Family-Favorite Performance Company Really Inventive Stuff Returns with Tubby the Tuba & Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
By Natalie Clare
Dreaming big and having the courage to chase those dreams is important for everyone — even tubas!
Tubby the Tuba follows a heroic musical instrument who wishes he could do more in the orchestra than simply “oom-pah, oom-pah.” When his fellow instruments catch wind of his dreams, they laugh him off, dismissive of his abilities. But with the help of new friend Mr. Frog, who shares similar musical aspirations, Tubby just might see his wish come true. This classic children’s story will be brought to life for Festival audiences by the vaudeville-inspired performance company Really Inventive Stuff and the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra — with a starring role for Festival Principal Tuba Carson McTeer, of course — on July 3. The program will also feature a playful rendition of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.
Audiences will recall Really Inventive Stuff’s previous performances at Colorado Music Festival in The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant and Toy Symphony in 2021, and Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals in 2019. They’re invited to return to Really Inventive Stuff’s zany and fun-filled world once again this summer.
Founded by classically trained performers Sara Valentine and Michael Boudewyns, Really Inventive Stuff tours educational, family-friendly concerts alongside orchestras, conductors and musicians around the world. They combine delightful comedy, imaginative storytelling, and vaudeville sensibilities in their performance and are accompanied by live orchestral music on stage. Their productions gleefully feature puppets, an ingenious use of props and amusing interactions with musicians and audience members alike. Altogether, these ingredients make for a remarkably engaging introduction to classical music for children.
“The sounds of children’s excitement isn’t something usually associated with classical music…” writes Front Row Reviewers in a 2018 review of Really Inventive Stuff’s rendering of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, going on to say that the show, “brought children in, gave them a reason to laugh, and taught them a thing or two about the symphony.”
The story of Tubby the Tuba originated in the 1940s by lyricist Paul Tripp and composer George Kleinsinger. Cary O’Dell, who’s written extensively about the animated and heroic tuba, says inspiration struck during an orchestral rehearsal when a resident tubist said to Tripp and Kleinsinger, “You know, tubas can sing too.”
“That night, or so legend has it, Tripp went home and conceived of a deceptively simple story, to be told in music and spoken word, focusing on the plight of the largest, lowest and usually most disrespected instrument in the orchestra,” O’Dell writes.
The determined tuba with song in his heart soon emerged as a valiant hero. Tubby the Tuba’s themes of self-acceptance, personal redemption, and tolerance have endured for generations. It was adapted as an animated “puppetoon” short film in 1947 (which was nominated for Best Animated short at the Academy Awards) and again as an animated film starring Dick Van Dyke in 1975.
In addition to Tubby the Tuba, Really Inventive Stuff entertains with Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Valentine performs as a Mary Poppins-esque character named Symphonia Semi d’Quaver, who hosts the orchestral performance as an introduction to the musical genre. Touting herself as a renowned “Orchestra-ologist,” she guides audiences through Britten’s work with cheeky humor and educational storytelling. Consider it the laugh-out-loud music class you would have loved to take in grade school — only now, you can experience the fun with your whole family!
Really Inventive Stuff will appear at the annual Family Concert, conducted by Maurice Cohn, in Chautauqua Auditorium at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 3. Tickets are just $10!