Tune of the Day: Now is the Hour
The origins of this popular song are unclear. It has been credited to several people, and is often erroneously described as a traditional Māori (the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) song.
The tune first became known in 1913, when it was published by W.H. Paling and Co. as a piano-variations piece in Australia, called “Swiss Cradle Song” and credited to “Clement Scott”. Some sources say that, after a tour of New Zealand, the British music critic and travel writer Clement Scott wrote the tune. However, the family of an Australian, Albert Saunders, has long claimed that the “Clement Scott” who wrote the tune is a pseudonym for Saunders. Australian composer Clarence Elkin also claimed to be the author.
Māori words were added around 1915 and the tune was slightly changed. It became known as “Pō Atarau” and was used as a farewell to Māori soldiers going to the First World War. After this, some New Zealanders mistakenly thought the song was an old Māori folksong.
The song achieved world-wide popularity in 1948, when no less than seven recordings of the song reached the Billboard charts in the USA. The most notable of these recordings was Bing Crosby's, which was No. 1 for three weeks, and (quite appropriately, considering the lyrics) the final No. 1 hit of his career.
Now is the hour, when we must say goodbye.
Soon you'll be sailing far across the sea.
While you're away, oh, then, remember me.
When you return, you'll find me waiting here.
Thanks to Peter for suggesting this tune!