We’re all very familiar with Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance march, the unofficial graduation anthem played during the academic procession. But performing Pomp and Circumstance at a graduation is mostly a tradition only in the United States. Outside of the US, you might here Gaudeamus Igitur (“So Let Us Rejoice”), a school anthem, or the very popular Triumphal March from Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera Aida.
A triumphal march is a musical form that captures a great joy or victory. Composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Edward Elgar, and Edvard Grieg all have terrific Triumphal Marches (all of which could work fantastically as graduation anthems in their own right) but none of them are as popular as Verdi’s Triumphal March from Aida.
The story of Aida is a tragic tale of forbidden love in the midst of a war between Egypt and Ethiopia. The Triumphal March occurs in the second act when the Egyptian military commander, Radames, leads the Egyptian army on its return following their victory over the Ethiopians.
In the Philippines, Verdi’s Triumphal March is the perpetual background music during every graduation processional – there it’s called Martsang Pandangal (Filipino for “Honors March”). The piece is additionally the inspiration for the Philippine National Anthem, Lupang Hinirang.