A Musical Celebration of Christmas

I mentioned the other day that my ward had asked me to perform a virtual musical number for our December 20th Zoom sacrament meeting. I chose a saxophone duet of “What Child Is This”:

I also wanted to see your Christmas performances. So if you recorded a special musical number for your sacrament meeting (or, for that matter, if you want to record one for us), please post it in the comments! (Note that sometimes our spam filter holds up YouTube links; I’ll check periodically and release comments.)

If you’re interested in how I recorded this, I’ll put details below the fold. If you’re not (and feel free to not be interested!) click on “Comments” at the top to jump straight to others’ performances.

Details: back when I was in high school I owned a Tascam four-track tape recorder. It’s long since gone but, at the start of the quarantine, I bought a PreSonus interface, which allows me to record to my computer. It came with multitracking software.

Like so many things, I bought it and then … didn’t use it. But when I was asked to play, I thought that maybe I’d accompany my saxophone on piano. As I looked around, though, I found a book of saxophone Christmas duets and decided to record myself dueting.

So I recorded soprano, then I recorded tenor. (I’ll note that my saxophone setups are all for jazz, so it was tricky to get a passably classical tone.)

Then I had my kids film me playing along to the recordings. I edited the videos and audio together on iMovie, turning off the live audio so you only hear what I had previously recorded.

And with that: Merry Christmas and I look forward to hearing your renditions of Christmas music!


  1. You are lucky that you can play your sax in Sacrament meeting. Our musical director and our Bishop take a very strict interpretation on the handbook’s forbidding of Brass instruments. As a musician, I know that my sax although made of brass is actually a woodwind and should be allowed. Even though I was the musical director for Sacrament meeting, I was strictly forbidden to play my saxophones in Sacrament meeting. I have played my clarinet many times and even played my bass clarinet (Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel – beautiful). Things are not always roses and light in Zion.
    One Christmas Day service on a Sunday when few were in attendance, one of the bishopric gave a verbal account of the Nativity and, at the same time, I played, on my clarinet, music from the hymnbook which spoke of the birth and its events. It was very reverent and moving, but as I was playing, thought of how nice it would have been to change over to the soprano sax for some of the hymns. Sadly, that was not to be due to the misinterpretation of the handbook.

  2. Kent, The handbook does not forbid use of brass instruments. Instead, and for many decades, it has stated. “Instruments with a prominent or less worshipful sound, such as most brass and percussion, are not appropriate for sacrament meeting….” [Now 19.4.2] But it is the Bishopric that is to approve music for sacrament meeting. [19.4.4] It would seem that either (a) your Bishop doesn’t know what the handbook says and is operating off an old rumor that brass is forbidden (sometimes still promulgated by various authorities at all levels below the FP), or (b) chooses to simplify the Bishopric’s job by reading the word “most” out of 19.4.2 and declining to exercise discretion. Some of us are indeed lucky to have had a long series of bishops actually willing to consider and decide which various brass (not just saxophones) and percussion instruments, played by whom and in what manner, can contribute to sacrament meeting worship. Some of them even learn to trust the people they choose to call to music positions.
    We have small orchestras including trumpets, trombones, tuba, euphonium, and French horn. We’ve had a saxophone solo. Also a bagpipe/organ duet when a missionary returned from Scotland was speaking. We’ve used quietly played Glockenspiel, triangle, tam tam, and hand drums including a tambourine. Appropriateness depends on context and skill.
    Good luck for the future. Some local church leaders can be trained to read the handbook. Some of them will actually learn to use discretion and/or to trust others to do so.

  3. A few years ago our stake patriarch performed a sax solo in our Christmas program. And after reading Kent’s comment this morning, I was particularly surprised to see a couple of bagpipers with kilts, long socks, etc in the foyer. They played a beautiful medley of Christmas hymns and, of course, Amazing Grace.

  4. Here’s the organ solo I performed for our Christmas program, arranged by my sister and me. I’m not super happy with the recording but I have to remember that most people don’t notice pedal slips the way I do. (And if you do notice, you also probably understand.)

