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Voices of Spencer Creek

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Tuba Christmas and The King's Carolers

A personal look at two precious holiday traditions in Lane County.

By Lois Barton

Posted on Dec 15, 2007

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The Springfield Tuba Concert, photo courtesy of The Eugene Register-Guard

I Hear the Bells, No, Tubas!

Not all holiday observances are linked to commercialism. On December 1, I attended the sixth annual Tuba Carol Concert in Springfield, Oregon. It was held in a city parking lot where the temperature was 35 degrees. Fifty tubas under a canopy played carols for an hour. The occasion was emceed by one of the tuba players, John Heunink, who had a delightful sense of humor, playfully ad libbing with relevant information between carols..

He explained that there were four kinds of tubas; tuba, sousaphone, euphonium, and harmonium, in each case asking a player to show us what it looked like. The oldest tuba played in this concert was built in 1916. A tuba weighs about 40 pounds. He said the word tuba had been around since since the fifteenth century and means "the most beautiful and perfect of all musical instruments." He also pointed out that tubas are brass instruments and do not rust, which makes them suitable for settings like this one, while a violin is not. The oldest player, Jim Newell, who has been playing with the group since that first local concert, said he cannot remember a single time when they have been rained on. More than 200 people showed up for this concert, bundled up to endure the weather as they listened. Even the tuba players mostly had hats, many of them Santa types. Small incidents added to the festivities. Someone was blowing bubbles at the side of the lot, and bubbles floated over the crowd and tuba players throughout much of the hour. The man next to me seemed well supplied with small hand-warmers some of which he donated to me and several of my grandchildren standing nearby.

When the tubas played Jingle Bells the crowd was asked to be the bell-ringers, shaking their car keys in time to the music. There was an impromptu refreshment stand nearby where hot coffee and cookies could help relieve people's chill.

Fascinating bits of information were supplied. One sousaphone player found his instrument in a scrap metal recycling bin. The youngest player was eleven; the eldest 83. Two family pairs, parent and child were playing.

There are 120 such tuba associations in the world and such concerts are played in cities in Europe and Asia as well as the US. The Oregon Tuba Association held their first concert in Eugene 29 years ago. In fact, their first 23 were played in Eugene before they moved to Springfield to provide the opener to the Springfield Christmas parade.

This delightful experience has added community cheer in a way that represents the true spirit of our holiday which, it seems to me, has been commercially subverted in unsuitable ways. I’ll be watching for next year’s concert.

The King’s Carolers

A dozen years ago two of our grandsons, brothers, organized an a-capella singing group they named the King’s Carolers. There were six young people dressed in Victorian costume. The men wore stovepipe hats and tails. The women were clad in sumptuous long dresses with lace and ruffles, and they sang is four-part harmony. These carolers have continued, offering free concerts about town and beyond. Nursing homes, service clubs, churches, bed and breakfast homes competed for a place on their schedule. Their repertoire includes strongly Christian carols as well as "The Little Drummer Boy" and "We Wish you a Merry Christmas."

The makeup of the group has changed over the years as people matured and married. There are ten singers in this year’s choir. One of the grandsons is married and living in Alaska. His wife was also one of the original members. Their skill in arrangements and harmony has grown with the group, so that listening becomes a rich, heart warming experience.

Last Sunday I joined other family members in a seventy-mile drive to the Oregon Coast where the carolers were booked to sing at an open house at the Heceta Lighthouse keepers former home, now a bed and breakfast place. They had sung there last year and were back by request.

That hour of skilled harmonious caroling was worth the long drive many times over. Our hosts offered refreshment to open house visitors. The place was mobbed when we got there. One visitor in the room where we found a place to sit was returning home from Crescent City, California, by bicycle and just happened to stop and investigate the brightly lit house on the hill. He had formerly been camping, but the cold, wet weather had moved him to mail his tent and camping supplies back to Portland, and he was finding indoor places to spend his nights. Imagine his delight to be present for that musical treat plus having a welcome nights lodging.

At seven p.m. when the concert was finished and the open house ending, we family members and the singers drove south to Florence for dinner at Mo’s restaurant. Just before closing time the 14 of us entered looking for supper. Mo’s clam chowder is a treat any time. It is sometimes served in a sourdough bread bowl hollowed to hold a very generous serving of chowder.

Back home to my comfortable bed by 10:30, I cherish the memory of this lovely Christmas celebration so much in keeping with the holy spirit of the season.

Copyright ©2007 by Lois Barton

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is an 88 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life-long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including:

Three Tales for the Wintertide: Of Dragons and Dreams

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Visit to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Frank and the Rivers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: My Friend Peg and the Peaceful Good Fight

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: These Stones Are Speaking

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Lucy McIver, Peace Pole Artist

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Telephones, Then and Now

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Remembering Bovine Tuberculosis

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: What Is a Quilt?

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Quakers in the British Virgin Islands

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Manta Rays, and Dandelions, A Poem, also introducing Carolann Krohn

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Those Husky Macadamia Nuts

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Fender's Blue, a Nine Day Wonder

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Frannie and the Arrow

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Bhavia's Cambodia

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of the Smoking Chimney

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of Big Oak Stables

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Fishy Story

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Different Peace

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Hal and the Mountain

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Rogue River Adventure

Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Obituary for a Country Cat

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Cortesia Sanctuary

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.

See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery

Sauerkraut and All That

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife–The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2006 by West By

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