Isabella Stewart Gardner; stock photo


On New Year’s Eve 1903, Isabella Stewart Gardener welcomed guests to her 15th-century-inspired Venetian styled palace for the first time. Roaming the breathtaking galleries of Fenway Court, friends sipped champagne and ate donuts while Boston’s Symphony Orchestra played. Surrounded by Gardner’s combined passions of art, gardens, intellect and music the candlelit courtyard glowed. It’s reasonable to assume the revelers toasted the New Year by singing Auld Lang Syne.

But, what’s that song really mean?  “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot and Never Brought to Mind?”

Since 1788, Scottish poet Robert Burns has been heralded as the composer of the New Year’s classic. Scholars believe Burns was the ‘collector’ of verses for the old-thyme-tune rather than the author.  It’s more likely it was his initiative of transcribing and documenting melodic phrasings that adds a vintage quality to our traditional observance of New Year.

Sung with a Scottish brogue, Auld Lang Syne is a dialectic adaptation of  ‘Once Upon a Time…” The familiar chorus questions the relevance of revisiting old times then lyrically ambles through a series of joyful reminiscences between old lovers, and old friends.

The final stanza poetically responds to the first : “And there’s a hand my trusted friend, And give a hand o’thine. We’ll take a cup of kindness yet for Auld Lang Syne!”  The sentimental song harmonizes an old melody, with old memories. Auld Lang Syne is a perpetual celebration of ‘What Was.’  Much like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the song is evocative of  ‘Once Upon a Times”.

Here’s to a holiday that celebrates all that Isabella loved, art, gardens, intellect, music champagne and most of all ~ donuts!

Due to the pandemic Fenway Court is temporarily closed.  However, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum maintains a fun web page filled with pictures and insights about the woman who left an indelible impression on the world with a signature style and daring self expression.  Tour the galleries in your jammies and prepared to be wow’d into 2021!

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