Monday, May 25, 2015

2: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 - Elgar

Known in the UK as "Land of Hope and Glory" or "That one from the Proms" and known in the US as "The Graduation March" or (most memorably) "That thing they play sometimes", Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance is either the very height of overblown, pretentious bourgeois nonsense or the pinnacle of orchestral music accessible to everyone who hears it. I'd side with the latter.

The thing is, it IS accessible - not just to the Brits and the now somewhat-embarrassing chorus about setting the national bounds wider still and wider- but to everyone who hears it in the background, at a graduation ceremony, at a marching band event, at a sports meet - it ingrains itself into your mind and once it's there, it's there for life. It means triumph, it means completion, it means all the things we as humans need to express in a way that we can share with everyone. It's truly accessible and carries you with it, whoever you are, whatever the circumstance, and is FOR everyone, not just the Brits. Not that I'm attempting to speak for Elgar, but now that it's out of copyright it does truly belong to everyone and, as with all the best tunes (see Ode to Joy at number 4 or the Wild Theme at number 5) the melody itself, unaccompanied, is enough to show its strength. With full orchestra and choir it's even better.

To me this is pretty much music at its finest, not just performed for us by the orchestra, but including us in it, as the Proms and all those American graduation ceremonies show.

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