Thursday, 26 July 2012

Titanic's bandsmen as documented by survivors

Those who traveled in Titanic’s First Class saw the bandsmen only in a professional capacity, while performing in a particular place at a particular time. Most accounts from First Class passengers mentioned the band in a general sort of way. Helen Churchill Candee’s account described the listening audience more than the bandsmen themselves.

But as the bandsmen travelled in Second Class, their fellow passengers in that area of the ship were much more likely to bump into them between sets when they weren’t working: in corridors, on the ship’s deck, possibly even at mealtime. Their memories reflected this close proximity to the musicians. While Juliette Laroche described a performance in Second Class, Lawrence Beesley described seeing a bandsman running to a performance, and Kate Buss and Bertha Lehmann each had opportunity to speak with musicians on a more personal level.

Even closer than Second Class passengers were members of the crew. One survivor, First Class stewardesses Violet Jessop, knew Jock Hume personally. The two had sailed together the year before, on Olympic’s maiden voyage. As crew, she was even able to call him by name.

In the wake of discussing Titanic’s bands, the musicians and their instruments (as well as who played in which band), here is a quick reference for enthusiasts and lay researchers on how the bandsmen were remembered by Titanic’s survivors. This is a compilation of quotations from personal letters, memoires, and books published on the subject of the sinking of the Titanic.

Although the bandsmen were not identified by name by most who recorded the memories, identities have been recovered through deduction. When a particular passage is included beneath a bandsman’s name it is because he was mentioned in it, sometimes in detail. In most of the quotations a bandsman was identified by the instrument he played.


TITANIC’S TRIO
Titanic’s saloon orchestra, or trio, played only in First Class, in the Reception Room outside the à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien. Referred to as the ‘luxurious saloon after deck’ by May Futrelle, this was the trio’s one and only performance venue. As there was no piano in this location on the ship, three string players filled the positions of this ensemble, led by Jock Hume, first violin and bandleader.


JOHN LAW (JOCK) HUME, bandleader, first violin


Violet Jessop, memoires edited by John Maxtone-Graham, pub. 1997:
“On that Sunday evening, the music was at its gayest, led by young Jock the first violin; when I ran into him during the interval, he laughingly called out to me in his rich Scotch accent, that he was about to give them a ‘real tune, a Scotch tune, to finish up with.’ Always so eager and full of life was Jock.”

Violet Jessop, memoires edited by John Maxtone-Graham, pub. 1997:
“As I turned I ran into Jock, the bandleader and his crowd with their instruments. ‘Funny, they must be going to play,’ thought I, and at this late hour! Jock smiled in passing, looking rather pale for him, remarking, ‘Just going to give them a tune to cheer things up a bit,’ and passed on. Presently the strains of the band reached me faintly as I stood on deck….”

Kate Gold, stewardess, 1912:
“When we left the ship men were sitting on A deck, smoking cigarettes and tapping time with their feet to the music of the band. These passengers and the bandsmen, too, had their lifebelts beside them, and I was specially struck by a glimpse of a violinist playing steadily with a great lifebelt in front of him. The music was ragtime just then.”


GEORGES KRINS, second violon


There are currently no known accounts that focus on violinist Georges Krins.


ROGER BRICOUX, cello


Bertha Lehmann, Brainerd Daily Dispatch, December 2, 1937:
“I dressed and went up on deck. I saw a French musician that I had met talking to another lady. She went away and then I asked him what was wrong. He just told me that we would have to go on another boat to get to New York and that I should go down and get my coat. I went and when I came back he put a life belt on me and took me to another deck. He said to a couple of officers that here was another lady.”


TITANIC’S QUINTET
Titanic’s deck band, or quintet, gave six performances daily, alternating between Second and First Classes. They gave three concerts daily in the Second Class Entrance Foyer on C Deck, one in the First Class Entrance Hall at the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase, and two more in the Reception Room outside the First Class Dining Saloon on D Deck.


WALLACE HARTLEY, bandleader, violin


Helen Churchill Candee, Collier's Weekly, on May 4, 1912:
"...after dinner there was coffee served to all at little tables around the great general lounging place, for here the orchestra played. Some said it was poor on its Wagner work, others said the violin was weak. But that was for conversation's sake, for nothing on board, was more popular than the orchestra.”

Juliette Laroche, On board RMS Titanic, April 11, 1912:
“I am writing you in the reading room and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano.”


PERCY TAYLOR, viola(?)


There are currently no known accounts that focus on Titanic musician Percy Taylor, now believed to have been a violist.


JOHN WESLEY (WES) WOODWARD, cello


Juliette Laroche, On board RMS Titanic, April 11, 1912:
“I am writing you in the reading room and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano.”

