BY DANIEL WARD | FROM THE WINTER 2022 ISSUE OF UKULELE
In Scotland, where New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay, the 12 days between between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6) are dubbed Daft Days. Those who celebrate get so full of cheeses and cakes and visits from family and friends that it all slips into a 12-day weekend and they have no idea what day it is. By New Year’s Eve, they are ready for some resolve—and perhaps some reform, too.
One thing that always feels good and seems to reset the whole year for another shot is to lock arms and sing “Auld Lang Syne.” The poet Robert Burns set the Scots language text to music in 1788. The tune is older than Burns himself and has changed a bit over time, but it remains one of the most popular melodies in history and is sung at celebrations all around the world, from Europe to North America to Asia.
My holiday gift to you this year is an arrangement of the song with a verse in original Scots, along with some Hawaiian words that were set by the last sovereign monarch of the Hawaiian kingdom, Queen Liliuokalani. This arrangement uses low-G tuning to play the melody in the bottom register of the ukulele. The melody really sings down there, and the crossing of the melody and chords are arranged to mimic the sound of bagpipes.
I often play “Auld Lang Syne” as a solo uke piece, but it sounds great to add the singing above the instrumental part. Strum the chords and sing the song slowly at first. After you get familiar with the chords and melody, move to the notation and tab. Roll each chord gently with your thumb, holding down each chord shape for as long as possible while letting the notes ring.
Enjoy the music, and be sure to check out the video lesson, in which I go over the song slowly and add a few melodic embellishments with hammer-ons and pull-offs that make the magic of the bagpipes come to life—on the ukulele. With a little work you’ll have “Auld Lang Syne” ready for New Year’s Eve!