Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AULD LANG SYNE

Rabbie Burns, they called him, the Scottish poet who is credited with writing the words to Auld Lang Syne. He was the Poet Laureate of Scotland until he died in 1796 at the age of 37. Few people know, however, that 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". It is believed that the words and music first appeared together in published form in the Scots Musical Museum in 1796.

The words Auld Lang Syne mean “old times gone by”. The original tune supposed to have been applied to the poem is known in folk music as Roud #6294. It’s a different tune than we modern day Americans are used to hearing. And I love it. It feels ancient and mournfully melodic. I decided to add the song to my last album, but felt the lyric to be a bit bawdy for my style, so I took the liberty to rewrite all but the first verse and chorus. Since the song is Public Domain I am able to do that. I did try, however, to remain true to the sentiment: Should we forget, as we move into the coming year, the relationships of the past? The chorus answers the question posed in the first verse: “No, let us raise a cup and remember yet, with kindness, the people and the happenings of the year we leave behind.”

Verse two in Burns’ poem talks about swapping pints of ale, perfectly suited for the pubs of Scotland. Since his version is believed to be an alteration of the old original folk tune to begin with, I adjusted the song to fit the non-imbibers (is that a word?)

I recalled the beautiful heather covered hillsides in the humid heat of August as we drove through the hedgerows of Wales during a season of performances in 2001. And I recalled as well the wet chill wherein only evergreens thrived when we went to retrieve John from his mission at Christmas time in1999. Considering the changing of the seasons, and our faith in power to bind our future with our past, I wrote these words:

So when the heather’s on the bloom
And through the winter pine
We’ll bind the hope of seasons yet
With Auld Lang Syne

The song lyric continues, ending in my belief that we are blessed to be able to gather up our old mistakes and leave them behind. It’s a call to all of us to forgive; ourselves as much as anyone else, and move forward with a sense of hope. “Good Will To Men be sung again” is an allusion to the Christmas Carol: Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plain which ends in the words “Peace on Earth Good Will to Men.” It reminds us not only to forgive, but to strive for peace with all people.

I don’t generally ever entertain the idea of fooling with someone else’s song, so this is something rare. But in pondering how I would make the song work for me, I was able to think about my own attachment to the past, and to the future. It was a healthy exercise, and I hope the new lyric does not take away from the beauty of the song.

AULD LANG SYNE
Burns/ additional lyric by Cori Connors/ Seven Roses Music, ASCAP

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 Joe
For Auld Lang Syne
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For Auld Lang Syne

S’ when the heather’s on the bloom
And through the winter pine
We’ll bind the hope of seasons yet
With Auld Lang Syne

CHORUS

And would you raise a hand my friend
I’ll pray you will take mine
And we’ll rally round the year that’s past
And Auld Lang Syne

CHORUS

We’ll gather up our old mistakes
And leave them all behind
Good Will To Men be sung again
For Auld Lang Syne

CHORUS

In London, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Scottish residents gather outside St. Paul’s Church form a huge circle around the cathedral. Regardless of class or social status, they link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne when the great church bell strikes twelve.

Auld Lang Syne was originally sung at the end of any gathering, such as a dinner party or a dance, as guests bid each other farewell. Those who sang the song formed a circle, each person crossing their arms at the chest and holding hands with the person next to them. At the end of the song, everyone ran to the middle of the circle still holding the hands of his or her neighbor before reforming the circle, at which time they all turned under the arms facing outwards and still holding hands.




4 comments:

  1. this is by far my favorite version of "auld Lang syne". you have taken an ordinary song and made it extraordinary! sounds of your voice and these lyrics float through my head often. it's one of those songs that stays with you and plays over and over. thanks, cor.

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  2. I love, love, love your version the most. In fact, I only love your version. The traditional, New Year's variety gives me anxiety. And I don't get anxiety very often. Songs that are meant to mark years gone by sort of make me sad. I feel much better when I play this one. It feels optimistic, rather than mournful. I like the way syne is sung in two syllables in the chorus and ends on and upturned note. Just makes me warm and cozy inside.

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  3. Hi Jeanette-
    You can hear a sample of my version of Auld Lang Syne on my website. It's on the album One Small Boy. Here's the link:
    http://www.coriconnors.com/store/once-small-boy/

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