  5. RingingCyl says:

    Secular jazz holiday music: https://youtu.be/OOu78IpE5oA (I’m the lowest part)
    Sacred: https://youtu.be/qocyMw5GzLk (I’m not the redhead)
    Bonus: https://youtu.be/PIWmimfnfj0 (still not the redhead)

    I have virtual choral and vocal quartet work as well, but it is embedded in an hour-long concert. It’s been fun to meet the challenge of making collaborative music in the time of COVID.

  6. RingingCyl says:

    Sorry, forgot to say that your duet was enjoyable! My spouse plays tenor sax and was never allowed to play in SM. Lost leader roulette repeatedly on that one.

  7. Thanks Clesl and RingingCyl Those were great!

  8. My son plays the french horn, which is, IMO, THE most worshipful sounding instrument. He has not been allowed to play in sacrament meeting. The Baptists, however have paid him to play for Christmas and Easter presentations yearly for the last four years.

  9. Sam,
    Move over Kenny G!

    Wonderful. And good for you and your ward for welcoming a worshipful use of saxes in sacrament.
    I’m so over the CHI music guidelines (written by Boyd K). Moroni and his trumpet would be banned. It’s time we opened up our worship to beautiful experiences like this and stopped being so d&@! pharisaical.

    And to all the “but the CHI says…” people out there I have one word to say:


    And Sam, you can’t see me, but I’m holding up my cell phone set to a candle flame and waving it in the air for you.

  10. it's a series of tubes says:

    Very nice. As to the local leadership roulette, glad to live in a place (greater PHX area) where we’ve had musical flexibility in sacrament meeting. Yesterday’s program had piano, organ, violin, and cello, so very conventional and very nice, but in the past we’ve had acoustic guitar from time to time and even once, for the primary program, a bagpiper who about blew the doors off the building. It was fantastic.

  11. This is me on all three parts created for our ward Christmas party. Piano and two trumpets.

    No one was willing to try and match video to the sound, so we had to go with still shots and appropriate pictures.
    My husband is the one who had the old Tascam 4 track (it may still be on top of the wardrobe somewhere). I just invested in a clip on instrument microphone for my trumpet and this is the first thing I’ve used it for. We were short of time. So kept things simple. Husband responsible for recording. Uses Reason software on the computer and Focusrite Scarlett to connect microphone/ lead from Clavinova. Fairly simple arrangement of the carol by Philip Sparke.

  12. Awesome, Hedgehog! That sounded great; thanks for sharing! (As an irrelevant side note, I looked at the Focusrite. Everyone I know who has one loves it. But I wanted the Midi In (and was probably also feeling a little contrarian).)

  13. Good job making the instrument work for the setting.
    Regarding a brass sax, in either case you’d get a pass because you didn’t play in sacrament meeting, unless the sacrament was broadcast. You played in a worship service.

    Handbook Balance Restored!

  14. For anyone interested, there is more a website that is collecting examples of music played on brass instruments specifically for the purpose of during that brass can be played on church – changing hearts and minds and opinions through actual experience.
    There’s a Facebook group by the same name and you can find the YouTube channel by searching “worshipful brass” as well.
    I know the founder, Emily Spencer, and she’d be delighted to have more contributors to the project and/or have the website shared to bishops, ward music leaders, and other decision makers.

  15. My son and I played an O Come, O Come, Emmanuel duet on clarinet and bass clarinet at our former ward’s Christmas party a few years ago. In audio-only form, it was used as prelude music before our weekly only Sunday meeting on December 20. The video was recorded on a hand-held smartphone, and I was only able to partially stabilize it.

  16. I somehow typed “only Sunday meeting” instead of “online Sunday meeting.” At the previous weekly online Sunday meeting, on December 13, a recording from a ward talent show in 1995 was played as a special musical number. My wife sang the Coventry Carol, and I accompanied her on bass clarinet.

  17. I get to be embarrassed yet another time. The 1995 Coventry Carol was meant to start at 12:23, but that detail was lost in translation.

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