I was visiting with some friends the other day, excitedly describing to them the graduation we put together every year at Anderson Preparatory Academy. Recounting past commencements, I compared our ceremony to high schools -- caps & gowns, tassels, songs, diplomas, and even pomp and circumstance. The conversation moved to "what exactly is pomp and circumstance, and why is it synonymous with graduation?" Well, no one had any answers, so I did some research.
The composition is called Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1. Did you note that? "March No. 1." Were you aware there was more than one? The full title is Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches, Op. 39; they are a series of six marches composed by Sir Edward William Elgar of England. March No. 1 was published in 1901, and it made its way to the United States in 1905 at Yale University's graduation. Since that time, it has become a popular component of college and high school graduations -- and since 2011, of APA's preschool ceremony.
And there are lyrics too! However, at some point the words have been replaced by just the orchestral music.
Now we come back to my title -- why Pomp and Circumstance? My opinion: it invokes emotion! The tune sounds both triumphant and nostalgic, which is befitting of commencement, an event that marks the beginning of one chapter of life and the end of another. Because these sentiments will be emerging May 18th this year at APA, please pass the Kleenex!