Hymns and Carols are the two main sources for the melodies that are associated with traditional Christmas music. While hymns are predominately sacred, the historical roots of carols are in religious and pagan folk music and dance. The latter association with pagan and dance music has throughout history brought carols alternatively in and out of favor with Christmas worship. Fortunately, interest in Christmas music has grown in the 20th century, and has led to the popularity it presently enjoys.
Jolly Old Saint Nicholas is an American traditional carol by an anonymous composer. But St. Nicholas himself is associated with a priest serving in Asia Minor. Consecrated as Archbishop in Myra, a coastal town, St. Nicholas was made a patron Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church. Legend has it that he was generous and kind to children and practiced gift giving in secrecy at night. This charming, gentle tune seemed to blend well with Pachelbel Canon, and performers are urged not to take a beginning tempo too fast that would rush the coming eighth notes.
This arrangement for saxophone quartet, rather than favoring a soprano solo with accompaniment, strives to include all the players in the music making, particularly by distributing melodic material. In addition, all dynamics and articulations should be taken as suggestions only, as performers are encouraged to make their own interpretations.