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Elgar (1857-1934) - March: Pomp and Circumstance No. 1

In view of Elgar’s description of the Big Tune of his first Pomp and Circumstance March as something that “comes once in a lifetime”, I think we can take it that he was singularly proud of his creation. It’s therefore odds-on that he really did dislike the “unofficial” setting of the Land of Hope and Glory lyrics, at least until he later set them to the tune himself. In this respect he was kin to Holst, who similarly disapproved of I Vow to Thee My Country being tacked onto Jupiter’s Big Tune. I’m with Elgar. I much prefer my Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 pure and unadulterated, although I’m comfortable enough with Land of Hope and Glory performed separately as a sort of “English National Anthem”. 

It just so happens that Elgar had concentrated his consummate craftsmanship on the very bits where latter-day (notably Proms) audiences aren’t singing at the tops of their voices, so we hear every scintillating note of the thrusting dynamism of Elgar the imperial rabble-rouser in full flood. To my mind, the scoring of the Big Tune is, comparatively, as dull as ditchwater. I wonder, was this purely by chance, or was it an inspired flash of foresight? Whatever, for those who don’t know them already here are the words of the “chorus”, should you feel the irresistable urge to sing along:

Land of hope and glory

Mother of the free,

How shall we extol thee,

Who are born of thee.

Wider still and wider

Shall thy bounds be set,

God who made thee mighty

Make thee mightier yet

God who made thee mighty

Make thee mightier yet 

© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street, Kamo, Whangarei 0101, Northland, New Zealand


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