Heidi, the activities director at Sunrise called me and asked if I could come and sing for her residents on New Year’s Eve. What an honor! I didn’t have to consider it for very long. The last time I sang for my friends at Sunrise was about 8 months ago… something about a pandemic. This time I would be masked and so would they.

I love singing and playing songs on New Year’s Eve because it’s a time to reminisce and remember the songs that we’ve attached love to over the years.  Old songs aren’t good because they’re old, they’re old because they’re good! When people you love sing those songs with you, you never forget the old songs, or your “old acquaintances.” 

It’s wonderful to remember the songs, but it’s also important to know what those familiar lyrics mean.

That’s my job: to bring the music to new and old friends and bring meaning to the words we’ve sung all of our lives.

We sang “Always” by Irving Berlin. He lived to be 101 years old. The night the word got out on September 22, 1989 in NYC that he might not make it until morning, the New York Times recounted that all the theatres closed, and singers, dancers and producers all stood on the sidewalk under his apartment window and sang “Always”. The song was a wedding present to his wife.

We sang “Ain’t She Sweet.” Most people think it was written for a girlfriend. I told my audience it actually was written in 1927 by Milton Ager for his little girl, Shana. Then we sang and discussed songs written for other little girls.

“Alice Blue Gown”, written for Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter.

And “Sweet Caroline” for Caroline Kennedy, and then I sang a song I wrote for my daughter, Leah.

I also sang some songs in Spanish, for Carmen, a lovely retired professor who makes Sunrise her home. I then played the beautiful classical guitar piece for her called, “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (Memories of the Al Hambra) by Francisco Tarrega and told her the story behind the song. 

Then we sang “Besame Mucho”.  It is one of the most famous boleros, and was recognized in 1999 as the most sung and recorded Mexican song in the world!

Bésame, bésame mucho  Como si fuera esta noche la última vez
Bésame, bésame mucho Que tengo miedo perderte, perderte después

(Kiss me more, kiss me much more times as if this beautiful night is the very last timeKiss me more, kiss me much more times because I fear I will lose you, I’ll lose you sometime)

So I explain what the words mean to me….. A woman asking the love of her life to kiss her and make this the best night we’ve ever had (esta noche la última vez), because she’s afraid (perderte) that she might not see him again.

I tell them that possibly he’s a soldier or sailor and every time he goes away she fears he may not return. It is at that point that a lovely Spanish caregiver who is much loved at Sunrise, Minerva, pipes up and says, “Oh no my friend, the song was written by a young Spanish girl,  Consuelo Velázquez, many years ago for her father who was a traveling musician.”

I liked her version “mucho” better. I thanked her and told her that every time I sing it, I will mention what I learned from her. Kinda makes your heart smile, huh? Well, that’s what music and great lyrics are for….

But it’s New Year’s Eve. So I told my audience I had sung “Auld Lang Syne” (Robert Burns, 1778) all my life and one day I actually “heard” the words.

The title written in old Scottish language and literally translates to “old long since” or “for old times sake.” The song asks the musical question, “should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” And the lyric suggests that we celebrate and raise a glass in kindness to those old friends who we sang the song with every year of our lives. 

The most wonderful thing about this song is that every time we sing it, it makes us happy. And that’s because every time we’ve sung it in the past, we’ve sung it with people we loved. The song and the love we attached to it will always be there. 

Happy New Year!

Even a pandemic can’t mask love…….