Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, May 21, 2010

Land of Hope and Glory

Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1. It’s probably one of the best known songs in the world, beloved of graduates everywhere.

In England, it’s not just a popular march for graduation exercises. They sing it at proms, rugby and soccer matches and other sporting events, and serves as the Conservative Party’s anthem.

Yes, I said sing. This is a song with words, written in 1902 by essayist A.C. Benson

King Edward VII thought the trio from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance would make a nifty song. Once words were set to the music, it became the Coronation Ode (“Crown the King”; later “Crown the Queen” for Elizabeth II’s coronation).

However, Edward fell ill with appendicitis two days before the ceremony and the coronation was postponed. The publishers of the music saw great commercial potential in the number and asked Elgar to create a separate song, which was first performed by Madame Clara Butt in June 1902. In fact, only the first of the seven stanzas of the Ode's final section was re-used, as the first four lines of the second stanza below. This stanza is the part which is popularly sung today.

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.

The song is as popular in England as God Bless America is in the United States. There have even been movements to have this song replace “God Save the Queen,” which is Great Britian’s national anthem. A trip to Wikipedia will lead readers to a link where they can hear Madame Butt’s original rendition of this song.

One of the band’s with which I play performed the commencement exercise music for a community college. Naturally, we played the Pomp and Circumstance March. My company allows us a day’s worth of time to devote to supporting education in the community.

My supervisor thought it was a stretch but allowed me to take the time. Now I can tell her I not only supported education at a community college, but learned something I didn’t know about this familiar musical number.

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