WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2015 – What a year we’ve had in 2015. Despite all the happy talk we hear from politicians, entertainers, network news hacks and the like, 2015 for most Americans, save the very wealthiest, has been a year of backing and filling and standing in place.
The year has been a confusing paradox that most people will be glad to leave behind, even though they don’t much know what 2016 will bring. Which brings us to our once and future annual feature, our 2015 Top 10 videos of Auld Lang Syne, the ancient tune that many across the world traditionally sing as they ring in the New Year and bid the old one adieu.
With its traditional lyrics perfected and immortalized by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, “Auld Lang Syne” fondly and sometimes sadly recalls the old times, old friends and old memories that pass into personal legends as the calendar turns once again.
Here’s our take on the best and/or most unusual “Auld Lang Syne” videos available this year. You’re welcome to visit our comments area below and add your own suggestions. We might just use them in our 2016 edition.
- BBC Symphony, Chorus and Singers perform “Auld Lang Syne” in 2008 recording. Why not start out with this relatively recent recording via the BBC? The video is lame—just a single photo of New Year’s Eve fireworks exploding over the harbor in Sydney, Australia, with the famous Sydney Opera House way in the background, left. But this pull-out-the-stops performance is a great introduction to some of the quirkier iterations of this old tune that follow.
- Beethoven Arrangement. We travel back in history to discover this interesting trifle from none other than Ludwig von himself. Even the great Beethoven spent some time as a starving artist before he assumed his role as the dominant European composer of the 19th century. Hackwork never sounded so good. Here’s the Big B’s charming version of “Auld Lang Syne,” as sung by Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott and John Mark Ainsley, accompanied by a small ensemble.
- Schwinn Bell Choir. This is the most original riff we’ve yet discovered in our search for unusual interpretations of “Auld Lang Syne.” Although the video below seems contemporary, the musicians are all riding on old, heavy-duty Schwinn bikes that look like the one this author owned back in the day when no one had ever heard of a 10-speed. (Or could afford one.) We rode our Schwinns for miles and miles up and down the generally flat terrain of northern Ohio. But we never performed in a Schwinn bicycle bell choir.
- Red Hot Chili Pipers. No, not a typo. Not “Peppers.” “Pipers.” Whoever these dudes are in the following clip, they sure impart a genuine Scottish flavor to Rabbie Burns’ poem and its accompanying tune.
- Shirley Temple, Wee Willie Winkie (1937). Although she was getting a wee bit older as the 1930s waned, Shirley Temple was still America’s sweetheart in 1937. In each of her films, she managed to make the Great Depression seem somehow more bearable with her impossibly bubbling optimism and her willingness to look to the future. Here, in a poignant moment, she sings “Auld Lang Syne” to Victor McLaglen’s Sergeant McDuff who, sadly, doesn’t have much longer to reside on this vale of tears. And even a hardened cynic can be reduced to tears listening to this clip whose sound has been re-mastered. (Video has also been colorized.) In the following clip, Little Shirley somehow brings back the loving, caring, optimistic America we seem to have lost in 2015.
- Performance at the Scottish Parliament, circa 2007. This next clip is neither the most brilliant nor the best performance of “Auld Lang Syne” we’ve seen or heard. But it’s a standout for one simple reason: All the Scottish politicians in attendance in this clip, no matter what their party affiliation, are standing and singing together, at the Scottish Parliament no less. Can you imagine this happening on Capitol Hill today in the current Congress under the current administration?
- Barenaked Ladies in Tempe, Arizona, with fireworks. Our next clip is taken from a live recording of a New Year’s Eve celebration at Tempe’s Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1, 2008, and includes what may be a new translation and/or lyrics. The performance is kicked up a notch with a fireworks display, although the Scots will be upstaging the Phoenix area in our next video.
- Edinburgh, Hogmanay celebration, 2006. Forget Times Square. If you want to experience a really massive, city-style party that brings in the New Year with all the proper revelry, you need go no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. The national sing-along in the following video is taken from the Jan. 1, 2009, celebration of Hogmanay. Hogmanay—which we’re glad we don’t have to try to pronounce—is to New Year’s Day in Scotland something like Mardi Gras is to New Orleans in that eager Scots don’t limit the New Year’s festivities to Dec. 31-Jan. 1, but carry on at some length leading up to and including that magical date. We’ll help them out this year by downing a wee dram (or two) of our favorite Islay single malt Scotch. Join us.
- Recording by Scottish folk group “The Cast.” The YouTube info box for the following clip tells us it’s sung by “‘The Cast (Mairi Campbell, David Francis)’” in a “performance recorded at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2008.” This striking version is a bit different in both melody and approach, employing earlier language and a slightly different tune, which combine to give us a sadder and more reflective performance than those we’re accustomed to in the U.S.
- Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1946). Why not end today’s trip down memory lane with this time-honored classic version of “Auld Lang Syne”? Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians big band sound rings in the Jan. 1, 1946 New Year celebration on a radio broadcast from Times Square. 1946 was an auspicious New Year indeed. It was the first New Year since roughly 1939 that Americans, and indeed much of the world could celebrate without the threatening backdrop of a catastrophic world war.In 1946, TV wasn’t yet a reality in the American home. Instead, we experience this YouTube broadcast recording against the backdrop of a celebratory collage that includes a lot of newly returned American GIs, who, like the nation itself, were eager to transition themselves into something called a “peacetime economy.”
Don’t ignore this one, millennials. You’ve been bequeathed a very bad world as 2016 dawns. Look back and remember that America was once a land of promise, a country that most of the world actually regarded as the good guys, no matter what anyone tells you. You can make it so again. Just ignore everything you’ve been taught, take your country back and create a new future where national unity is not a bug but a feature. Like it was in 1946.
As for everyone else: Let’s resolve to turn off the riffraff, the agitators and community organizers in 2016 and search instead for a promising new beginning where we can focus once again on what unites us rather than divides us.
In the meantime, Happy New Year! For Auld Lang Syne….