The History of Pomp and Circumstance

The History of Pomp and Circumstance

Melissa W.

We’ve all heard it, the song that’s synonymous with commencement ceremonies. You’re probably singing it in your head right now. "Pomp and Circumstance,” better known as “the graduation song” has been heard at the start of graduation ceremonies for decades -- but how did it come to be? 

Originally used for the coronation of King Edward VII, ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ was written by English composer, Sir Edward Elgar in 1901 after a line in Shakespeare's Othello (“Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”). The song was played as the recessional at the Yale University graduation ceremony in 1905 in which Elgar received an honorary Doctorate of Music degree. Other universities (Princeton, University of Chicago, and Columbia) caught wind of it after the Yale ceremony, adopted it as their own, and it has since become the most popular choice for graduation processional marches. Chances are, if you’ve graduated or been in the audience of a graduation ceremony, you’ve felt the energy that comes from the song as graduates march.

But, why is it so popular? That remains to be seen, but one theory is that it had to do with “Elgar’s ability to invent melodies that convey a complex of emotions. The tune manages to sound triumphant, but with an underlying quality of nostalgia, making it perfectly suited to a commencement that marks the beginning of one state of life, but the end of another.” The song has no words and is royalty-free, making it an easy song for school bands to obtain and learn!

What does “Pomp and Circumstance” mean to you, and how does it make you feel when you hear it?

As a reminder, our team continues to operate with a modified business solution, complete with remote and isolated order processing locations. Our goal is to safely deliver honor and recognition gear to schools and institutions to have ready for their students once graduation dates have been reworked. We understand the importance of graduation regalia and what it means to students and faculty and want graduates to mark their accomplishments in a way in which they deserve. No matter what your commencement ceremony looks like this year, our honor and recognition gear means the same and looks just as great!

*Cover photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

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