‘Pomp’ on song list for now

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A DECISION on whether or not to perform a patriotic English song at the Mornington Peninsula Chorale’s Proms Concert in Frankston next week has ruffled a few feathers.

The issue was sparked when choir convenor Judi McKee asked choristers if playing Pomp & Circumstance – by British composer Sir Edward Elgar – would offend non-British members of the audience at the Proms concert at Frankston Arts Centre, Sunday 19 August.

The song, written at the height of the British Empire in 1901 and said to be a favourite of Queen Victoria, highlights issues of imperialism and nationalism that could offend those who suffered under British rule, such as the Scots and Irish. The key stanza known and loved by patriotic English folk is: 

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!

Ms McKee said she emailed the choir’s 114 members to seek their views and received “two strong objections and three not so strong” – the latter suggesting “other music that might be appropriate or something of our Australian culture”.

She said last week her email was “just trying to find out if anyone was uncomfortable [with the song] and that the feedback was minimal”.

“I try to keep things open and transparent,” Ms McKee said.

“My intention was to ask whether we have a problem with it and we don’t. It proved we have no issue.”

Ms McKee said she had discussed the issue with the society’s committee “on a number of occasions” and the decision was made to continue to include it in the performance “because many of the audience who attend are British”. The song’s suitability will be discussed at the repertoire committee’s meeting early next month – after the Proms concert.

“My suggestion is for the committee to consider an alternative that gives recognition to Australia,” Ms McKee told choir members.

“As you will understand, it is too late to consider any option for this year. Pomp and Circumstance will remain on this year’s program.”

The contentious song is especially popular in England at the BBC’s annual Last Night of the Proms concert, with some enthusiasts lobbying for it to become the national anthem, replacing God Save the Queen.

It is played by some English teams at sporting events, where England is competing as distinct from the UK.

“Everyone sings along: fiercely, loudly and, for the most part, cheerfully off-key,” a Wikipedia post states.

First published in the Frankston Times – 13 August 2018

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