Kate Buss, On board RMS Titanic, April 11, 1912:
“We have three promenade decks, one above the other. Each one has a sort of hall lounge and on the one above my cabin the band plays every afternoon and evening. The ’cello man is a favorite of mine, every time he finishes a piece he looks at me and we smile.”

Kate Buss, On board RMS Titanic, April 12, 1912:
“Saw Doctor just after dinner, and reminded him of his promise to ask our ’cello man to play a solo. Says he would if I’d go to Kentucky. He waited for us, and we took our seats on the stairs. Too late to arrange, so going to ask for it tomorrow. ’Cello man quite nice. Very superior bandsman, and he always smiles his parting to us.”

Kate Buss, On board RMS Titanic, April 13, 1912:
“Arranged to meet the Doctor and go and hear the band. Couldn’t get near to ask our ’cello man for solo. […] After luncheon we went with a French lady to hear her sing. We had previously met the ’cello man and asked if he would play a solo. He is quite gentlemanly. He agreed, and we chatted, amongst other things about the Olympic. He was on her when the accident happened. She was struck just where their berths were, and he said that had they been in there, they must have been killed. We have the Olympic captain on board.”

Lawrence Beesley, The Loss of the S. S. Titanic, June, 1912:
"Soon after the men had left the starboard side, I saw a bandsman--the ’cellist--come round the vestibule corner from the staircase entrance and run down the now deserted starboard deck, his ’cello trailing behind him, the spike dragging along the floor. This must have been about 12.40 a. m. I suppose the band must have begun to play soon after this and gone on until after 2 a. m. Many brave things were done that night, but none more brave than by those few men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea and the sea rose higher and higher to where they stood; the music they played serving alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recorded on the rolls of undying fame."

Kate Buss, On board Carpathia, April 16, 1912:
“The musicians were such nice men. I asked one night for a ’cello solo, and got it at once.”


J. F. P. (FRED) CLARKE, double bass


Juliette Laroche, On board RMS Titanic, April 11, 1912:
“I am writing you in the reading room and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano.”
[It is believed that one of the two cellos mentioned was really the double bass.]


THEODORE (THEO) BRAILEY, piano


Juliette Laroche, On board RMS Titanic, April 11, 1912:
“I am writing you in the reading room and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano.”

Kate Buss, On Board Carpathia, April 16, 1912:
“That night the pianist had asked me if I would mind taking round the subscription, as I had appreciated the music. At supper I talked Mr. N. and Dr. P. into promising to do it for me, and as a joke the former rehearsed a possible speech, and then said ‘Meet me on the upper deck at six in the morning. I will talk it over.’ I saw the pianist as I was going to bed, and promised. That is the last that I saw of them.”
___

Related Posts on Titanic's trio
Which musicians played in Titanic's trio?
Who was bandleader of Titanic's trio?
Was Wallace Hartley Titanic's only bandmaster?

Related Posts on Titanic's quintet
Titanic's quintet: Wallace Hartley, violin and bandleader
Titanic's quintet: Which part did Taylor play?
Titanic's quintet: Who was the cellist?
Titanic's quintet: J. F. P. Clarke, contra basso
Titanic's quintet: Who was the pianist?



Sources













Jessop, V. (1997). Titanic Survivor, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Sheridan House, 1997. pp. 124, 129.











On Board RMS Titanic , George M. Behe

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Titanic's quintet: Which part did Taylor play?

Before we launch into the challenge of figuring out which musical instrument Percy Taylor played, let us sit back for a moment and take stock of the progress made on identifying Titanic’s bandsmen so far:

Titanic’s trio consisted of three stringed instruments, making it a “string trio” with:
First violin, bandmaster (of the trio) – Jock Hume
Second violin – Georges Krins
Cello – Roger Bricoux

So far in the piano quintet we have identified and placed four out of the five musicians:
Violin, bandmaster (of the quintet) – Wallace Hartley
Cello – Wes Woodward
Double bass – Fred Clarke
Piano – Theo Brailey

The only musician left to place in the quintet is Percy Taylor.

Percy Taylor
Very little is known about the musical side of Taylor, one of the two musicians on Titanic who has traditionally been listed with both cello and piano. The lack of evidence for him seems to be evidence in itself. It is almost as though the press had nothing on him, nor did the Amalgamated Musicians’ Union (who created the famous poster of the bandsmen), so they just made it up to put something there, or copied someone else's supposition.

What are the possible reasons so little is known about Taylor? Although he was the only bandsman who was married, he was estranged from his wife, Clara. It appears as though she made no effort whatsoever to help the public to learn more about him after his tragic death, though she was perfectly willing to accept funds raised for the survivors of Titanic’s deceased musicians.

