As the holiday season approaches, the one event that stands out above all others isn’t Santa Claus’ arrival. No, for a reed player at least, it’s that San Jose tradition – Saxophone Christmas. This year marks the 19th annual gathering where saxophonists of all levels and ages convene on the third Saturday in December (this year the 15th) to renew friendships and make merry playing holiday music on every kind of saxophone one can imagine. From the tiny, pen-sized soprillo, to the 1.9 meter tall contrabass sax, this is an event not to be missed. Fear not, the standard alto, tenor, and baritone saxes that you’ve seen in school bands will be there as well, along with many others.
Founder Ray Bernd has been bringing saxophonists together since the first tiny event in 1994. The group has grown steadily over the years to the now 200 or so players that show up and rehearse in the morning, and then play two one-hour concerts that same afternoon. Ray likes to make this musical extravaganza available to as many people as possible, so the group performs one outdoor concert, and one indoors playing holiday favorites such as “Jingle Bells Forever”, “A Christmas Festival for Saxes”, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, and my personal favorite, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Saxes” along with many more.
Ray always writes at least one new arrangement for the group each year, and he rotates through his vast library to make up the hour-long program for each year’s concerts. He also takes a moment during each concert to introduce the audience to all the different kinds of saxes there, some that you likely won’t see any place else except maybe on Wikipedia.
The ensemble has a sound like none other such that one former member of the SF Symphony used to call the group the “Saxophone Orchestra” and claimed this was really the beginning of the holiday season for him.
If you’re a saxophonist and want to join in, go to http://sjsaxmas.com and register by 29 November to make sure that your commemorative shirt and music are there waiting for you when you arrive at the rehearsal on the morning of the 15th.
This San Jose tradition has been such a success that Ray started another Saxophone Christmas up in the Sacramento area a couple of years ago on the first Saturday of December. This year marks their third event, and following tradition, they too will play two one-hour concerts.
Whether you’re a player or an audience member, make some time this December to come enjoy the beauty, the harmony, and the spectacle that is Saxophone Christmas.
Saxophone Christmas schedule:
Sacramento – 1 December 2012: 2-3 PM at K Street Mall – Downtown Plaza / 5-6 PM at Country Club Plaza Mall
San Jose – 15 December 2012: 2-3 PM at Christmas in the Park in San Jose / 5-6 PM at Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino