Pomp and Circumstance

Album: various (1901)
Charted: 34

Songfacts®:

  • Edward Elgar didn't have commencement ceremonies in mind when he wrote the first installment in his series of "Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches" in 1901, but over a century later the British patriotic anthem is as synonymous with American graduations as the cap and gown. After "March No. 1 in D" was played in the English composer's honor during a Yale visit in 1905, the instrumental about soldiers going off to war soon became a metaphor for students marching onto the battlefield of life. It's generally used to accompany the processional at the beginning of the ceremony.
  • The title was borrowed from Act III of Shakespeare's Othello:

    Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump
    The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife
    The royal banner, and all quality,
    Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!
  • In the UK, this is better known as "Land Of Hope and Glory." In 1902, lyrics by A.C. Benson were added and the new version closed out Elgar's "Coronation Ode" for King Edward VII:

    Hearts in hope uplifted,
    loyal lips that sing;
    Strong in Faith and Freedom,
    we have crowned our King!


    The "Land of Hope and Glory" section was first performed by Clara Butt, a popular English concert singer, at a concert in June 1902.
  • Jeanette MacDonald sang the lyrical version in the 1941 musical film Smilin' Through.
  • Pro wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage used the instrumental version as his entrance music.
  • When the Everly Brothers founded the short-lived Calliope Records, their first release was a big band instrumental version of "Pomp and Circumstance" in 1961, with Don Everly using the pseudonym Adrian Kimberly. It was arranged by Neal Hefti, who composed the theme music for the original '60s Batman TV series. This was the only version to break into the Hot 100, where it peaked at #34.
  • In the 1996 Friends episode "The One Where Rachel Quits," the friends hum this as Rachel serves her last cup of coffee at The Central Perk.
  • This was used in hundreds of movies and TV shows that featured graduations and other special ceremonies. Here are some highlights from movies:

    The Peanuts Movie (2015)
    Minions (2015)
    Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
    Into The Storm (2014)
    The To Do List (2013)
    It's Complicated (2009)
    Bee Movie (2007)
    Drumline (2002)
    Slackers (2002)
    Forrest Gump (1999)
    If Looks Could Kill (1991)
    The Bells Of St. Mary's (1945)

    And TV shows:

    The Crown ("Assassins" – 2016)
    Community ("Advanced Introduction to Finality" – 2013, "Introduction to Teaching" – 2014, "Basic Crisis Room Decorum" – 2015)
    Jane The Virgin ("Chapter Thirteen" - 2015)
    The Good Wife ("A Weird Year" – 2014)
    Degrassi: The Next Generation ("Goin' Down the Road: Part 2" – 2005, "Take a Bow: Part 2" – 2011, "The Time of My Life: Part 1" – 2013)
    Glee ("Sweet Dreams" – 2013)
    Gilmore Girls ("Those Are Strings, Pinocchio" – 2003, "Unto the Breach" – 2007)
    Veronica Mars ("Not Pictured" – 2006)
    Smallville ("Commencement" – 2005)
    Beverly Hills, 90210 ("Commencement: Part 1" – 1993, Graduation Day: Part 2 – 1997)
    The Facts of Life ("Graduation: Part 2" – 1983, "The Graduate" – 1986)
    M*A*S*H ("Chief Surgeon Who?" – 1972)
  • This was also used in several animated series, including several episodes of The Simpsons (beginning with "Marge Simpson in 'Screaming Yellow Honkers'" – 1999), Ren & Stimpy (beginning with "Black Hole/Stimpy's Invention" – 1991), and King of the Hill ("The Substitute Spanish Prisoner" – 2002).

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