Thursday, April 14, 2005

True Titanic Tales: The Band

In honor of my husband, I'm going to tell you a little bit about the ship's band, because this is his favorite story from the Titanic.

The eight-member band was in a strange position on the Titanic, because while they were hired on as the ship's band, and so were required to sign the ship's articles, they were actually employed by another company. They sailed under a second-class ticket, and were in a weird limbo between passengers and crew.

The band was made up as follows:

Mr. Wallace Hartley (33) was the ship's bandmaster. He played the violin, and previously played on Cunard's Mauretania

Mr W. Theodore Brailey (24) was a pianist from London, who previously played on Cunard's Carpathia.

Mr. Roger Bricoux (20) was a cellist from France, and also was previously on Cunard's Carpathia.

Mr. Fred Clarke (30) played bass-viol. He was from Liverpool England, and had never been to sea before.

Mr. Jock Hume(28) played second violin. He came to Titanic from the Olympic. His mother tried to convince him to stop going to sea, but the money on Titanic was too good for him to pass up, and he certainly would have welcomed the extra pay with a wedding coming up.

Mr. George Krins (23) was from London, and played the viola.

Mr. Percy Taylor (32) was also from London, and played the piano.

Mr. John Woodward (32) was from Oxford, and played the cello.

After the Titanic struck the iceberg Wallace Hartly assembled the orchestra in the First Class Lounge, playing lively ragtime pieces. Near 1:45 am they moved to the forward Grand Staircase entrance. They were then all wearing their lifebelts.

They eventually moved out onto the deck at the base of the second funnel. Many of those in the lifeboats remember hearing the music drifting out over the water. As the slope of the deck increased and time had run out for a miracle, Wallace Hartley tapped his bow on his violin, and the ragtime music stopped.

As for their final song, there is much debate. The popular version of history states that Nearer My God To Thee was their final performance. In fact it has been stated that Wallace Hartley himself once said that this would be his hymn of choice if ever put in such a situation. Other accounts have recorded Songe d'Automne as their last song. Harold Bride, the junior wireless operator, stated "Autumn" was the orchestra's final piece. Certainly he meant Songe d'Automne, which was a popular song at the time, and one he would have known. He was trained to be an acute listener, so his account shouldn't be pushed aside. The truth is we will never know the truth.

None of the musicians survived the sinking. Only the bodies of Wallace Hartley, Fred Clarke, and Jock Hume were recovered. The ship's orchestra has been widely celebrated for their heroism that fateful night.

Another interesting fact: Of all the memorials and monuments that have been erected in honor of those who died on the Titanic, there are more for Wallace Hartley than for any other person.

Special thanks to Encyclopedia Titanica, and Unsinkable: The Full Story Of The RMS Titanic by Daniel Allen Butler for helping me fill in all the facts.
Name: Christine
Location: Wyoming, United States
I'm the Mom of two. They drive me crazy. I love them dearly. I want one more. I'm not insane, yet. My hubby says I'm a snob with an inferiority complex. There is more to me than being a mother. I just don't remember any of it.

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