The COVID-19 pandemic may have robbed graduation time of its full pageantry, but the Philadelphia Orchestra stands ready to restore some sense of occasion.
The orchestra is making available to anyone who wants it a recording of about a minute’s worth of Elgar’s 1901 Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D Major, the traditional cap-and-gown tune.
The orchestra has provided the recording directly to the School District of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s secretary of education, and local universities for use in official graduation ceremonies across the city and state. It’s also available to the public.
If the Philadelphia Orchestra’s take on the piece with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin sounds extra grand, it might be because, well, it’s the Philadelphia Orchestra. Another reason is that rather than lifting the serene and dignified first appearance of the famous melody from Elgar’s six-minute piece, the orchestra excerpted its final statement.
That ecstatic last stretch is pretty much the soundtrack anyone and everyone would want launching them into the next phase of life.
The recording may bring an extra twinge of nostalgia for some. It was captured at this year’s Academy of Music Anniversary Concert, which, the orchestra has announced, may be the last in its traditional form. This January, the orchestra plans to take a pause from the venerable event while it mulls other ways of celebrating the 163-year-old opera house.
Even those not celebrating graduation can listen in on Elgar’s stirring piece — at philorch.org/graduation.