Auld Lang Syne

auld lang syne

As we prepare to start another new year, I thought it would be nice to take a look at the classic song that is always played at New Year’s.  This song has been around almost as long as our country has and the history of the song is pretty interesting so I thought you might enjoy reading a little more about it.

It is hard to believe that 2013 is almost over.  It has been quite a year.  I hope you all find yourselves in a place where you can look back on this past year with fond memories.  I hope that you find yourselves among loved ones as the new year comes into being and when you hear this song played you can think upon old memories and friends with fondness for their story is a part of your story.  It is also my hope that you can look forward to the new year and all the great things that will come with the new year. 

It has been a pure joy in my life writing this blog over the past several years and I am looking forward to another great year of blogs in 2014.  I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do writing them.

I hope you enjoy this look at this old classic.  Happy New Year!

Original recording by Guy Lambardo.

Live version from New Year’s 1946 by the Guy Lambardo and his Canadian Orchestra.

Version of the song on bag pipes.

Singing of the song from the classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

Shirley Temple singing the song in the 1937 classic Wee Willie Winkie.

How to play the song on the piano.

Auld Lang Syne” is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world, its traditional use being to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The international Boy Scout youth movement, in many countries, uses it as a close to jamborees and other functions.

The song’s Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times”. Consequently “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for (the sake of) old times”.

The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton(1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757), and James Watson (1711) as well as older folk songs predating Burns. Matthew Fitt uses the phrase “In the days of auld lang syne” as the equivalent of “Once upon a time…” in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language.

Robert Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.” Some of the lyrics were indeed “collected” rather than composed by the poet; the ballad “Old Long Syne” printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns’ later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same “old song”.

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.

CHORUS:

On Old long syne my Jo,
On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.

 

It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.

There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used in Scotland and in the rest of the world.

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year’s Eve very quickly became a Scots custom that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (not to mention English, Welsh and Irish people) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

A manuscript of “Auld Lang Syne” is held in the permanent collection of The Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

The song begins by posing a rhetorical question as to whether it is right that old times be forgotten, and is generally interpreted as a call to remember long-standing friendships. Thomson’s Select Songs of Scotland was published in 1799 in which the second verse about greeting and toasting was moved to its present position at the end.

Most common use of the song involves only the first verse and the chorus. The last lines of both of these are often sung with the extra words “For the sake of” or “And days of”, rather than Burns’ simpler lines. This allows one note for each word, rather than the slight melisma required to fit Burns’ original words to the melody.

 

Burns’ original Scots verse

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 

English translation

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a wearyfoot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in thestream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trustyfriend !
And give me a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 

The tune to which “Auld Lang Syne” is commonly sung is a pentatonic Scots folk melody, probably originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo.

English composer William Shield seems to quote the “Auld Lang Syne” melody briefly at the end of the overture to his opera Rosina, which may be its first recorded use. The contention that Burns borrowed the melody from Shield is for various reasons highly unlikely, although they may very well both have taken it from a common source, possibly a strathspey called The Miller’s Wedding or The Miller’s Daughter. The problem is that tunes based on the same set of dance steps necessarily have a similar rhythm, and even a superficial resemblance in melodic shape may cause a very strong apparent similarity in the tune as a whole. For instance, Burns’ poem Coming Through the Rye is sung to a tune that might also be based on the Miller’s Wedding. The origin of the tune of God Save the Queen presents a very similar problem and for just the same reason, as it is also based on a dance measure. 

In 1855, different words were written for the Auld Lang Syne tune by Albert Laighton and titled, “Song of the Old Folks.” This song was included in the tunebook, Father Kemp’s Old Folks Concert Tunes published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1860. For many years it was the tradition of the Stoughton Musical Society to sing this version in memory of those who had died that year.

Songwriter George M. Cohan quotes the first line of the “Auld Lang Syne” melody in the second to last line of the chorus of You’re a Grand Old Flag. It is plain from the lyrics that this is deliberate.

John Philip Sousa quotes the melody in the Trio section of his 1924 march “Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company

In the Sacred Harp choral tradition, an arrangement of it exists under the name “Plenary”. The lyrics are a memento mori and begin with the words “Hark! from the tomb a doleful sound”. Another Christian arrangement, once popular in India, is “Hail! Sweetest, Dearest Tie That Binds” by Amos Sutton.

