Playing the tuba

By Dan White – Special to the Sydenham Cyrrent

It’s me again, the real Dan White, coming at you from our office overlooking the mighty Sydenham.

I have to admit, there were some very entertaining conversations with people about my last column as readers pulled back the curtain to realize there was simply a mix up attributing my column to Dave.

Since Dave mentioned Gavin’s concert and me playing in it, I thought this week I would write a bit about the mighty tuba… don’t stop reading!

Like the instrument itself, this will be far more interesting than you think.

I promise.

Mind you, the bar is not very high regarding peoples’ expectations for what playing tuba is like… or this column for that matter.

First a minor digression – there is far more than just music going on in C-K… a student art show at Wallaceburg Museum sponsored by Wallaceburg’s Kinsmen as well as the WDCA – which makes me ponder, why doesn’t The Burg have a private art gallery?

Don’t get me wrong I think it’s wonderful that the museum created a space for a gallery.

Just interesting that so many small communities in the 13 communities in CK have private art galleries but The Burg doesn’t.

By the by, Pamela Smith has The Studio in Dresden – which is also hosting a student art show for Dresdonians.

The CK Arts and Culture Network has two deadlines fast approaching for artists, and friends of artists.

Nominating for the CK Arts and Culture Heroes Wall of fame closes June 1.

As does the Emerging artist $1,000 youth award for artists, sponsored by CKACN.

Both of these use “artists” in the broad sense, not just visual arts, but all of the arts.

For details check out our Facebook page but hurry, time is running out.

Act now and you will also get a warm fuzzy feeling that reminds you that you supported an artist!

Speaking of acting, Theatre Kent just closed You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

Joni and I will be attending after this deadline, so no review or feedback.

TK also announced auditions recently for Jesus Christ Superstar.

Check out the TK FB page for audition info and watch for details to purchase tickets for this wonderful show in the fall.

Staying with thespians for a moment.

Performing Arts at St Andrews is holding auditions for Lucky Stiff June 4 and 5.

Check it out at

Okay, back to playing tuba…

Most people believe that a tuba basically plays the oom part of oom pah pah.

Well, we do.

But far more than that.

Most people believe that tuba is limited to simple parts and can’t actually play fast.

Nope… we can play as fast as any trumpet player.

Actually, for some time the world record for fastest playing of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee was held by Charles Daellenbach, tubist for the Canadian Brass.

Most people envision the stereotypical large human playing tuba.

It ain’t necessarily so!

When I started playing tuba, in gr 9, I was a whopping 110 pounds soaking wet.

My horn stands about 1 meter when resting on the ground.

In the case it weighs around 40 pounds.

It is a beast of an instrument.

As I mature (that’s how I like to think of it) the horn becomes more of a challenge to haul around.

Joni and I recently rearranged our rooms so our music room is on the first level.

Hauling it up and down the stairs was not going to get easier and a chair lift for my tuba seemed a bit eccentric!

Most people believe that a tuba can only play low rumbly notes, and no melody.

I can play as low as C two octaves below the bass clef.

It’s called a pedal tone, given its name because it is as low as the pedals on an organ.

But I can also play middle C above the staff… on a good day higher.

The horn is not limited in its ability to play melody by the mere size.

Like any instrument, in the hands of a talented musician, it can do a great many things.

Now, let’s dispel a myth:

Dave kindly referred to me in his column as “a superb tubist”.

I played in university back in the 80’s and then after a decade of teaching music I left my horn behind for 20 years.

I picked it back up 7 years ago when I joined WCB and to be fair, most of the basics came back quickly.

But I have not worked as hard on my horn as I have over the past couple of months to prepare for one single chart with Gavin Warren.

A walking bass line is standard fare for tuba, but this chart is more of a sprinting bass line.

It has been fun and a heck of a challenge.

To hear a superb tubist, listen to the aforementioned Mr. Daellenbach.

The thrill of this piece is listening to Gavin absolutely fly around the clarinet.

It is crazy how fast this man plays.

Fun fact: the range from Gavin’s highest note and my lowest is six octaves.

My job as a tubist is to support the rest of the band and generally not be obvious.

Bass players are often maligned for not having talent, but keeping the beat, driving the rhythms and creating the foundation upon which all the melodies and shiny bits rest is a talent.

You may not know you hear us playing, until we don’t.

Often you can just feel the tuba!

That’s actually one of the reasons I chose it.

I felt the tuba when Don Berrill played it in 1976 with the SCITS Concert band in the Mooretown gym.

(Speaking of which, I looked up his name and the custodian that paid for my first trip to Stratford was Mr. Vandaele.)

Want to test that theory?

There are 3 gigs coming up this weekend:

May 31, 7 pm – Gavin Warren’s recital at Christian Reformed Church in Wallaceburg – $20.

If you want to hear the definition of virtuoso, come on out.

June 1st, 7 pm – Saturdays at 7 Come together CK concert at St. Andrews Church in Chatham – Suggested donation $20.

Among the performers are the Wallaceburg Brass Quintet and Gavin and Tiiu.

June 2, 2pm – Wallaceburg Concert Band playing outdoors in Buxton at the Buxton Museum.


Bring a chair and an appetite, food will be sold as a fundraiser for the Buxton Historic Cemetery.

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