WASHINGTON — Just in time for tonight’s Times Square Ball Drop that no one can witness live, we present CDN’s Auld Lang Syne 2020 list of great performances. This is our Tenth (I think) annual edition of this feature. Our Auld Lang Syne 2020 Top Ten includes a variety of interesting renditions of this old tune. They range from the nostalgic and traditional to the unusual and whacky. In last year’s edition, we looked forward to a triumphant economy in 2020. We based our optimism on the continuing success of President Trump’s America First economic policies.
Reflecting back on the Plague Year
Unfortunately, that optimistic outlook was soon shattered. It began with the ludicrous, failed, sham impeachment of Trump by a runaway House of Representatives in January. The absolutely disastrous Western response to the coronavirus crisis erupted almost immediately thereafter. The result: The (hopefully) temporary destruction of small businesses (not big ones) across the nation and the world. Plus, the destructive and almost entirely unpunished violence of foreign funded anarch-communist thugs like Antifa and the nearly all-white BLM movement. For the grand finale, we witnessed the most massively fraudulent election in American history. Waged, of course, “without evidence.” What an awful year. Politicians and high-level government appointees should be ashamed that they’ve allowed this to happen. But forget that. These elites have no shame. By now, this should be obvious to all, though apparently, it’s not.
Ditto those lockdown crazy Blue State mayors and governators who aim to destroy all small businesses in their states by never opening anything up again. It’s all Cloward-Piven on steroids. But that’s for another column.
Bottom line: Real American patriots will hardly look back on this disastrous year with any sense of nostalgia. Save perhaps nostalgia for the rights and freedom’s we’re likely to see evaporating in 2021.
CDN’s Auld Lang Syne 2020 Top Ten (plus 1)
At any rate, let’s put on our optimistic faces and take a look back at how individuals, groups and countries have celebrated or are about to celebrate the end of the Plague Year 2020. And (hopefully) begin once again to recover our lost sanity in 2021. Enjoy.
CDN’s Auld Lang Syne 2020 Top Ten performances (plus 1) are traditional to highly idiosyncratic takes on the same traditional lyrics immortalized by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns and set to a traditional tune. Auld Lang Syne fondly yet sadly recalls the old times, old friends and old memories that are passing into legend and myth, even as our calendar turns inexorably toward a New Year with its endless possibilities.
Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1946)
Fewer and fewer people can recall this version, the most famous and influential interpretation of Auld Lang Syne ever. For many decades, it was the only version of this song that Americans could watch on the telly each year. But ultimately, an aging Guy and his aging guys were pushed aside by time, by deaths and by Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” Some historians regard that event as the beginning of the Decline of the West. We’d originally posted a of Guy’s Greatest Generation Big Band, his Royal Canadians, celebrating January 1, 1946 in a live radio broadcast from — where else?— Times Square. But YouTube seems to have removed it. Probably too politically incorrect for 2020.
However, we rediscovered a new version on YouTube that’s pretty nice. No video, alas. But, the info box below this clip tells us why it sounds so great and so authentic: “The original 1947 version of Auld Lang Syne transferred from a mint condition 1947 Decca 78 RPM pressing using a Shure SC35C phono cartridge equipped with a 3 mil stylus Pops and Clicks were removed using a custom built filtering system, digital noise gates and ‘Click Repair.'”
Looking back on the history of what was
That gets the tech talk out of the way. As for the recording… It’s a tad slower than we remember when we used to tune in back in the 1950s and, as I recall the early 1960s to hear the band and watch the ball drop on Times Square. The US hadn’t yet fully embarked on its long nightmare encounter with Communism, 21st century style. Folks still believed in certain certainties, and most political disagreements didn’t end in violence or “cancellation.”
Adults in those day, courtesy of the draft, mostly male adults, from college grads to barely literate laborers had fought and died together for this country in World War II and in the Korean Crisis. Democrats and Republicans alike battled the enemy together for one great cause: American freedom. And later on, those who’d survived weren’t about to turn on their fellow vets after that, just to score points or to champion a far left one-party state.
The sad, nostalgic pace of this original modern version of “Auld Lang Syne” wistfully recall an era of American solidarity that seems to have been forgotten. We now find this spirit replaced replaced by far darker ideologies we’d once battled. And thought we’d defeated. This version of “Auld Lang Syne” brings back the admirable spirit and conviction of that Post WWII moment in time.
Mariah Carey does Auld Lang Syne in a 2010 video
Here’s an arrangement of Auld Lang Syne that gives us the best of both worlds, the old and the new. Mariah begins her version of the song pretty traditionally, save for that constant grace-note styling she has never been able to resist. But then she takes things in a more urban pop direction, deftly transforming the tune into something entirely different. Guy Lombardo it ain’t.But if you simply listen to this one, it may help you banish Mariah’s awful flop performance a few ball drops ago.
The Beethoven Arrangement
Now, we travel farther back in history where we discover an interesting trifle from none other than Ludwig von, himself. Yes, 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. Face it. Even hackwork by a master of Ludwig’s stature never sounded so good. So let’s experience this by listening in on Beethoven’s outright charming version of Auld Lang Syne as sung by Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott and John Mark Ainsley, accompanied by a small ensemble. Absolutely charming.
