Tuesday October 19, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Pomp & Circumstance March
On this Day:
In 1901, Edward Elgar’s “Pomp & Circumstance March” premiered in Liverpool.
The Pomp and Circumstance Marches (full title Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches), Op. 39, are a series of five (or six) marches for orchestra composed by Sir Edward Elgar. The first four were published between 1901 and 1907, when Elgar was in his forties; the fifth was published in 1930, a few years before his death; and a sixth, compiled posthumously from sketches, was published in 1956 and in 2005–2006. They include some of Elgar’s best-known compositions.
The title is taken from Act III, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Othello:
Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
But also, on the score of the first march, Elgar set as a motto for the whole set of marches a verse from Lord de Tabley’s poem “The March of Glory”, which (as quoted by Elgar’s biographer Basil Maine) begins
Like a proud music that draws men on to die
Madly upon the spears in martial ecstasy,
A measure that sets heaven in all their veins
And iron in their hands.
I hear the Nation march
Beneath her ensign as an eagle’s wing;
O’er shield and sheeted targe
The banners of my faith most gaily swing;
Moving to victory with solemn noise,
With worship and with conquest, and the voice of myriads.
proclaiming the “shows of things” (Maine’s quotation marks): the naïve assumption that the splendid show of military pageantry—”Pomp”—has no connection with the drabness and terror—”Circumstance”—of actual warfare. The first four marches were all written before the events of World War I shattered that belief, and the styles in which wars were written about spurned the false romance of the battle-song.
March No. 1 in D
March No. 1, was composed in 1901 and dedicated “to my friend Alfred E. Rodewald and the members of the Liverpool Orchestral Society”.
The instrumentation is: two piccolos (2nd ad lib.), two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in A, bass clarinet in A, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns in F, two trumpets in F, two cornets in A, three trombones, tuba, three timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, triangle, side drum, jingles, glockenspiel (ad. lib.) and tambourine (ad lib.)), two harps, organ, and strings.
The best known of the six marches, Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1 In D had its premiere, along with March No. 2, in Liverpool on 19 October 1901, with Alfred Rodewald conducting the Liverpool Orchestral Society. Elgar and his wife attended, and it was a “frantic” success. Both marches were played two days later at a London Promenade Concert (which the Elgars unintentionally missed) in the Queen’s Hall London, conducted by Henry Wood, with March No. 1 played second. Wood remembered that the audience “…rose and yelled… the one and only time in the history of the Promenade concerts that an orchestral item was accorded a double encore.”
The Trio contains the tune known as “Land of Hope and Glory”. In 1902 the tune was re-used, in modified form, for the “Land of hope and glory” section of his Coronation Ode for King Edward VII. The words were further modified to fit the original tune, and the result has since become a fixture at the Last Night of the Proms, and an English sporting anthem and general patriotic song.
In Canada, the Philippines and the United States, the Trio section “Land of Hope and Glory” of March No. 1 is often known simply as “Pomp and Circumstance” or as “The Graduation March” and is played as the processional tune at virtually all high school and some college graduation ceremonies. It was first played at such a ceremony on 28 June 1905, at Yale University, where the Professor of Music Samuel Sanford had invited his friend Elgar to attend commencement and receive an honorary doctorate of music. Elgar accepted, and Sanford made certain he was the star of the proceedings, engaging the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the College Choir, the Glee Club, the music faculty members, and New York musicians to perform two parts from Elgar’s oratorio The Light of Life and, as the graduates and officials marched out, “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 1. Elgar repaid the compliment by dedicating his Introduction and Allegro to Sanford later that year.
March No. 1 opens with an introduction marked Allegro, con molto fuoco. The introduction leads to a new theme: strong pairs of beats alternating with short notes, and a bass which persistently clashes with the tune. The bass tuba and full brass is held back until the section is repeated by the full orchestra. A little rhythmic pattern is played by the strings, then repeated high and low in the orchestra before the section is concluded by a chromatic upward scale from the woodwind. The whole of this lively march section is repeated. The bridging section between this and the well-known Trio has rhythmic chords from the brass punctuating high held notes from the wind and strings, before a fanfare from trumpets and trombones leads into the theme with which the march started. There are a few single notes that quieten, ending with a single quiet tap from side drum and cymbal accompanied by all the bassoons. The famous, lyrical “Land of Hope and Glory” trio follows (in the subdominant key of G), played softly (by the first violins, four horns and two clarinets) and repeated by the full orchestra including two harps. What follows is a repetition of what has been heard before, including a fuller statement of the Trio (this time in the ‘home’ key of D) in which the orchestra is joined by organ as well as the two harps. The march ends, not with the big tune, but with a short section containing a brief reminder of the brisk opening march (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What did the dog get after graduating from college? A pedigree…
Second, a Song:
BBC Proms | 2014 (per YouTube.com):
“In this clip, Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major (‘Land of Hope and Glory’).
The BBC Proms is a classical music festival held every summer at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and in recent years has explored new venue spaces through the innovative Proms at… series of events. Its aim; to bring the best in classical music to the widest possible audience, which remains true to founder-conductor Henry Wood’s original vision in 1895.
Whether you are a classical connoisseur or think ‘classical music is not for me’ there is surely something for everyone in the 8 week stretch of concerts, workshops, talks and family events.”
Courtesy of the BBC Proms, here is Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major “Land of Hope and Glory”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.” – Robert Orben
Further to the Alaska Smile, Eric O’Dell of Surrey, BC, Canada writes:
Liked your Smile story on Alaska. I remember quite a few fishers from Rupert would go up as far as the Bering Sea . They were benefiting from that 1860’s agreement. The video’s pictures took me back to our RV travels in the early ‘90’s. Beautiful.
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky