This time of year, our home base of Avery Fisher Hall is, by day, a bustle of activity for college graduation ceremonies as students from the likes of NYU and Fordham march across the stage, sheepskin in hand. It recently led us to unearth this score copy of Elgar’s Military March No. 1, the trio of which is better known as Pomp and Circumstance, from our Digital Archives. But, as one of our Facebook fans asked: Why is this the graduation song to beat all graduation songs?
"Pomp and Circumstance" was first heard in its popular use at Yale University’s 1905 graduation, where Elgar was receiving an honorary doctorate of music. As a result, Yale music professor Samuel Sanford (a friend of Elgar’s) incorporated a few works by the composer into the proceedings, including the trio from March No. 1 as a recessional. It’s still used in that capacity at Yale, and quickly became a popular processional for other colleges and high schools. The work was first heard at the Philharmonic two years after Elgar received his honorary degree from Yale, in 1907 at a concert conducted by Walter Damrosch.