The Message and Music of Christmas Transcend The Law.


By Robert Willmann

As I was working on a law-related item for this website about two cases set before the U.S. Supreme Court the week of 3 December 2017, and was trying to figure out how to do a formal posting,  I was "overtaken by events", as is said at the State Department.   The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Represetatives held hearings with witnesses from the FBI and Department of Justice; two FBI employees as extramarital lovebirds — or lustbirds, as the case may be — were moved out of the group of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is supposed to investigate the Russian government's alleged "interference" in the 2016 presidential election; the chief in-house lawyer at the FBI, James Baker, is to be reassigned; Jerrold Nadler (Democrat, 10th District, in New York City) takes the place of the retired John Conyers as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee; and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (the number 2 person) is going to "retire early" around March 2018, when he can then receive full retirement benefits.

Fortunately, Christmas is here, as its message of Hope and Peace, and the international language of music, transcend "The Law" of governments. 

The Christmas Truce of 1914, during World War 1, demonstrated the message.  One hundred years later, a resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.Res. 781, to commemorate that brief truce [1].  Unlike the fighting men — who had a short, but real, truce — the politicians sent the resolution to the "House Committee on Foreign Affairs", where it languished and stalled.  Nevertheless, it was announced on the floor of the House, and brief remarks were placed into the Congressional Record on 11 December 2014 by its sponsor, Joseph Crowley (Democrat, 14th District, New York), who was joined by only two co-sponsors–

The music of Christmas strengthens the message, and its range from classical and choral to modern is performed today.  Stille Nacht (Silent Night)–

An original art form of the U.S.A. is jazz music, established early on by those wanting freedom and which could be expressed through its improvisation.   Gaining legitimacy over the years, it is now fully developed and its reach is imaginative.  The first college jazz education program in the U.S. was started not in New York or Los Angeles, but in 1947 in Denton, Texas, at North Texas State University, now called the University of North Texas (UNT).  When at that time they went to the Texas State College Board of Trustees in Austin to get the program approved and funded, some members balked at the prospect of a "Dance Band Program" being taught to and among young college students.  The trustees finally authorized the program after the school said it would be called a "laboratory band", which gave the skittish board cover with some of the public [2].  The name has stuck, and the nine jazz bands in the program today are each called a "Lab Band", identified by the time of day the band has class and rehearses.  The most accomplished one is the One O'Clock Lab Band, which meets at 1:00 p.m. 

There are numerous fine music schools in the U.S. If anyone has a son or daughter interested in studying any type of music for any purpose, and who is serious about it, making a trip to Denton to the UNT to see the program first hand would be worthwhile [3].

Jay Saunders, an accomplished trumpet player, was interim director of the One O'Clock Lab band in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 before retiring from that job–

Early in his career, he played with the U.S. Army Field Band Studio Band, which is now called the Jazz Ambassadors [4].  The U.S. Army Field band has four performing groups:  The Concert Band, The Soldiers' Chorus, the Jazz Ambassadors, and the Six-String Soldiers.  To warm things up a little, here are the Jazz Ambassadors in concert on 3 April 2017, performing Bye Bye Blackbird, with their vocalist, Alexis Cole.  She joined the Army to get the job, and sang from 2009-2015, re-enlisting twice.  She sang with the group some in 2017 since at that time it was looking for but did not yet have a vocalist–

At a 2014 Christmas concert, the UNT One O'Clock Lab Band of college students, directed by Jay Saunders, took the light, modern song Sleigh Ride, which seems to be on every tape of vaseline elevator music played in stores at Christmas, and dressed it up along with a break into a jazz inprovisational structure, for a nice, new look [5]–

Then, at that same concert, joined by the UNT Jazz Singers, the band performs the traditional choral song, Angels We Have Heard On High, as a jazz arrangement, up-tempo and a little tricky [6]–


May you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!



[1]  House Resolution 781, introduced on 11 December 2014–

[2]  History of Jazz at North Texas–

[3]  The University of North Texas College of Music-

[4]  The U.S. Army Field Band–

[5]  The University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band–

[6]  The University of North Texas Jazz Singers–


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One Response to The Message and Music of Christmas Transcend The Law.

  1. scott s. says:

    In checking out your “Sleigh Ride” version, I noted the arranger was was Mike Crotty. A fair-use excerpt from his bio on eJazz Lines:
    “Mike Crotty is a versatile instrumentalist (plays sax, piccolo, flute, clarinet, trumpet and flugelhorn), bandleader, composer and arranger, and recording artist. His music can be heard in a great variety of forums, but he showcased his music for years with his 18-piece Sunday Morning Jazz Band, an ensemble applauded for its compelling innovation, musical superiority and artistic integrity. After graduating from the Berklee College of Music he joined the Airmen of Note, the premiere jazz ensemble of the U.S. Air Force, which carries on the big band traditions of Glenn Miller. From 1972-1998, while serving as their writer/arranger, Crotty became widely recognized as one of the top composer/arrangers in the jazz field today. He has composed and arranged music for hundreds of albums and CDs as well as performances for such artists as Clark Terry, Billy Taylor, Mel Lewis, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Bunky Green, Ernie Watts, Randy Brecker, Ronnie Cuber, Claudio Roditi, Phil Wilson, Bob Berg, James Williams, Sheila Jordan and Diane Schuur. He taught instrumental music and composition at Towson University and Bowie State College and served as full-time jazz faculty in jazz composition and brass at Arizona State University from 2001-2008.”
    So another military band connection here, this time the USAF. Here’s a relaxing Airman of Note rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
    Merry Christmas
    scott s.

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