Pomp and Circumstance Marches

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The "Pomp and Circumstance Marches" are a group of five marches for orchestra composed by Sir Edward Elgar. Their full title is: "Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches"). Elgar started to write a sixth march, but never finished it.

The first of the marches is especially famous and has a tune which is one of the best known tunes in Britain. It is often sung to the words " Land of Hope and Glory".

The title[change | change source]

The title “Pomp and Circumstance”is taken from Act III, Scene iii 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!"[1]

The marches[change | change source]

The Pomp and Circumstance marches are

  • March No. 1 in D (1901)
  • March No. 2 in A minor (1901)
  • March No. 3 in C minor (1904)
  • March No. 4 in G (1907)
  • March No. 5 in C (1930)
  • March No. 6 in G minor (written as sketches, elaborated by Anthony Payne in 2005–06)

The first five were all published by Boosey & Co. as Elgar's Op. 39. Elgar dedicated each march to one of his musical friends.

Each march takes about five minutes to play.[2]

" March No. 1 in D " is the best known of the set. It was completed, together with March No. 2, in 1901, soon after the first performance of his “Dream of Gerontius” which had been badly performed. Elgar dedicated it to Alfred Rodewald who conducted its first performance with the Liverpool Orchestra Society on 19 October 1901. Both marches were played two days later at a Promenade Concert in the Queen's Hall London, conducted by Henry Wood. Elgar knew that the audience would love the big tune in the middle of March No. 1, so that march was played second. Henry Wood tells in his autobiography that “the people simply rose and yelled. I had to play it again – with the same result; in fact, they refused to let me get on with the programme….merely to restore order, I played the march a third time.” [3]

The next year King Edward VII was due to be crowned in June. The King liked the big tune, and wanted it performed with words at the coronation. So Elgar used it at the end of his Coronation Ode with words by A.C. Benson. The coronation did not take place because the king became ill just before the big day. "Land of Hope and Glory" was sung in June 1902 by Clara Butt, and the whole Ode was performed in Sheffield four months later.

In Britain "Land of Hope and Glory" is sung every year at the Last Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.

The words are:

  • Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
  • How shall we extol thee who are born of thee?
  • Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
  • God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.

In the United States the tune is sometimes known as "Pomp and Circumstance" or as "The Graduation March", and is played as the processional tune at high school and college graduation ceremonies,[4].

" March No. 2 in A minor " was dedicated to the composer Granville Bantock". It was first performed at the same concert as March No. 1. It the shortest and simplest of the marches.

" March No. 3 in C minor " was finished in November 1904 and published in 1905. It was dedicated to Ivor Atkins". It was first performed on 8 March 1905, in the Queen's Hall, London, conducted by the composer. It sounds quite serious at first, then it becomes very energetic.

" March No. 4 in G " is very grand, like No. 1. Again there is a big tune in the middle. It was dedicated to Dr. G. Robertson Sinclair, the organist of Hereford Cathedral. It was first performed on 24 August 1907, in the Queen's Hall, London, conducted by Elgar himself.

" March No. 5 in C ", composed in 1930, was dedicated to Percy Hull, a friend from Hereford. It has some brilliant orchestral effects.

" March No. 6 in G minor " was started, but when Elgar died there were only sketches left. The musician Anthony Payne recently discovered some more sketches for it in the library of the Royal School of Church Music. He finished composing in the way that Elgar might have done, and the work was first performed on 2 August 2006 with Andrew Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at The Proms at Royal Albert Hall.

References[change | change source]

  • Wood, Henry, My Life of Music (London, 1938)
  • Programme note by Wendy Thompson for Last Night of the Proms 1995

Notes[change | change source]

  1. "Othello, Act III". William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. http://www.william-shakespeare.info/act3-script-text-othello.htm. Retrieved 23 May 2007.
  2. Boosey & Hawkes full score
  3. Henry Wood, My Life of Music p. 154
  4. Pomp and Circumstance NPR Music