The International Tuba Day takes place annually on the First Friday in May. This year International Tuba Day is on Friday 2nd May 2014. What is the point of it and does it really have any true significance? Does it raise awareness of the instrument or is it just an excuse for tuba players to party?
According to the International Tuba Day website, this particular day was created for everybody, not just tuba players and exists to raise the profile of the instrument in terms of the understanding of what it does, can do and the musicality required to play it.
The Tuba Day website (http://www.tubaday.com/) tells us that the day was actually founded by a tuba player called Joel Day in 1979. In his school there were only two tuba players and they often found that their fellow musicians had a lack of respect for what they did. Joel felt it would be a good idea to create a day that celebrates the tuba and all it does whilst he studied at Millersville University. International Tuba Day is celebrated across the world and arrangements of music have been created for Tuba and Euphonium ensembles that can be prepared and performed on this day. These books can be purchased through Tuba-Euphonium Press.
Of course this day was created over 30 years ago, and you would have thought that things would have moved on in terms of the general opinion of people and their understanding. Yet, in many ways, nothing has really changed. Just a few years ago the instrument was placed on what was deemed an endangered species list and some music services were offering free lessons for a term to try and boost the popularity of this instrument.
The tuba is a fairly strange instrument to be completely honest. The player will often have the fewest notes of any instrument in an orchestra, rarely gets to play melodies and does most of its work in the background. The sound that it produces I believe is like the sound of liquid chocolate, but for many people it is simply a rude, low noise that is somewhat akin to a farmyard animal.
But the tuba is an instrument that is capable of much more than it is given credit for. The instrument can produce a velvety and sonorous sound, a bright edgy sound and has the potential for a huge range in terms of pitch and volumes. The low sounds that it produces can add a real depth and unbeatable audio quality to a chord. Just have a listen to the Bb bass players in a brass band and you will get that unbeatable feeling.
Listening to performances by Arnold Jacobs can give you the understanding of exactly what the tuba is truly capable of. Even though the internet recording is fairly poor, it is possible to hear the outstanding awareness of intonation, musicality and sound.
This video was taken from a YouTube page run by David Suarez.
Listening to any recordings of Sam Pilafian with the Empire Brass Quintet, or as part of a duet with banjo, show you the range and versatility of the instrument and what is truly possible with imagination and musicality. Oysten Baadsvik brilliantly sums up his thoughts and ideas about other people’s beliefs, understanding and awareness of the tuba and what it should (or shouldn’t do!) in this video on YouTube.
This video was taken from the YouTube page run by Oystein Baadsvik and the original link can be found here.
Possibly the most important person to me in my decision to play the tuba and the reason I really fell in love with the instrument is John Fletcher. The music he played always seemed to have a real character, sense of musicality and a complete understanding of purpose. It seemed to me as though he cared so much about every single note in every way from the way in which he played. His sound was so round, full and rich and I know I will not have been the first, and certainly not the last, to be completely inspired by this master at work.
As well as the International Tuba Day, it is possible to get involved in TubaChristmas. This is a wonderful event held across the World in which tuba, euphonium and baritone players can get together and perform a range of festive music in a massed ensemble. The sound that is produced is like nothing you will have heard before and is truly astounding!
The fact remains that the tuba is often thought of as a lumbering instrument with players that are somewhat lacking in intelligence or musical awareness. This post is my own small way of attempting to challenge this widely held perception and spread awareness of the possibilities of this grotesquely underrated, yet beautiful, instrument. Whatever instrument you play I wish you a very happy International Tuba Day on Friday the 2nd of May 2014. I hope you have the chance to perform, play or enjoy hearing the tuba play this week!