The University of Virginia‘s alma mater (“The Good Old Song“) is also sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”.

“Auld Lang Syne” is traditionally sung at the conclusion of New Year gatherings in Scotland and around the world, especially in English-speaking countries.

It is common practice that everyone joins hands with the person next to them to form a great circle around the dance floor. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbor on the left and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands. When the circle is re-established, everyone turns under the arms to end up facing outwards with hands still joined.

In countries other than Scotland the hands are often crossed from the beginning of the song at variance with Scottish custom. The Scottish practice was demonstrated by the Queen at the Millennium Dome celebrations for the year 2000. The English press berated her for not “properly” crossing her arms, unaware that she was correctly following the Scottish tradition.

As well as celebrating the New Year, “Auld Lang Syne” is very widely used to symbolize other “endings/new beginnings” – including farewells, funerals (and other memorials of the dead), graduations, the end of a (non-New Year) party or a Boy Scout gathering, the election of a new government, the last lowering of the Union Jack as a British colony achieves independence and even the closing of a retail store. The melody is also widely used for other words, especially the songs of sporting and other clubs, and even national anthems. In Scotland and other parts of Britain, in particular, it is associated with celebrations and memorials of Robert Burns. The following list of specific uses is far from comprehensive.

Auld Lang Syne has been translated into many languages, and the song is widely sung in many parts of the world. The song’s pentatonic scale matches scales used in Korea, Japan, India, China and other East Asian countries, which has facilitated its “nationalisation” in the East. The following particular examples mostly detail things that are special or unusual about the use of the song in a particular country.

  • In India and Bangladesh, the melody was the direct inspiration for the popular Bengali song “Purano shei diner kotha” (Memories of the Good Old Days) composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and forms one of the more recognisable tunes inRabindra Sangeet (Rabindra’s Songs), a body of work of 2,230 songs and lyrical poems that form the backbone of Bengali music.
  • In Denmark, the song was translated in 1927 by the famous Danish poet Jeppe Aakjær. Much like Robert Burns‘ use of dialect, Aakjær translated the song into the Danish dialect sallingbomål, a dialect from the northern part of western Jutland, south of the Limfjord, often hard for other Danes to understand. The song “Skuld gammel venskab rejn forgo” (“Should auld acquantaince be forgot”), is an integral part of the Danish Højskole tradition, and often associated with more rural areas and old traditions. Also, the former Danish rock group Gasolin modernised the melody in 1974 with their pop ballad Stakkels Jim (“Poor Jim”).
  • Before the composition of “Aegukga“‘s tune, the lyrics of South Korea’s national anthem were sung to the tune of this song until composer Ahn Eak-tai composed a new melody to the existing lyrics.
  • Before 1972, it was the tune for the Gaumii salaam anthem of The Maldives (with the current words).
  • In the Netherlands, the melody is most known for the Dutch football song “Wij houden van Oranje” (We love Orange) performed by André Hazes.
  • In Thailand, the song “Samakkhi Chumnum” (“สามัคคีชุมนุม”, “Together in unity”), which is set to the familiar melody, is sung after sports, and at the end of Boy Scout jamborees as well as for the New Year. The meaning is about the King and national unity. It is commonly believed to be a Thai traditional song.
  • In Japan, Auld Lang Syne is known as Ōrudo Rangu Sain ( オールド・ラング・サイン?), but people in Japan usually associate the melody with Hotaru no Hikari instead, which has the same tune but different lyrics, or a contrafactumHotaru no Hikari is played at some school graduation ceremonies, and the closing of the New Year’s Eve show NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen. The melody is played as a background music at department stores in Japan to let the customers know that establishment is closing soon, most of the time coupled with a verbal announcement.

 

The strong and obvious associations of the song and its melody have made it a common staple for film soundtracks from the very early days of “talking” pictures to the present – hundreds of films and television series’ episodes have used it for background, generally but by no means exclusively to evoke the New Year.

