Wallace Hartley, conductor, violin. Roger Vricoux, cello. Theodore Brailey, piano. John Woodward, cello. John F. P. Clarke, string bass, viola. John Hume, violin. Percy Taylor, piano. Georges Krins, violin.
Who were they? They were the musicians on the Titanic. They played up to the very end, and all went down with the ship. Irony: Hartley, the conductor, had previously served on the other infamous ship of the era, the Lusitania.
There’s been a lot of debate over the past century over what they played in those final moments, as the great ship took the final plunge. There are various accounts from survivors – some thought they heard the hymn Nearer, my God, to thee, others a popular song of the time. We’ll never know for certain, and obsessing about it would be like rearranging the proverbial deck chairs….
There’s a memorial to them in Southampton (the ship set sail from there). But on this centennial of the disaster, it’s fitting that we not forget them:
“One irrefutable fact…remains: the musicians stayed until all hope of rescue was gone. Who can say how many lives their efforts saved? The final moments of how many were cheered or ennobled by their music? ‘Songe d’Automne’ or ‘Autumn.’ ‘Horbury’ or ‘Bethany.’ What difference? The memory of the bandsmen and their courageous music will never die.” (Eaton and Haas, Titanic: Destination Disaster)