It’s that SJ SaxMas time of year

By Ande Jacobson

The Thanksgiving feast is over with friendships and family love refreshed, and it’s that wonderful time of year when holiday music is plentiful and spirits are high. Yes, it’s that time of year when the saxophones return to San Jose to start the next quarter century of a festive holiday tradition, San Jose Saxophone Christmas, or SJ SaxMas for short.

Last year was the 25th annual event, and 227 saxophonists joined together to spread holiday cheer. This year for the 26th time, saxophonists of all shapes and sizes will gather together again for one long, joyous day to play holiday music on multifarious saxophones, some of which are rarely seen outside of this event. This always happens on the third Saturday of December (this year that’s the 21st).

The saxes that are usually there include:

  • one or two soprillos (the smallest commercially made saxophone);
  • a few sopraninos;
  • a C soprano or two;
  • a few Bb sopranos (curved, straight, and confused);
  • a multitude of altos;
  • a few C melody saxes;
  • a slew of tenors;
  • a very lively baritone section (they even dance);
  • a handful of basses;
  • sometimes even a tubax or a contrabass or two (though they haven’t been seen the last couple years).

After a morning rehearsal where the players receive their event t-shirts and music and play through about 17 holiday songs, they journey around the South Bay to give two, free, one-hour concerts. They don’t always play the same 17 songs, but each year on this special day, founder Ray Bernd selects each year’s set list from a massive saxophone music library that he maintains (he’s written most of the arrangements for the group over time). He generally adds two or three new arrangements to the repertoire each year while rotating through the rest of the library over time.

The first SJ SaxMas concert this year will be at 2 p.m. at Christmas in the Park (Plaza de Cesar Chavez in Downtown San Jose). The players will then make their way across town to their second concert location at Eastridge Mall (2200 Eastridge Loop, San Jose) to play their final one hour concert at 5 p.m.

Do yourself a favor and come listen to the *free* holiday saxophones on Saturday, 21 December 2019. Again, the concerts are:

  • 2 p.m. – Christmas in the Park, Plaza de Cesar Chavez in Downtown San Jose
  • 5 p.m. – Eastridge Mall, 2200 Eastridge Loop, San Jose, in the Center Court area on the first floor, near the elevators – right in the center of the mall.

Here’s a little sample from previous SaxMasses of what you’ll hear:

There is sometimes even choreography:

Here’s that first tune again, but this time a year later showing the bari choreography. They are an energetic bunch.

Don’t miss SJ SaxMas in 2019 – it’s only around for this one day. And if you’re a saxophonist, sign-up to join the fun, get your music and your t-shirt on the third Saturday in December, and make some very special music that you won’t soon forget. See for more information and to register. If you do want to play, please try to register by the 10th so that you’ll be guaranteed a shirt and music.

See you at SJ SaxMas on the 21st!

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