According to Steve Turner, in his book The Band That Played On, “There were no obituaries or personal appreciations in Britain’s newspapers for him when he died, and although his name is included on all band memorials, he was never individually honored. This may simply be because he was from London rather than a small, close-knit community….”

So, although he has been credited as playing piano and cello there is an outside possibility that he played neither.

As a musician, I searched the information on Titanic’s quintet for sparse evidence on Taylor’s position. With the other bandsmen in place, the only missing part is a stringed instrument that would fill the alto voice.

Violin, bandleader – Wallace Hartley
[alto stringed instrument] – Percy Taylor
Cello – Wes Woodward
Double bass – Fred Clarke
Piano – Theo Brailey

(It should be explained here that the reason the musicians are listed in this order is because it is the custom in musical circles to list musicians by the instrument they play, in the order their instrument would appear in a music score.)

Trout Quintet score with instruments notated in standard order:
Violin, Viola, Cello, Double-bass, and piano.


There is no concrete evidence of any instrument for Taylor. There is only an “aura” of evidence. Liken this to news that a new planet has been discovered far, far away, but scientists can’t actually see the planet, they can only see a gravitational pull that suggests the planet is there. Such is the case with Taylor's instrument.

SECOND VIOLIN?
If Taylor had played second violin, Hartley would have been called not just bandleader and violin, but first violin. Hartley was never called that in primary sources, as Jock Hume was. Two passengers had identified only one violin in the group. First Class passenger Helen Churchill Candee had said, “…others said the violin was weak.” Second Class passenger Juliette Laroche had said, “…there is a concert next to me: a violin.…” In the aura of evidence, eyewitness references help us determine that there was only one violin, played by Hartley, and therefore Taylor did not play violin in the quintet, but something else.

SECOND CELLO?
Although Taylor was credited with playing cello, it would be highly unusual for a quintet to have an instrumentation consisting of two cellos. Laroche’s one reference to two cellos in the quintet came from an incomplete listing of only four out of five musicians, and it is likely that the cello and double bass, both large stringed instruments, were erroneously listed as two cellos. Moreover, a wall separated her from a view of the band. The more accurate picture came from Second Class passenger Kate Buss, who wrote many accounts of the cello and “Cello Man,” all in the singular. In the aura of evidence, one cello means Taylor played something else.

WIND INSTRUMENT?
It has never been questioned that the quintet had only one double bass and one piano, so it is certain that Taylor played neither. Although the band has at times been depicted with wind instruments (in the 1958 movie A Night To Remember, for example), no primary sources have ever suggested anything other than stringed instruments and the piano.

Titanic's band depicted in A Night to Remember,
with stringed and wind instruments.

VIOLA?
If Taylor didn’t play violin (soprano), cello (tenor), double bass (bass) or piano, what did he play? Logic points to the only missing standard instrument that could have balanced the ensemble with the alto voice: the viola. Percy Taylor, the musician we know so little about, has now become our suspect violist.

But to make a claim like this I would need to offer a shred of proof. An aura of evidence would not likely be enough to persuade anybody.

The proof may come from a familiar passage. Let me repeat a quote that has been posted on Titanic Piano several times, from Titanic’s music agents C. W. & F. N. Black, the musical directors who had hired Titanic’s bandsmen.

Charles Black had been asked what he thought the bands had done during the sinking, and he answered, “Probably they all massed together under their leader, Mr. Wallace Hartley, as the ship sank. Five of the eight, Mr. Hartley, P. C. Taylor, J. W. Woodward, F. Clark and W. T. Brailey were Englishmen.”

In several posts including this one, the significance of the listed order of the bandsmen has been brought to light. Now reread this, within the present discussion, paying attention to the order Black listed the musicians, printed vertically. Remember what was said earlier in this post about musicians being listed in order according to their instrument?



It seems as though there is nothing random about the listed order of the bandsmen. The fact that Black listed the other four musicians in the correct order according to their instrument makes it believable that Taylor, too, is in order. Where does this place Taylor within the group? The instrument that is notated below the violin and above the cello in a music score is often the viola.

After Titanic sank, Charles Black would have been one of the only living men to know all the bandsmen’s names and instruments. His brother, Frederick, would have been the only other. In their office somewhere they had a document on which they had written the names of the quintet’s bandsmen, and the names were written in formal concert order.

From Charles Black, director of Titanic’s music, comes the major clue needed to complete the instrumentation of the quintet. Beyond suggesting Taylor's part as violist, Black’s list also confirms the rest of the bandsmen and their instruments:

Hartley’s name appeared first, for his instrument, violin, would appear at the top of a quintet score, would be listed first in a concert program, and, apparently, first in a music agent’s list of bandsmen. This protocol (formality) continued with the rest of the band: Taylor in the spot of the next instrument, which suggests the viola, Woodward in the cello’s position, Clarke, the double bass position, and Brailey, the piano. It is the printed order of names that is significant, that aligns the bandsmen’s names with the instruments they played.

