoria Symphony who taught at the University of Victoria for more than 30 years.

In 2014, in declining health, Dowling passed his baton and music book to Paul Beauschesne, his former music student.

But Beauschesne has now taken a new position as director of operations for the Vancouver Symphony, and is passing the baton, in turn, to MacInnes, who plays trombone, teaches music performance at UVic and also studied under Dowling.

“Gene took me under his wing — I was only 25 when I first started teaching at the university. That was a big amount of trust for him to take me on,” said MacInnes. “The fact that Gene did Tuba Christmas every single year of his life in Victoria speaks to how much he believed in doing this.”

MacInnes, a member of the Vancouver Island Symphony, has played in almost all the Tuba Christmases since he moved to Victoria in 2005.

He is hoping that 75 musicians — current and retired music teachers and young music students — will join him at Saturday’s concert.

“The cool thing about Tuba Christmas is that people who don’t normally play tuba or euphonium decide they would like to join the ranks and beg, borrow or steal an instrument,” he said.

MacInnes will continue the tradition of recognizing veterans and people in the military. Members of the Fifth Field band will play in uniform. Former and current members of the Naden Band will also join in, puffing out the familiar old carols.

The “low-brass” band will play MacInnes’s arrangements of The Huron Carol and Abide With Me, which was commissioned by euphonium player Dennis Latham after Dowling’s death.

“Aside from donating to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund and the large crowds coming to the convert, the other thing that makes Victoria so unique is that it’s so personalized,” said MacInnes. “The people who perform, the people who watch, feel that personal connection. It’s not just an event you come to be seen and heard at — it’s an event to come to be part of something bigger.”

The concert is set for 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, with short breaks to allow the musicians to warm up and hydrate.

HOW TO DONATE TO THE CHRISTMAS FUND

You can donate by going to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund web page at tcchristmasfund.com

The page is linked to CanadaHelps, which is open 24 hours and provides an immediate tax receipt.

Or mail a cheque to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 201-655 Tyee Road, Victoria, B.C. V9A 6X5.

You can also use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

ldickson@timescolonist.com