The Irish Rovers
The Irish Rovers

On this Day:

In 1904, the First New Year’s Eve celebration was held in Times Square, New York City. However, people had been popping champagne corks on New Years Eve long before this…

In the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve (also known as Old Year’s Day or Saint Sylvester’s Day in many countries), the last day of the year, is on 31 December. In many countries, New Year’s Eve is celebrated at evening parties, where many people dance, eat, drink, and watch or light fireworks. The celebrations generally go on past midnight into New Year’s Day, 1 January.

The Line Islands (part of Kiribati) and Tonga, are examples of the first places to welcome the New Year, while Baker Island (an uninhabited atoll part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands) and American Samoa are among the last.

In the United States, New Year’s Eve is celebrated with formal parties and concerts, family-oriented activities, and large public events such as fireworks shows and “drops”.

The most prominent celebration in the country is the “ball drop” held at New York City’s Times Square, which was inspired by the time balls that were formerly used as a time signal. At 11:59:00 p.m. ET, an 5,400-kilogram (11,875 lb), 3.7-metre-diameter (12 ft) ball is lowered down a 21-metre-high (70 ft) pole on the roof of One Times Square, reaching the roof of the building sixty seconds later. The event has been held since 1907, and has seen an average attendance of one million spectators yearly. Since 2009, the ball itself—which is adorned with Waterford Crystal panels and an LED lighting system—has been displayed atop the building year-round. The spectacle has inspired similar events outside of New York City, where a ball or other item is lowered or raised in an identical manner. The items used for these events often represent local culture or history: Atlanta’s Peach Drop reflects Georgia’s identity as the “Peach State”.

New York City and Times Square serve as the focal point for national media coverage of the holiday. Bandleader Guy Lombardo and his band—The Royal Canadians—were well known for their annual broadcast from New York City. Their signature performance of “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight helped make the standard synonymous with the holiday. Beginning on radio in 1929, Lombardo moved to CBS television from 1956 to 1976, adding coverage of the ball drop. Following Lombardo’s death, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (which premiered for 1973 on NBC, and moved to ABC for 1975) became the dominant New Year’s Eve special on U.S. television—especially among younger viewers—with Dick Clark having anchored New Year’s coverage (including New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and the one-off ABC 2000 Today) for 32 straight years. After Clark suffered a stroke in December 2004, Regis Philbin guest hosted the 2005 edition. Due to a lingering speech impediment brought upon by the stroke, Clark retired as host and was succeeded by Ryan Seacrest for 2006, but continued making limited appearances on the special until his death in 2012.

Other notable celebrations include the Las Vegas Strip’s “America’s Party”, which consists of a ticketed concert event at the Fremont Street Experience, and a public fireworks show at midnight that is launched from various casino resorts on the Strip. Nashville has typically held festivities featuring appearances by country music performers. Los Angeles, a city long without a major public New Year celebration, held an inaugural gathering in Downtown’s newly completed Grand Park to celebrate the arrival of 2014. The event included food trucks, art installations, and culminated with a projection mapping show on the side of Los Angeles City Hall near midnight. The inaugural event drew over 25,000 spectators and participants. For 2016, Chicago introduced an event known as Chi-Town Rising. Alongside the festivities in Times Square, New York’s Central Park hosts a “Midnight Run” event organized by the New York Road Runners, which features a fireworks show and a footrace around the park that begins at the stroke of midnight. Since 2014–15, musician Pitbull has hosted a New Year’s Eve concert at Miami’s Bayfront Park (which was initially televised as a New Year’s special on Fox, Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution, until 2017–18).

Major theme parks also hold New Year’s celebrations; Disney theme parks, such as Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, are traditionally the busiest around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

New Year’s Eve traditions and celebrations in Canada vary regionally, but are typically similar to those in the United States, with a focus on social gatherings and public celebrations (such as concerts and fireworks displays).

The CBC’s English- and French-language television networks have been well known for airing sketch comedy specials on New Year’s Eve, lampooning the major events and news stories of the year. From 1992 through 2019, CBC Television aired Year of the Farce, an annual special produced by the comedy troupe Royal Canadian Air Farce. The special was part of a weekly Royal Canadian Air Farce television series beginning in 1993, while the 2008 edition doubled as the program’s series finale. The troupe continued to produce Year of the Farce as an annual reunion special until 2019.

The CBC’s French network Ici Radio-Canada Télé airs a similar special, Bye Bye, which has been presented by various comedians and troupes, Originally running from 1968 to 1998, it was revived in 2006 by the Québécois troupe Rock et Belles Oreilles. Its 2008 edition, hosted and co-produced by Québécois television personality Véronique Cloutier, was criticized for featuring sketches that viewers perceived as offensive, including sketches making fun of English Canadians and American president-elect Barack Obama. In 2018, the special was seen by 3.3 million viewers.

