The Pomp and Circumstance Marches (full title Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches), Op. 39, are a series of 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 the sixth, compiled posthumously from sketches, was published in 2005–2006. They include some of Elgar’s best-known compositions.
The best known of the six marches, Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1 had its premiere in Liverpool on 19 October 1901. Elgar and his wife attended, and it was a “frantic” success. It was performed two days later in the Queen’s Hall London. The conductor 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”, and the result has 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. As the graduates and officials marched out, “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 1 began its legacy of becoming the most famous of Elgar’s music, and became a lasting tradition for all graduation ceremonies to adopt. This arrangement includes a new introduction and flourish at the end, both of which are optional in performance.