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'Auld Lang Syne' Feted at Morgan Library

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A new exhibit at the Morgan Library traces the 350-year history of "Auld Lang Syne" and how it became the go-to song for ringing in the New Year.

The show's curator, Christine Nelson, said the song has become a New Year's staple because of the sentiments it captures.

"It's repeated year after year," she said. "We know it's coming. It's bringing back important moments in our life, important moments when we've been with people that we love."

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet who wrote the lyrics, collected and reworked the region's folk songs and saw himself as the bard of late 18th century, much as Walt Whitman did in 19th Century America, according to Robert Crawford of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

"Part of his great project as a writer was to blend his own voice with the voice of the people in his community," said Crawford, who has written a biography of the poet. "'Auld Lang Syne' was one of many songs that he collected and modified and remade."

The exhibit also features early manuscripts, including a letter by Burns where he wrote down the lyrics we sing to this day. Visitors can also listen to versions of song from throughout history.

The exhibit runs through February 5.

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