Seventy-six trombones led the big parade in "The Music Man," but 71 tubas led carolers Saturday in Naperville during the 38th annual Tuba Christmas concert.
About 150 listeners gathered outside U.S. Bank at Jefferson Avenue and Washington Street to sing along as 71 sousaphones, tubas and baritones belted out 13 holiday favorites from their "Carols for a Merry Tuba Christmas" song book.
"This is by far our biggest crowd of listening people, but it's also our biggest Tuba Christmas," said Ron Keller, who directs both the tuba concert and the Naperville Municipal Band.
The audience included family of the performers, like Jim Rostis of Plainfield. Rostis said he enjoys hearing his son and grandson play in Tuba Christmas because the quality of sound is impressive.
"When people hear tuba, tuba, tuba, how good can it sound?" Rostis said. "It sounds spectacular."
Novice tuba players Luke Bentley and Carly Salutric, both 11, of Lockport, also joined the crowd. Luke's mother, Cheryl Bentley, took the classmates to hear their instrument featured in a Christmas show after a friend who works in Naperville told her about the concert.
"It was awesome. I loved it," Carly said after the show. "It was so loud and everyone seemed professional."
Many of the tuba players actually were students -- one as young as 10. Sitting or standing near the bank's entrance wearing red or green "Tuba Christmas" hats and scarves, the performers battled cold temperatures to keep their valves from freezing mid-carol.
"I was a little apprehensive when I saw the temperature this morning at 10 degrees, but I was confident with a little sun, we'd survive," Keller said.
The temperature was 18 degrees at the DuPage Airport in West Chicago at Tuba Christmas' 11 a.m. starting time, according to the National Weather Service, but audience members checking cellphone weather apps said it reached the mid-20s in Naperville.
Either way, the weather was just warm enough for the outdoor show to go on before performers headed to an indoor concert at Westfield Fox Valley mall in Aurora.
But the tubas couldn't get through their first half-hour concert of the day without booming a couple of low notes that made listeners laugh. Laughs could be heard along with song lyrics during "Good King Wenceslas," and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" got the crowd bouncing along to a polka-like beat.
Even without the trumpets or flutes that more often star in musical ensembles, Bentley said she heard plenty of variety and melody in the sound.
"It was very soulful," she said.