Hundreds of tenor and bass tuba players will congregate on The Rink at Rockefeller Center, 49th and 50th streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, on Sunday, December 13, at 3:30 p.m. to play Christmas carols and other crowd favorites.
During the annual Merry Tuba Christmas, tubists of all ages will line up under the famous Christmas tree and fill the plaza with the organ-line sound of low brass. Spectators are encouraged to sing along with the Christmas carols and holiday favorites.
The musicians, hailing from across the country, will be conducted by Chris Wilhjelm, conductor of the famous Goldman band. Conceived by tuba virtuoso Harvey Phillips to honor his teacher, the late William J. Bell (Born Christmas Day, 1902), the first Tuba Christmas was presented at Rockefeller Center in 1974, conducted by Paul LaValle, of Band of America fame. This unusual Christmas tradition is firmly established in over 200 cities around the world.
Chris Wilhjelm has been the Conductor and Music Director of the critically acclaimed Ridgewood Concert Band since it’s founding in 1983. From 2000-2005, he was the Music Director of the legendary Goldman Band in New York. Dr. Wilhjelm has performed as a French hornist with the Boston Symphony, the Boston Pops and, as a principal, with the Boston Ballet Orchestra, the Boston Opera Orchestra and the Richmond, Virginia Symphony, and he continues to perform professionally as a hornist with the brass quintet in residence at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ. Active as a guest clinician and conductor, Dr. Wilhjelm has instructed youth and adult ensembles throughout the world.
Although John D. Rockefeller Jr. spent most of his life engaged in philanthropy, his single, defining business venture was the creation of the “city within a city”. Constructed during the Great Depression’s worst years, the project gainfully employed over 40,000 people. When Rockefeller Center officially opened in May 1933, it held true to the developing team’s belief that art was an act of good citizenship. 30 Rockefeller Plaza boasted a grand lobby decorated by accomplished European artists, Frank Brangwyn and José Maria Sert. Throughout the 1930s, Rockefeller Center steadily improved, including some accidental innovations like the Christmas Tree tradition in 1931 and the skating rink in 1936. By 1939, more than 125,000 people were visiting Rockefeller Center daily; on its own, it would have been the 51st largest city in the U.S.
Recognizing that an estimated million people walk through Rockefeller Center every year, current co-owners continue to strive to revive John D. Rockefeller’s original visions for the complex as much as possible. From great 20th century sculptor, Louise Bourgeouis’ bronze Spiders spectacle, to Agnes Winter’s Monument to Smile exhibition, to Takashi Murakami’s Reverse Double Helix display, the 2000’s have been filled with innovative and inspirational masterpieces. Also kept alive is Rockefeller’s humanitarian spirit. In 2008, a “penny harvest” collected over 100 million pennies to be donated to community grants and service projects throughout the city. And in effort to contribute to a healthier environment, the complex has installed 363 solar panels and is planning a green roof on top of Radio City Music Hall. With even more exciting developments including the reopening of the Observation Deck, now known as Top of the Rock, so much has already happened during this decade and so much is yet to come.