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 columnist owned back in the 1950s and 1960s when no one had ever heard of a 10-speed. (Or could afford one if they found one.) We rode our Schwinns for miles and miles up and down the generally flat terrain of northern Ohio, once completing a 50-mile bike hike from Avon Lake down to Lodi and back on state route 83 to earn our Boy Scout Cycling merit badges. But I’ll guarantee you, we were certainly never invited to perform in a Schwinn bicycle bell choir like these dudes and dudettes below.
Red Hot Chili Pipers.
No, not a typo. Not “Peppers.” “Pipers.” Whoever these dudes are in the following clip, they manage to impart a genuine Scottish flavor to Rabbie Burns’ immortal poem and its accompanying tune. Here’s their latest video version of this fascinating riff on the past. The video begins with their final set, and Auld Lang Syne happens starting at about 3:40 into this video. Here we go.
Auld Lang Syne – Beach Boys cover, arranged by Brian Wilson, as sung by Josh Turner,
posted to YouTube on December 30, 2016.
A couple of years back, I somehow stumbled on this wonderful, almost dreamy à cappella arrangement of Auld Lang Syne by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. In my mind, Brian, has long been underestimated for the almost classical-music elegance of the vocal harmonies he created with the Beach Boys from the very beginning. His version of Auld Lang Syne is traditional yet modern, sincere yet slightly edgy. Even better, it recalls an America and a Golden California that most of us shared and dreamed about prior to the destructionist 1990s and later. That was an aspirational California that no longer exists except for mega-rich techies and random turd droppers in what’s left of San Francisco. Turner does a great job here dubbing each part of this four-part arrangement. Experience the good times.
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. Even better, no one tries to go viral by taking a knee during this New Year’s tribute. Can you imagine this happening on Capitol Hill or at an NFL game today? On the other hand, who knows? The UK is now about to embark on its great adventure known as the “Brexit.” And Scotland doesn’t seem interested in following along.
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 color and revelry, you need go no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. The national Auld Lang Syne sing-along in the following video is taken from the Jan. 1, 2009, celebration of Hogmanay. That celebration is to New Year’s Day in Scotland much like Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. I.e., eager, party-loving young Scots don’t limit the New Year’s festivities to Dec. 31-Jan. 1. Instead, they carry on at some length leading up to and including that magical New Year’s date. Let’s help them out this year by downing a wee dram (or two) of our favorite single malt Scotch. (My fave is Lagavulin.) When the Scots want to celebrate, they damn well know how to do it. Listen and see.
(Tie) Recording by Scottish folk group “The Cast” and another by the Choral Singers of University College, Dublin
The verbiage following this YouTube Auld Lang Syne 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.” We don’t pretend to know how important that is, but no matter. This striking version is a bit different in both melody and approach, than the one we’re used to in the States. It employs earlier language usage and a slightly different, more authentic version, or “mode,” of the ancient tune. Both combine to give us a sadder and more reflective version of the song than those we’re familiar with here.
Jumping across the Irish Sea, we follow this recording with a brand new, circa November 2020 clip by the Choral Singers of University College Dublin. Reminiscent, in a way, of Guy Lombardo’s version above, these college choristers somehow manage to recall a now lost era of solidarity and togetherness. It’s somehow mightily encouraging to hear this kind of empathetic and heartfelt singing from members of the currently rising generation. Perhaps all has not been lost after all. A wonderful, peaceful video, and one can certainly look back upon as we launch an uncertain 2021.
Jumping across the Irish Sea, we discovered a brand new clip by the Choral Singers of University College Dublin. Reminiscent of Guy Lombardo’s version above, these young college choristers somehow manage to recall a now lost era of solidarity and togetherness. It’s somehow mightily encouraging to hear this kind of empathetic and heartfelt singing from members of the currently rising generation. Perhaps all has not been lost after all. A wonderful, peaceful video, and one we can fondly recollect as we launch an uncertain 2021 tonight.
1. Royal Scots Dragoon Guards: Top pick in CDN’s Auld Lang Syne 2020 list
Initially posted here in 2010, this powerful, emotional and lushly orchestrated version of Auld Lang Syne is a great and (to me at least) authentic way to wrap up this year’s Top 10 tribute to this great tune. The music builds and builds, and, for once, the accompanying video is equally interesting. Watch the sweep of the Scottish countryside in the video. Listen yet again to this immortal song as performed by the pros. We hope you agree our concluding pick is just the way to end December 31, 2020. So don your kilts lads and lassies, and let’s have a go.
That’s it for CDN’s Auld Lang Syne 2020 Top Ten performances. Enjoy ringing the old year out tonight however your choose, and with or without a mask. And we wish you all a Happy (and safe) New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 2021!
— Headline image: New Year’s Eve fireworks in Helsinki, Finland, 2016. Image by Olga1969 via Wikipedia entry on New Year. CC 4.0 share and share alike license.