The Brave Musicians


The Titanic struck an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912.  Less than three hours later the great ocean liner slipped beneath the ocean waves.  More than 1500 passengers and crew went down with the ship or perished in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

I have always been amazed to consider the heroism of two groups on that ship.  First were the engineers, stokers, and firemen who kept the ship’s boilers operating until almost the very end.  Their self-sacrifice kept the pumps running in a futile attempt to keep the Titanic alive until help could arrive.  Their efforts also maintained the ship’s lighting until shortly before the final plunge.  When these brave men finally arrived on deck almost all lifeboats were gone, and very few of them managed to survive.

The other memorable group was the Titanic’s band.  Eight musicians had been hired for the voyage.  Until the night of the sinking the players performed as two separate groups: a quintet led by violinist and official bandleader Wallace Hartley, that played at teatime, after-dinner concerts, and Sunday services, among other occasions; and a violin, cello, and piano trio that played at the À La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien.

After the Titanic hit the iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Survivors said that Hartley and the band continued to play until the very end.  None of them survived.

In the words of one passenger, “Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.”

Some passengers reported that the last song played by the band was Nearer My God to Thee.

I urge you to open You Tube, use the search terms rieu and nearer, and listen to Andre Rieu’s Amsterdam performance of Nearer My God to Thee.  I believe it will touch your heart.


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