The Orchestra

As with everything else aboard the Titanic, the White Star Line spared neither effort nor expense to assemble what was regarded as the finest ship’s orchestra afloat. This was the day of Fritz Lehar and his great operettas, The Merry Widow, The Count of Luxemburg, and Gypsy Love; when Oscar Strauss continued to write waltzes in the grand Viennese tradition; English musicals such as The Country Girl, Our Miss Brooks, and Miss Hook of Holland provided melodies everyone knew; and the new American rage, ragtime, was in constant demand by the huge numbers of Americans criss-crossing the Atlantic. The strains of light, happy melodies accompanying lunch and dinner and providing a backdrop for the day’s shipboard activities was always one of the most enduring memories for transatlantic travelers.

Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster, most recently had been bandmaster on the Cunard line’s Mauretania, but in early 1912 White Star wooed him away to the Titanic. Hartley’s violin was well known for its rich, warm sound by many First Class travelers. Equally accomplished was his second violinist, Jock Hume, who had been part of the band on the Olympic. (Jock’s mother had urged him not to go back to sea, but the pay on the new ship was good, especially for a young man who was soon to be wed.)

Pianist Theodore Brailey and ‘cellist Roger Bricoux had come over from the Carpathia, another Cunard ship, while the bass-viol player, Fred Clark, had never been to sea before. The ensemble was completed by George Krins, who played the viola, J. W. Woodward, another ‘cellist, and P. C. Taylor, a pianist.

Usually, the band played as two separate ensembles: a quintet under Wallace Hartley’s direction that played at teatime, after dinner, and at Sunday services; and a trio, consisting of piano, violin, and ‘cello, that played in the Reception Room outside the Cafe Parisien and the a la carte Restaurant on B Deck.

The band’s position was a curious one, for the members were not part of of the Titanic‘s crew. Technically they were employed by the Liverpool firm of C. W. and F. N. Black, who the White Star Line paid for the musicians’ services, while the Blacks actually paid their salaries. As a result they were berthed as Second Class passengers and dined in the Second Class dining saloon. They were still required to sign the ship’s articles, however, which subjected them to the authority of the ship’s officers like any other crew member. (In a similar “neither fish nor fowl” situation were the French and Italian employees of the a la carte Restaurant on B Deck. The restaurant was not operated by the White Star Line, but by Monsieur Gatti, who ran it as a concession.

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