Skip to Content


December 22, 2005

In a former life, I played Alto Sax. My past came back to haunt me as my old high school friend, Kathy, and her husband, Eddie, roped me into playing 30 minutes of Christmas Carol intermission music between showings of a play at a local church. With great trepidation, I agreed, and dug out my old Selmer Mark VI this afternoon to see if I could make a sound on it. After all, it’s been more than 11 years since I made any serious attempt to play the thing…

All the pieces are there! I even have some reeds. They’re well-aged by now…

I get to the gig and we read through a few of the ‘charts.’ I learn that several are only for Bb trumpet, so not only do I get to perform on an instrument I haven’t touched in over a decade with chops built to last about 90 seconds, I have to transpose at sight while doing it. Might as well embrace the madness:

Eddie had actually practiced a little bit, so Kathy and I decided he’d have to carry us – we insisted he play lead part on everything. No pressure like playing the melody on tunes everyone has carved into their DNA.

On the first tune, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” I think I hit about 75% of the notes. Hey, I was playing 3rd Trumpet on an Alto Sax – if this was baseball, I’d be a legend.

We manage to hold it together. Eddie and Kathy do a spectacular job until I start laughing because I’ve forgotten that there’s such a thing as a key signature. When I compose, I don’t use key signatures. At all. It’s been so long since I’ve thought about them, much less read music with them that I, uh, missed a few notes. I call it aleatoric reharmonization, with basically indeterminate results, the scope of which were bounded only by the amount of adrenaline coursing through my brain at a given moment.

You might call it screwing up.

Eh, whatever. It was great fun – big thanks to Eddie and Kathy for inviting me along! Maybe I’ll get my sax out more often and start tormenting the cats and neighbors…