  • On 30 June 1997, the tune was played by the silver and pipe bands from the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, at the departure of Hong Kong’s 28th and last British Governor, Chris Patten, from his official residence, Government House, Hong Kong.
  • In October 2000, it was played as the body of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau left Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the last time, going to Montreal for the state funeral.
  • On the sinking of the Japanese ship Montevideo Maru in World War II, carrying 1,053 Australians (mostly POWs), the Australians in the water sang this for their trapped mates as the ship went down.
  • In Pakistan, the tune was played at the formal resignation of President Pervez Musharraf as the country’s Chief of Army Staff.
  • On 30 November 2009, students and staff at the University of Glasgow sang the song in 41 different languages simultaneously.
  • Jimi Hendrix can be heard playing a version of the song on the 1969 ‘Live at Fillmore East’ recording of a 31 December 1969, concert.
  • Elvis Presley released his version on his album Elvis – New Year’s Eve ’76 (Live In Pittsburgh).
  • Bobby Darin released his version in October 1960. His rendition has changes in most of the lyrics to make the song more of a Christmas song.
  • Billy Joel sang and released “Auld Lang Syne” in his live CD titled 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert, and is known to play the song both lyrically or piano solo in his concerts during the holiday season.
  • Boney M. recorded a eurodisco version in 1984 for the limited-release album Christmas with Boney M.
  • Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians performed “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve for decades until his death in 1977; helping to popularize its use in the United States. His version is played in Times Square every New Years immediately following the dropping of the ball.
  • Prince performed “Auld Lang Syne” on 12/31/87 with Miles Davis, and transitioned into “Purple Rain” to the same chords as “Purple Rain.”
  • Mariah Carey recorded a dance version of “Auld Lang Syne” for her 2010 Christmas album, Merry Christmas II You. A music video was also recorded and released.
  • Pink Martini recorded a samba-influenced version of “Auld Lang Syne” (in English, Arabic, and French) that was the final track of their 2010 holiday album Joy to the World and was later included in their 2011 compilation album A Retrospective.
  • Rod Stewart recorded the song for his 2012 album Merry Christmas, Baby where it is the last track on the album.
  • In 1999 Kenny G‘s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” was remixed featuring clips of major events from the 20th century. This rendition reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, #3 on the Adult Contemporary Chart, and #40 on the Mainstream Top 40 Chart.
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About wmarsau

Most of the people who visit this blog already know me so it is kind of pointless to try to describe my life in this short little blurb. What is the purpose of this blog is the question. Over the course of this last year I have been exposed to some amazing people and have made personal development an important focus of my life. Being successful, not by the world's standards, but by God's has become my main focus. Mainly, I want to work to develop myself as a person who is kinder, reaches out to help those in need, and truly makes a difference in this world. To this end I am constantly reading and am exposed to so many differnet things along the way. These have been amazing and it is helping me grow so much. Then I started to think, "Why am I being so selfish?" You need to share with others these amazing things you are learning and being exposed to. That is where this blog comes into play. As I am reading and experiencing things that are truly amazing and life changing, I will be posting them on this blog. Obviously, I will not be able to post everything in it's entirity, but I will be summarizing them and letting you know the source of the article or book they come from so you can check them out later if you wish. I want this blog to be a place where you can go to often and be inspired and leave here with a smile on your face. I will be covering all kinds of different topics dealing with success and personal development. Topics like taking action, relationships, living to your potential, reinventing yourself, finances, leadership, presenting, goal setting, time management, etc. I will also be occasionally including topics on cooking, music, and gardening because they are special interests of mine. As a little disclaimer, I have given my life to the Lord and he is #1 in my life. I am his servant and everything I do in life is for his glory. With that being said, religion influences all areas of my life. There will be references to God in this blog because I can't seperate God from this or any other area of my life. I want you to know that if you do not believe in God, that is fine. That is your choice. This blog is open to anyone who wants to better their life. I will not be trying to influence or pressure anyone into having a relationship with the Lord from this site. Please don't feel uncomfortable. You can just read the portions of the blog that you wish to. I am inviting you to go on a journey with me. We will learn together to be the kind of people we were designed to be. Anyone can make a difference in this world, but it starts%
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2 Responses to Auld Lang Syne

  1. Judy Fleckenstein says:

    I’m enjoying your blogs….they always give me something to ponder and savor! Have a wonderful 2014!!!

    • wmarsau says:

      Thanks so much for the kind affirmation. Knowing that someone gets something out of what I post really makes my day. I hope your 2014 brings you all your hopes and dreams!

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