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Forte: Musicians share the joy of the season

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David McLemore, Yakima Symphony Orchestra principal tuba

The holiday season is comprised of a wonderful mixture of celebrations and traditions: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Festivus (for the rest of us), just to name a few. This joyous season is not only a highlight for families and the community, but also a particularly wonderful time for orchestral musicians like those in the Yakima Symphony Orchestra.

The end of the year presents a wide range of diverse performance opportunities for musicians. One obvious example is the YSO’s recent Holiday Pops Spectacular, which allowed our musicians to present enjoyable repertoire in collaboration with the Yakima Symphony Chorus, Yakima Valley College Choir and Yakima School of Ballet.

Many seminal holiday works actually constitute gigs in and of themselves. Consider Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” a composition that has enjoyed enormous popularity over the last 50 years and which is regularly performed by ballet companies around the country; similarly, Handel’s “Messiah” provides consistent work for musicians year after year, especially during the holidays. It’s a long-running joke among musicians that Handel has — from the grave — been paying our January rent for hundreds of years.

Moving beyond the symphony, musicians often perform in churches as part of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s services. Sometimes holiday programs take on a jazzy flair — exemplified here in Yakima by the annual Stan Kenton Jazz Band Christmas concert held every late November or early December at Englewood Christian Church.

Some musicians volunteer their time and talent to spreading holiday cheer. Whether it’s performing pop standards at holiday fundraisers benefiting local nonprofits, or playing Christmas carols outside the local shopping center, there are plenty of opportunities for musicians to share the joy of the season.

One particularly remarkable example of this is TubaChristmas, an annual series of concerts around the world where countless tuba and euphonium players gather to perform holiday jingles for the general public. A fun bit of trivia: The Guinness World Record for largest tuba ensemble is held by the 2018 Kansas City TubaChristmas, hosted by the Kansas City Symphony. Imagine listening to 835(!) tubas and euphoniums belt out “Joy to the World” on The Capitol Theatre stage or in downtown Yakima, the boisterous sound carrying across many city blocks.

For orchestral musicians, the holidays truly are the “most wonderful” time of the year, filled with a multitude of performance opportunities that allow them to share the joy of the season with the community.

• David McLemore is principal tuba for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. He also is the instructor of tuba and euphonium at Central Washington University. To learn more about McLemore, visit Learn more about the YSO at

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