[T]hey played Pomp and Circumstance #1 as the processional; I have almost a Pavlovian response to that now (“Start walking, not too fast, not to slow, try to exude dignity and gravitas, but don’t get too far behind the guy with doubtless-longer-legs-than-you who is in front of you, then match your pace to the person who winds up next to you when the two streams combine”).
It seems funny to me that an Elgar celebrating-the-Empire song is now SO wedded to commencement ceremonies in Americans’ minds; I’ve even seen ones where they didn’t have a symphonic band so they played it from a record player (or later, a CD player).
(I also just realized: Isn’t the Elgar also known as “Land of Hope and Glory,” a patriotic British song? Again, doubly weird we Yanks use it at graduations. I suppose it’s the right length and the right speed and it sort of telegraphs a mild seriousness. I’m now thinking — and giggling over — the sheer inappropriateness of something like a disco number being used.)
That is indeed the same Elgar; Arthur C. Benson came up with the words, which were intended for the coronation of Edward VII, postponed due to His Majesty’s illness.
As for “sheer inappropriateness”:
Yeah, no argument there.