Titanic’s Dedicated Musicians

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    Rachel Redman on #146103

    With the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking approaching on April 15, I’ve been reading survivors’ stories, and I found this one today:


    Amazing to read the story of some very dedicated musicians. One survivor said that it was beyond him, how the band could continue to play music, knowing that they were sinking.

    Jessica A on #146104

    Yes, that is amazing.

    kreig-kitts on #146105

    My theory is that a wedding planner on board told them it would be great exposure.

    sherry-lenox on #146106

    Funniest line of 2012.

    Alison on #146107

    My guess is that harps don’t float and I hope nobody knows….!

    carl-swanson on #146108

    I was watching a program last night about the Titanic and heard something appalling. Apparently when the White Star line go a telegraph that the boat was about to sink, they quickly fired all of the staff on the boat so that they would not have to pay benefits to surviving relatives! Unbelievable. When the whole debacle eventually went to court, the courts overruled White Star and ordered that benefits be paid to surviving family anyway. This is apparently a true story.

    barbara-brundage on #146109

    The musicians lost their status long before that. In a story that will be familiar to many professional musicians, for several years the musicians contracted directly with the White Star Line. Then a big agency came along and persuaded the company they could do the music cheaper. The agency got an exclusive and immediately turned around and told all the existing musicians that if they wanted to keep the gig they’d be working for the agency at a much-reduced pay scale.

    Now in order to be legally under the captain’s command, the musicians were still getting a very small token payment from the line as well (something like a shilling, if I remember correctly). So the musicians’ union made a direct appeal to the White Star Line to do right by these poor guys. They responded by not giving them the shilling anymore so they no longer had any kind of quasi-crew status at all, although they were still bound by all the restrictions of crew members.

    After the ship sank, when tributes to the courage of the musicians were pouring in from all over the world, there was a letter from the agency, too. It was a demand for payment for the parts of their uniforms that hadn’t been fully paid for yet.

    Walter Lord, who wrote the classic A Night to Remember, wrote a less well known collection of essays (The Night Lives On) after the finding of the Titanic in 1985, in which he revisited a lot of things where his opinion had changed since he wrote the first book back in the 1950s. One chapter is devoted to the musicians. It’s very interesting reading.

    barbara-brundage on #146110

    Oh, and the musicians’ families got nothing from the courts except sympathy.

    barbara-brundage on #146111

    > the musicians’ union made a direct appeal

    This was well before the Titanic sailed, just to be clear, not while it was sinking. They tried on behalf of all the White Star Line musicians, not just those on the Titanic.

    jessica-wolff on #146112

    What my mother would have called a “Schweinerei.” Nowadays with computers blasting news all over the place I don’t think they would dare try such sleazy tricks.

    emma-graham on #146113

    There’s more info on the bandleader including photos of his funeral and memorial here:

    Pat Eisenberger on #146114

    Anyone else here know the old Harry Chapin song, “Dance Band on the Titanic?” That was in my head the whole week of the 100th anniversary.

    “Well, they soon used up all of the lifeboats
    But there were a lot of us left on board
    I heard the drummer sayin’ “Boys, just keep playin'”
    “Now we’re doin’ this gig for the Lord”

    Jesus Christ can walk on the water
    But a music man will drown
    They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burned up
    Well, I was strummin’ as the ship go down..

    I heard the dance band on the Titanic

    Sing “Nearer, my God, to Thee”

    The iceberg’s on the starboard bow

    Won’t you dance with me”

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