Pomp and Circumstance (March No 1) (Elgar 1901) [7:27]

'Pomp and Circumstance' sounds like an odd title, but the phrase comes from Othello where the bard sopeaks of the 'pomp and circumstance of glorious war', which on the first reading might lend the opinion that Elgar was a jingoistic maniac who thought warfare was a jolly old boys' game. The more prosaic truth is revealed on the score of the first march in the series where he quotes from The March of Glory, setting a division between the 'pomp' of the military march and the actual 'circumstance' of being skewered by a bayonet in some foreign field where you are left to die, wondering how you ever even got there. Of course, these marches were all written some time before the Great War broke the notion of 'glorious warfare' forever but Elgar very much anticipated this, which is perhaps something that has been forgotten about the composer in the intervening years.

The entire work comprised six marches of which the first remains by far the most famous. It had its second performance at the London Proms in 1901 and was met with such applause that the orchestra was given two encores, something that had never happened before and which has never happened since. The entire piece has of course become something of a fixture at the Last Night of the Proms.

I haven't taken that many liberties with the arrangments and have tried to stay reasonably faithful to the original score, but in the end I got carried away and added choirs (unscored) singing the string lines and had the odd cannon go off here and there for effect. Oh yes...and Spitfires. And some Morse. And a famous broadcast. Oh, and there are fireworks. Church bells. You know...that sort of thing. All of them were imported just because, with the exception of the cannons which see what may be ther first recorded use of a Mellotron Mk V being used an a percussion instrument. If you bang the front panels with the spring reverb held wide open you can get some tremendous crashing sounds which, with a bit of treatment, compression and judicious EQ adjustment can sound exactly like a Howitzer going off next to your eardrum. Smashing.

Instrumentation: Mellotrons M400 and Mk V playing

also sampled timpani, snare, cymbals and harp, various sound effects and Mellotron cannons

FLAC version here.