12/19/2010 07:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

For the Holidays: Saxophones, Carols and Pagans... Oh My!

It's been a tough year. And frankly the holiday season can be stressful even in the best of times. So here are two videos that may brighten it up for you. They are songs that you won't be hearing as you shop. The first is a rousing gospel song (Jesus Be A Friend) arranged for the Artvark Saxophone quartet. I caught them at the Dutch Jazz and World Music Meeting in Amsterdam, and this was their closing number, and a real crowd pleaser. And yes, I know, I shoulda stayed with wide shots.... There will be a lot more forthcoming from that trip, I'm just waiting on some sound files.

Artvark Saxophone Quartet plays Gospel from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Next up, here's a whimsical stop motion video of an old Christmas Carol from the Czech Republic, by Tomáš Kočko & Orchestra. Enjoy.

Christmas Carol Stop Motion from SEEACH on Vimeo.

On the website of the Czech label Indies, we find this intriguing statement from Kočko (pronounced Kotch-ko): "The carol is a very old tradition. Its history goes back to the pre-Christian era of ancient Rome where they celebrated the holiday of winter solstice called Calendae [kalende].... It's not a coincidence that the Catholic Christmas is very close to the winter solstice holiday. Both traditions celebrate the birth of a little baby God who puts an end to the reign of evil on Earth and new solar year begins which is a cause for happiness and joy! Both traditions are merging and both are, in their original form and in their pagan-Christian merging as well, part of our history."

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa, a Spectacular Solstice and a New Year filled with positive change.