What a glorious occasion- graduation! Graduates in caps and gowns, family members with cameras, and very traditional music to accompany a very traditional event. We graduate from high school, college, graduate school and even middle school, kindergarten and preschool! Whether you are the graduate or a member of the audience, I am sure you will recognize the traditional processional, "Pomp and Circumstance," written by Sir Edward Elgar.
Before we proceed, locate the music using your computer or a CD and listen to it. While you are listening, just imagine hundreds of students marching to their seats in their graduation gowns and mortarboards (another name for graduation caps.) How do you think you would feel during this music, if you were a graduate?
"Pomp and Circumstance" was first played at a graduation ceremony more than 100 years ago on June 28, 1905 at Yale University. Elgar was invited to receive an honorary doctorate and as the graduates and faculty marched out, his "Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 1" was played by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in his honor.
Although Elgar wrote a series of six marches, you will probably only recognize March No. 1 because it is usually played at this time of year.
As you listen to "Pomp and Circumstance" again, listen for different sections of music. Do you hear fast sections at the beginning and slow sections later in the march? What section, slow or fast, is the part traditionally played at graduation? You probably recognized the slower section as the part you remembered from graduation, although the entire march may be played as well.
If you are using your computer, you may see many different graduations and hear many different groups playing "Pomp and Circumstance." You will probably hear orchestra and band (no strings) playing more than other groups. How many different groups can you find?
When you attend a graduation, be sure to listen for the processional music - and tell someone the name and the composer: Sir Edward Elgar: "March No. 1, Pomp and Circumstance."
- Dr. Gail Looney