This week I will join millions of Americans as we participate in the common annual gathering known as graduation. Throughout April and May, auditoriums and stadiums alike will see academic regalia, student speeches, honorary degrees, decorated caps, keynote speakers, air horns, rituals, and, of course, music.
Arguably one of the more ubiquitous aspects of any commencement ceremony (at least here in the U.S.) is the endless playing of the trio section of Edward Elgar’s March No. 1 during the processional. Although many may not be familiar with this particular title, you are likely familiar with the often-used one of “Pomp and Circumstance” or “The Graduation March.”
With its regal melody, warm tone colors, and stately duple meter tempo, Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” has infused the fabric of the American graduation ceremony for the past 100 years. Although musicians may at times bemoan the slow, endless, looping repetitiveness of this trio, it serves several important functions in for this rite of intellectual passage:
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