Each family has its own set of holiday traditions, and a growing number of people are including Anchorage’s Tuba Christmas concert in their list of annual rituals. More than 100 people were in the audience for this year’s concert, leaving little room inside the lobby of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.


About 60 musicians pumped out Christmas tunes for an hour on Sunday afternoon. At first reluctant, much of the audience was singing along by mid-show.


The title “Tuba Christmas” is a bit of a misnomer; there were also euphoniums and baritone horns in the band.


“Without it, it’s not Christmas,” said Jennifer Bachman, who has been a part of the concert since 1998.


The band is led by conductor Neal Haglund, who brings an infectiously positive attitude to the rehearsal.


“You can always play quiet if you want to, because there are always people who want to play [loud],” said Haglund.


Musicians of all ages and skill levels are welcome to participate after paying a $10 registration fee. More seasoned players, like Bachman, help the novices through the performance.


“Our philosophy is: play the notes you can, and play them well,” said Bachman.


Band members had rehearsed for just an hour before the performance began. Haglund shares Bachman’s attitude of reassurance.


“I say, ‘Don’t worry about playing all the notes, play the notes you know,’” said Haglund.


Tuba Christmas first started in 1974 in New York City. It has since grown to nearly 300 concerts nationwide each year. Anchorage hosted its first concert in 1996. Haglund said everyone returns year after year for the same reason.


“The smiles we have in the crowd and the smiles we have with the people that are playing here – they just help boost the season a little bit more,” he said.