We need a little SaxMas right now!

By Ande Jacobson

Today was the third Saturday of December in the year 2020, and to paraphrase a lyric from a show I played 14 years ago, we need a little SaxMas right now. This day should have been the 27th annual gathering of sax players of every shape and size playing saxophones of every shape and size in San Jose, California. Although SaxMas founder, Ray Bernd, held out hope for as long as he could, because of the pandemic that didn’t happen, and for the first time in 27 years the event was formally called off in late October. This special event is one that players and audience members look forward to every year because it’s festive, musical, and gleaming with all that holiday saxophone goodness. Over 200 saxophonists playing holiday music together is a sight and sound to behold, and it’s one that’s not soon forgotten. At the end of last year, I wrote a piece reliving 2019’s SJ SaxMas, and I watched the included video of that concert again this morning to put myself in the SaxMas frame of mind even though I had no place to go because of our necessary lockdown. That still wasn’t enough holiday for the day.

Like many other musicians, given the dearth of performance outlets this year, I have played with an app to collaborate with myself and musically exercise from time to time. It’s not the same as playing in live ensembles with other people in front of appreciative live audiences of course, but it’s better than leaving the instruments in their cases until it’s safe to congregate again since we really don’t know for sure when that can happen.

This month, I decided to add a couple of holiday favorites to the mix. At the beginning of December, I collaborated with myself on a piece that my old sax quartet used to play from the Nutcracker Suite. This isn’t quite the same as when my old quartet played it because I had to shift one part up an octave due to a lack of instrument availability (I don’t play the really big horns).

Today, I took an arrangement of Carol of the Bells that I originally wrote for my old sax quartet and revoiced it for a clarinet quartet just for fun.

These two along with several non-holiday personal collaborations from earlier in the year are available on my Appearances page.

Finally, for that little SaxMas that we all need right now, here’s a video from the 2019 SJ Saxophone Xmas at Eastridge Mall in San Jose:

Seeing that sea of saxophonists brings back wonderful memories, and the special entrance toward the end of the concert is also a reminder of a festive tradition that we hope will be back again next year.

Merry SaxMas to all this December, and here’s hoping that 2021 will usher in a live SJ SaxMas on the third Saturday of December otherwise known as 18 December 2021.


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