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Fiddlin’ Around – January 2018

Fiddlin'Around headerAt the stroke of midnight on December 31st I’ll bet many of you were enthusiastically singing along to the song Auld Lang Syne. Some of you with lampshades or goofy hats on your head. Or with your optimistic arms around someone else besides your significant other. Many of you hadn’t been up later than 10 pm since last years’ festivities. And then there’s the amateur drinkers embarking on their first epic hangovers. But every year, throughout the world, we somehow manage to unite for a couple of musical minutes to say goodbye to the past year with this ancient tune.

Portrait of Robert BurnsAuld Lang Syne was written by the great Scottish poet Robert Burns in the year 1788, and was set to the tune of a traditional folk song. Besides being used to bid farewell to the old year, it is also sung at funerals, graduations, or at the end of group events or gatherings. Many scouting organizations sing the song to close their yearly jamborees, and it is meant to pay homage to old friends as it conveys a sense of longing for the past. It is a melancholy yet beautiful song which looks at the past with nostalgia, but also with a feeling of comradery about our shared experiences. Though most of us know parts of this song, so we’re able to tipsily sing along, I’ll bet most of us don’t really understand the meaning of many of the words or their origin.

The Scottish title loosely translates into modern English as ‘long long ago’ or ‘days gone by’ or ‘old times’, so when it is used in the first line of the chorus it basically means ‘For the sake of old times’. Scots also use this phrase when telling old fairy tales or legends—kind of the equivalent of starting a story by saying “Once upon a time…” The song starts with a rhetorical question—“Is it right that old times be forgotten?” The words have changed some in it travels over the years since Robbie Burns penned them, and there are verses that no one sings any more. I love the final verse: “And here’s a hand, my trusted friend! And give me a hand of thine! We’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.” A lovely and optimistic and unifying sentiment that mostly goes unnoticed nowadays in these jaded times.

Guy Lombardo album coverThis enduring song was easily spread throughout Scotland, England and Wales, but it was also adopted by many non-English speaking countries, where it is now part of their New Years’ Eve traditions. Versions of it are now sung in India, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Belize, Thailand and Japan, as well as other more obscure and unlikely places. It was popularized in the U.S. by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadian Orchestra, who performed it live on the radio for many years, as well as on TV, and it became a huge part of the New Years’ Eve celebrations across America. Guy Lombardo was a Canadian of Italian descent who became a naturalized American, and he formed the band in 1924 with his brothers and musician friends from his home town of London, Ontario. His father was a tailor and an amateur singer, who had 4 of his 5 sons learn to play instruments so they could accompany him. They were still in grammar school when they played their first gigs! How about those child labor laws…

Jazz snobs at the time viewed the band as being ‘boring, mainstream pap’, but Louis Armstrong said they were his favorite orchestra—that’s a huge endorsement as far as I am concerned. Millions of people watched or listened to their performances at house parties and other gatherings for almost 50 years. For 20 some years they did a live segment from Times Square in NYC while the ball dropped, and their recording of Auld Lang Syne is still played over the loudspeakers as the first song of the New Year. Now that is a long running gig—not to mention an enduring song!

Guy Lombardo in racing carSome musicians amaze me with the scope of their non-musical achievements, and the nearly forgotten Guy Lombardo is one of those people who had a bunch of different triumphs in his life. He was a superstar in the hydroplane speedboat racing world, and won every trophy there was in that sport, including several times as national champion. When he retired from that he helped develop a line of fiberglass speed boats. He was an investor who was involved in the day to day operation of a seafood restaurant near his Long Island home. He worked with several theater companies as a promoter and musical director. He has 3 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in L.A. and was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame. Streets and bridges have been named after him and there is a society dedicated to the preservation and history of his music. He had over 140 hits from 1927 to 1940, including 21 #1 ranking songs. He had a distinctive style, full of exaggerated saxophone vibrato and sound, precise brass ensemble phrasing and immediately recognizable vocals. I figure the guy deserves to be remembered for more than the once a year playing of Auld Lang Syne.
Now that the rains have ended and visitors are coming back to our beautiful little part of the world, I urge you all to help support the endeavors of our local musicians by getting out and listening to live music! Kim Carson, country singer and songwriter from New Orleans, will be joining me at sunset every Monday at Tortilla Flats in Dominical, where we perform as the Tipsy Chicks. We will be playing a lot of rowdy country music and some of Kim’s originals. The G String Cowboys bring their goofy humor and great vocals and musical expertise to Roca Verde on Thursday nights, as well as other venues in the area. Ben Jammin’ and the Howlers rock out every Friday night at Roca Verde, just south of Dominical, as well as Wednesday nights at Dos Locos in downtown Quepos. Fuegos, Porque No, Phat Noodle, The Rum Bar, and the Bamboo Room in Ojochal all host a variety of live music to dance or listen to. And that is just down south here in Dominical! Many places in Quepos will be hosting live music, so check the listings and come out for live music fun!

Auld Lang Syne lyrics

Click image to enlarge.

One other thing—if you were gifted with an instrument during the holidays or if you have made a resolution to finally dust off that guitar and learn how to play it—do not be intimidated! Set aside half an hour a day to practice, or go online and watch one of the many tutorials now available. Repetition and practice are the key—talent has very little to do with it! Music is just another language and learning how to speak it is fun and very rewarding!

Cheers to another new year and another chance to get it right. Oprah Winfrey

Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough! Mark Twain

I never worry about being driven to drink: I just worry about being driven home. W. C. Fields

Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness. William Shakespeare


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