Tonight people around the world will sing “Auld Lang Syne,” a 1788 poem by Robert Burns. It’s a song that invites memories of good times with friends–not just in the past year, but throughout our lives. A literal translation of the Scots phrase is “old long since,” meaning “days gone by.” Burns’ version comes from a long oral tradition, dating back as least as far as 1588. His lyrics of this drinking song spread across Scotland through its inclusion in the Scottish New Year celebration of Hogmanay. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians helped popularize the song in North America, and for decades it’s been played in Time’s Square after the ball drops.
I’ve put together a video for Noel Stookey’s adapation of the song, which he and George Emlen arranged as “Last Night / Auld Lang Syne.” About it he says,
For the past 4 years or so on New Year’s Eve in Blue Hill, a large group of townsfolk gather in the Congregational Church to bid farewell to the old year with poetry and song. My good friend (and former musical director of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, group Revels), George Emlen and I felt that a counter melody to “Auld Lang Syne” would make a nice musical statement as well as a metaphoric intertwining of the old year/new year. The search for its perfect lyric is probably not over yet – but on my holiday CD Somethin’ Special, I wanted to at least get the concept out among folks to sing.
Tonight in Blue Hill, Noel and George will again be leading the townsfolk in their “Last Night / Auld Lang Syne” and celebrating old friends and new friends with their song. With this video I wish you a happy new year filled with joy, peace, and the warmth of friends.