Two annual yuletide staples on the Grand Strand will flash their steps and resonance this weekend, amid a loaded schedule of special events.
Coastal Youth Ballet Theatre of Murrells Inlet will dance “The Nutcracker” for daily shows Friday-Sunday at Beach Church, just west of Myrtle Beach, and the Academy of Dance and Fine Arts will give its inaugural “Nutcracker” run twice on Sunday at North Myrtle Beach High School.
“TubaChristmas” will boom through the corridors Sunday afternoon at Myrtle Beach mall, near Briarcliffe Acres.
Taking up tubas
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Traveling down a few octaves from The Nutcracker’s range, the fifth annual Myrtle Beach-area “TubaChristmas” will move to the complex first known as Briarcliffe, then Colonial and now Myrtle Beach mall. Conductor Daniel Johnson said he has seen these shows sound off every year at Independence Mall in Wilmington, N.C., where he lives.
“We make it light enough so it’s not a sit-down-and-be-serious events,” he said. “People might be eating ice cream or shopping. They’re sort of drawn by the sound.”
At the mall in Wilmington, “they arrive early, and they get a seat,” Johnson said.
“The mall probably has four or five benches” in that section, he said. “Those seats go quickly.”
Playing in a mall offers “a more resonant environment, with a lot of reflective surfaces,” said Johnson, who is also the principal tuba player for the Long Bay Symphony in Myrtle Beach and a member of its brass quintet.
“It’s a warm sound,” he said. “We like to take advantage of the acoustics. It’s a very mellow sound, not brassy or harsh.”
He said TubaChristmas coordinators work from a book of about 30 Christmas numbers arranged for tuba. For Sunday’s show, the ensemble will play about 16 tunes.
They will include a feature piece, “Sleigh Ride,” on which a tuba instructor from Coastal Carolina University, Myrtle Beach High School’s band director, and a Long Bay colleague will join Johnson to make a quartet with a “very different arrangement,” he said.
Inviting the audience for sing-alongs remains one of Johnson’s favorite parts of every “TubaChristmas” gathering, after leading with a verse for each song.
Keeping the formula each year remains key for continuity with crowds and for the camaraderie among the musicians, who welcome other horn players to take part in a rehearsal at 2 p.m. Sunday at Myrtle Beach High School and then join them at the performance.
Each concert also pays tribute to the founders of the nonprofit, worldwide “TubaChristmas,” begun in 1975, and shares insight into the deepest voice among the horns.
“We promote and show off the instrument,” Johnson said. “We don’t just play ‘oom-pah, oom-pah,’ which we do very well, but we want to demonstrate ... the potential and beautiful sound of the tuba.”