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Posts Tagged ‘santa claus’

A saxophone made in China.

I’ve always liked the sound of the saxophone, and when I listen to my favorite jazz station, WICN.org, I often try to identify which kind I’m hearing — alto, tenor … Identifying instrument sounds is not my strong suit, but I’m working on it.

Recently Javier C. Hernández published an unusual story about saxophones at the New York Times. It turns out the mellow instruments are quite popular in China, especially in the village that makes them.

“By day,” he reports, “the factory workers pound sheets of brass into cylinders and slather metal buttons with glue. By night, they take their creations to the street and begin to play.

“The soothing melodies flow through cornfields, street markets and public squares. They interweave with the shouts of street vendors hawking tofu and men playing mah-jongg.

“This is the music of Sidangkou, a northern Chinese village of 4,000, where one sound rules above all else: the saxophone. …

“The saxophone has never had a large following in China, in part because it was long associated with jazz, individuality and free expression. After the Communist revolution of 1949, officials denounced the instrument for producing the ‘decadent music of capitalists.’

“But here in this town, the saxophone is king.

“Sidangkou, which calls itself China’s ‘saxophone capital,’ produces about 10,000 saxophones per month at more than 70 factories, according to Chinese news media. ..

“Factories in the region now produce thousands of oboes, trumpets and tubas each year. Yet nothing seems to have captured the imagination of people here like the saxophone. …

“Assembly line workers began trying their hand at the instrument, mimicking famous players they saw on television. By the mid-2000s, saxophone fever had broken out.

“Fu Guangcheng came to Sidangkou in 1995 to work as a polisher on an assembly line. He quickly fell in love with the sound of the saxophone and started formal studies.

“ ‘It’s my career, it’s my life,’ said Mr. Fu, a factory worker. … ‘It’s a miracle that even rural people who are used to holding hoes in our hands can make Western instruments.’ …

“Many of the players are self-taught or follow along with online tutorials. … Some of the more advanced players in the village now use live-streaming apps to broadcast lessons online.”

As I was looking for photos, I discovered that Chinese depictions of Santa Claus nearly always show him playing a sax. Max Fisher of the Washington Post wondered why and discovered that no one knows. Maybe, one reader suggested, it’s because the saxophone is “cool and romantic”!

More at the New York Times, here.

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A story in today’s NY Times has some delightful pictures of Santas attending a premier Santa school. This year there is increased concern that kids’ expectations may be too high for straightened pocketbooks, and Santas need to know how to handle that.

Monica Davey writes, “Santas — including the 115 of them in this year’s graduating class of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School — must learn to swiftly size up families’ financial circumstances, gently scale back children’s Christmas gift requests and even how to answer the wish some say they have been hearing with more frequency — ‘Can you bring my parent a job?’ …

The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, Michigan, is considered the Harvard of Santa schools. And it takes a holistic approach not only to what a Santa needs to do for children but what he needs to do for himself. “Along with training in how to store your wig, how best to answer the questions of kindergartners and how to perform on your local cable access television station, a financial planner advised the Santas …  to open pension funds and contribute as much as possible to 401(k) retirement accounts. …

“Even with the economic downturn, not all the Christmas lists have grown shorter. Some children show up with elaborate printouts, cross-referenced spread sheets and clippings from catalogs. ‘I try to guide the children into not so unrealistic things, and I do tell them that Santa’s been cutting back too,’ said Tom Ruperd, of Caro, Mich.”

It’s at times like these that homemade gifts, family activities, and donations to worthy causes start to look like more reliable ways to have a good time.

Read more here.

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