Since 2017 (with the inaugural edition marking the beginning of the country’s sesquicentennial year), CBC Television has broadcast a more traditional countdown special: a localized version is broadcast for each time zone, which features music performances and midnight festivities from across the country.

The Canadian men’s junior hockey team has usually played their final preliminary round game at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship on New Year’s Eve, most often against the United States (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other…

Second, a Song:

“Auld Lang Syne” is a popular song, particularly in the English-speaking world. Traditionally it is sung to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. By extension, it is also often heard at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions; for instance many branches of the Scouting movement use it to close jamborees and other functions.

The text is a Scots-language poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 but based on an older Scottish folk song. In 1799, it was set to a traditional tune, which has since become standard. “Auld Lang Syne” is listed as numbers 6294 and 13892 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

The poem’s Scots title may be translated into standard English as “old long since” or, less literally, “long long ago”, “days gone by”, or “old times”. Consequently, “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for the sake of old times”.

The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757), and James Watson (1711), as well as older folk songs predating Burns. Matthew Fitt uses the phrase “in the days of auld lang syne” as the equivalent of “once upon a time” in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language.

The Irish Rovers is a group of Irish musicians that originated in Toronto, Canada. Formed in 1963 named after the traditional song “The Irish Rover” they are best known for their international television series, contributing to the popularisation of Irish Music in North America, and for the songs “The Unicorn”, “Drunken Sailor”, “Wasn’t That a Party”, “The Orange and the Green”, “Whiskey on a Sunday”, “Lily the Pink” and “The Black Velvet Band”.

The primary voices heard in the group’s early songs were Will Millar (tenor), Jimmy Ferguson (baritone), George Millar and Joe Millar, and in the last twenty years, also John Reynolds and Ian Millar. Wilcil McDowell’s accordion has been a signature sound of the band throughout their more than fifty years.

Founding member George Millar and his cousin Ian are both from Ballymena, Davey Walker from Armagh, Sean O’Driscoll from Cork, Gerry O’Connor from Dundalk, with Morris Crum from Carnlough and percussionist Fred Graham from Belfast. Flute and whistle player Geoffrey Kelly was born in Dumfries, Scotland.

In the 1980s, the group briefly renamed itself The Rovers. During this period, their “Wasn’t That a Party” led to crossover success in the country rock genre.

The Irish Rovers have represented Canada at five World Expos, and in 2018 were honoured as one of Ireland’s greatest exports at Dublin, Ireland’s EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.

The Rovers drove to California in 1966, hoping to perform in the folk clubs there. On the way, their car broke down near an Italian restaurant owned by two Irish immigrants in northern California. The boys were given room and board and an introduction to Jan Brainerd, a booking agent who helped them secure an appearance at The Purple Onion in San Francisco where they played sold-out houses for five months. The group was then booked at other folk clubs across California.

In 1966, the Rovers signed a recording contract with Decca Records with Charles Dant and recorded their first album, The First of the Irish Rovers, at The Ice House in Pasadena. The album was successful enough to warrant another album, which included their first hit, which was from a song originally written and recorded in 1962 by Shel Silverstein, The Unicorn. Glen Campbell played guitar on the original recording. After recording the album, Joe left the band for a more “reliable” income for a family man. It was at this time that they invited All-Ireland Champion Wilcil McDowell to join the band. After the success of “The Unicorn”, Joe returned to the band. The album included the Irish tunes “The Orange and the Green” and “The Black Velvet Band”. Wilcil’s accordion has continued to be a signature sound of the band.

Starting in the late 60s, the Irish Rovers performed on various North American television programs including several appearances on the TV western The Virginian, as well as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Mike Douglas Show, The Dating Game, The Pig And Whistle, and The Beachcombers.

In 1968, they were named “Folk Group of the Year” by the predecessor of the JUNO Awards, and in 1969 they received a Grammy Award nomination for “Folk Performance of the Year”.

The band members became Canadian citizens after Canada’s Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, asked them to do so, to officially represent Canada around the world. By 1989 they had represented Canada at five world Expos: Montreal (1967), Osaka, Japan (1970), Okinawa, Japan (1976), Vancouver (1986), and Brisbane, Australia (1988). In recognition of their quarter century of contributions of Canadian music to the International music world, they were awarded Canada’s top music honour, the Performing Rights Organization’s (PROCAN) Harold Moon Award. With their double album 25th Anniversary Collection in 1989, which featured the backing of The Chieftains and songs written by, amongst others, Randy Bachman, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, the band was, once again, officially known as The Irish Rovers, but many fans still refer to them as The Rovers (per Wikipedia).

Here are The Irish Rovers performing Auld Lang Syne, using the original lyrics written by the Scottish Bard Robbie Burns. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” – Brad Paisley

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Happy New Year!

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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