Philadelphia celebrates 50th year of ‘TubaChristmas’ with performance at Cherry Street Pier

Tubas and euphoniums were the stars of the show, with hundreds of people gathering to hear their favorite holiday classics.

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All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

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Dozens of musicians came together at Cherry Street Pier Sunday to celebrate the holiday season with Philadelphia’s rendition of “TubaChristmas.”

Tubas and euphoniums were the stars of the show, but horns of all sizes and shapes dazzled the hundreds of people who attended the holiday concert. Christmas classics, as well as some Hanukkah tunes, filled the air.

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All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

Grammy-award winning musician Jay Krush conducted and coordinated the concert.  For 35 years, Krush has been a part of the shows in Philly. He said the crowd always leaves with a smile.

“The thing that I like to hear the most is, ‘That sounds way better than I imagined it could,’” Krush said. “Because people think, ‘Oh yeah, a hundred tubas, it’s going to just be like this bombastic thing,’ but it’s really pretty. It’s worked out so that the instruments have roughly the range of a male choir.”

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Jay Krush helped coordinate and conduct this year's TubaChristmas concert in Philadelphia and has been doing so for 35 years. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Jay Krush helped coordinate and conduct this year's TubaChristmas concert in Philadelphia and has been doing so for 35 years. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

Performers of all ages blew their horns in unison, coming together — not only for the music but for the crowd and the often-fond memories associated with the holiday tunes.

Emma Dressler played her first “TubaChristmas” when she was in high school. She said playing the concert each year, “feels like you’re connecting to much more of humanity.” Dressler also noted that the music pieces span centuries, and include amateurs and professional musicians coming together for the performance.

“It’s a big motley crew community that gets to celebrate centuries of winter holiday music, and you feel like you’re part of something bigger, but an informal kind of thing,” Dressler said.

Sarah (from left), Erik, and Emma Dressler were all excited for this year's TubaChristmas in Philadelphia. They went to their first one after Sarah's friend suggested it to them, and have made it an annual tradition ever since. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Sarah (from left), Erik, and Emma Dressler were all excited for this year's TubaChristmas in Philadelphia. They went to their first one after Sarah's friend suggested it to them, and have made it an annual tradition ever since. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
TubaChristmas started back in 1974 in New York City, and has since turned into an annual event celebrated and performed worldwide. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
TubaChristmas started back in 1974 in New York City, and has since turned into an annual event celebrated and performed worldwide. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

Her mom, Sarah, noted that despite the cold weather outside, it didn’t take away from the joyous occasion at the pier.

“The pier’s a really chilly space, but the music is super warm,” Dressler said.

All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
All types of horns could be seen and heard during the TubaChristmas concert at Cherry Street Pier on Dec. 17, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The first “TubaChristmas” took place in New York City at the Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink. It was organized by Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his teacher, William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas.

Since then, the event has even expanded internationally, including events in Costa Rica and Canada.

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