BENNINGTON -- Crowds gathered despite the below-freezing temperature on Saturday to hear young musicians perform as part of the international tradition "Tuba Christmas."
More than a dozen musicians -- mostly students from area college and high school bands, braved strong winds and frozen pipes for nearly two hours to perform Christmas carols and seasonal favorites for holiday shoppers and members of the community outside of Petco.
"This is the coldest it's ever been for them," said Tim Downey, who bundled up with his wife Jenn to enjoy the music and support their son, Nolan Downey.
The Mount Anthony Union High School junior has participated in Tuba Christmas for the past six years, with three of them spent in Bennington, and will travel to New York City to perform at the ice rink in Rockefeller Center with more than 100 other euphonium players -- where the first Tuba Christmas was held four decades ago.
Saturday's music in Bennington was led by conductor Jackson Burhans and guest conductor Maximillian McGee. The event was coordinated by Derek Burhans, also on tuba.
The younger Burhans is a sophomore at Berlin High School in Berlin, New York, and traveled to Bennington to play with his father, who has played in the event for several years.
Throughout the morning performers took frequent breaks to warm up inside the store, alternating so the music could continue, and sharing a large package of hand-warmers.
"I had icicles forming right here," said Jay Sager, band teacher at Mount Anthony Union Middle School, gesturing to his instrument.
"We're all willing to brave the cold for this, it's just a fun thing to do," said Sager. "There's only so much music in a small community. People dig it -- so if they're listening, we'll play."
Anyone is welcome to participate in the holiday spirit, with only one exception:
"No trumpets or trombones allowed," laughed Sager.
Tuba Christmas was started in 1974, by the late musician and professor of music, Harvey Phillips. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the concert tradition, created by Phillips to honor his mentor William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day in 1902.
Unlike many other events held at this time of year, the participants were not raising money or accepting donations at the event.
Participating musicians pay $10 to cover the cost of sheet music, and any additional money goes to benefit the Harvey Phillips Foundation, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to expanding and preserving the music arts.
For more information visit www.tubachristmas.com.
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