Every photomontage of Titanic’s band lists six to eight musicians with their photos, names and sometimes with their instruments. (There were eight musicians on board, and in some publications, for various reasons, photos were simply missing.) When the story of the band’s final brave performance hit the press the public wanted to know more about these men.
In the aftermath of the tragedy there were much bigger issues to sift through, specifically the series of events, choices and errors that led to the loss of the vessel and so many lives. For this reason historians and inquiry officials did not delve into matters of the music on board Titanic. It was the press that supplied the information, fueled by public interest. Unfortunately, historical accuracy has not always been the press’s forte.
In 1912 reporters assumed that both of Titanic’s hired bands performed with a piano, and two pianists were faithfully listed.
Amalgamated Musicians’ Union poster:
- W. Hartley Bandmaster
- P. C. Taylor Piano
- G. Krins Violin
- R. Bricoux ‘Cello
- W. T. Brailey Piano
- J. W. Woodward ‘Cello
- J. F. C. Clarke Bass
- J. L. Hume Violin
It was known that Titanic’s pianist also played cello, so through the years Taylor and Brailey were each credited with both instruments. Clarke has at times been credited with playing viola as well as stand-up bass. Hume has been called first violin.
Now that it is known that only the quintet’s music was arranged to include piano, several questions arise regarding the instruments in Titanic’s ensembles. If the voyage required only one pianist, which of the two who were listed truly played piano? If the second listed pianist played a different instrument, what did he play?
Beyond the obvious questions regarding the instruments there are deeper questions, like why didn’t anyone notice the mistake in 1912 and correct it in the press? Wouldn’t that particular bandsman’s relatives or friends have wanted him properly recognized?
The Black brothers who had hired the bandsmen would have had a document in their office that listed the musicians and their instruments. One wonders how out of tune they were with the entire event, or whether they even read the papers or posters that illustrated the band. They did send a bill for alterations on Jock Hume’s band uniform (the one he was wearing when he died) to Andrew Hume, the violinist’s father. Such behavior is not indicative of men who were socially engaged. It is therefore not surprising that the Black Brothers were not forthcoming with accurate information on the bandsmen.
The instrumental make-up of the bands will be the focus of the next several installments of Titanic Piano.
- Did Titanic’s bands share sheet music?
- March 1912: Titanic’s pianos and musicians in place
- Titanic sailed in the golden age of trained musicians
The Sphere (London, 4 May 1912) p. 104. Showing six musicians, (note: Bricoux and Clarke missing). Image courtesy of the Nova Scotia Archives.
Image of Titanic‘s band available from Musicians’ Report and Journal LSE Library Archive