And where did Charles Black list Taylor’s name in the five? If the aura of evidence discounts a second violin or second cello, then Taylor fits neatly into the place of the viola. That makes a standard, balanced ensemble. Violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano.

Titanic's violist,
Percy Cornelius Taylor


Just as an aside, is it ironic or not that Titanic’s one musician who was incorrectly listed for a century was the violist? Often violists are overlooked, play the plinky notes no one pays attention to, provide the harmony to other instruments. Titanic’s violist was probably never asked to play a solo, or ever had the chance to flirt with the ladies. In Juliette Laroche’s list of instruments, the only one not mentioned, either specifically or by implication, was the viola. Yet, there was a viola there.

Perhaps it is time for the violists of the world to stand up and recognize one of their own. An obituary, or a statue, or a plaque somewhere in London. Perhaps it is finally time for someone to organize a proper tribute to Titanic’s violist, Percy Taylor.
___

Related posts
Titanic's quintet: How many cellos?
Titanic's quintet: Who was the quintet's cellist?
Titanic's quintet: Who was the pianist?

Links
New York Times April 21, 1912

No one tells the violist’s fate like Lemony Snicket in “The Composer is Dead,” which is narrated to music by composer Nathaniel Stookey. You will find the passage on the viola at 3:20.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Titanic's quintet: Who was the pianist?

In Titanic lore there have always been two pianists listed in the instrument lineup. Posters and photomontages of Titanic’s bandsmen that were printed after the disaster identified Theodore Brailey and Percy Taylor as the two.

Amalgamated Musicians' Union poster of Titanic's bandsmen, 1912

Though there were likely several musicians who could play the piano, it is safe to say that on Titanic’s maiden voyage there was only one hired pianist, who played in the five-piece deck band. With Brailey and Taylor as the two candidates, I have honestly gone back and forth between them. In the historical notes of my piano books, the first edition has it one way, the second edition, the other.

THEODORE BRAILEY

Theo Brailey
Brailey’s main instrument growing up was the piano. His first piano teacher, Miriam Geary, lived at the end of the road of his boyhood home in Essex. In 1955, Clifford Buttle, a man who had known the Brailey family, remembered the young Theo in an interview. He said, “From the commencement of his education the boy displayed a marked talent for music. So much so that he soon outpaced his teacher….”

By the age of fourteen Brailey was playing piano professionally in the Kensington Palace Hotel orchestra in West London. The conductor, Simon Von Lier, noted that Brailey was a “highly efficient pianist,” which suggests that he had an aptitude for picking music up quickly and reading well at sight.

A month before his fifteenth birthday, on October 9, 1902, Brailey signed up for the army in a regiment called the Lancashire Fusiliers. Just over a year later, while stationed in Barbados, he was appointed as a bandsman. His late teens were spent studying music, for in March, 1904, he enrolled at the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall in Twickenham, just outside London. He studied there for about two years.

He completed his musical studies and military training in January 1906 and was awarded certificates of accomplishment on flute and cello (it is unknown whether he also studied piano). Then, with less than five years of military life under his belt, Brailey left the army in February 1907 by buying himself out.

In the years that spanned his early twenties (1907-1912) Brailey held several positions as a professional musician. In Southport, Lancashire he played with the Pier Pavilion orchestra, and made several voyages playing as a bandsman on the Cunard liners Saxonia and Carpathia.

Prior to sailing he may also have studied music once again, though no records have been found. He also tried his hand at composing. Two works survive from the year 1911: “Ballet of the Roses” and “A Little Scherzo.”

There are several compelling reasons to believe Brailey was Titanic’s pianist. Musicians who had known him and worked with him identified him as a pianist. Clifford Buttle remembered him as a boy pianist from Essex. Conductor Simon Von Lier remembered him as a “highly efficient pianist.” And in 1912 when it became public that he had been lost on the ill-fated Titanic, his regiment the Lancashire Fusiliers remembered him as “a talented musician, and an exceptionally good performer on the piano.”

Moreover, it has always been known that Titanic’s pianist also knew how to play the cello. Because Brailey had studied cello at the Royal Military School of Music, he fits the description of someone who was primarily a pianist, but had cello as a secondary instrument. He was awarded a certificate in 1906 that stated he had achieved a “good deal of proficiency” on the cello. The word “proficiency” itself implies that Brailey had not exactly mastered the cello, but had learned it fairly well. In other words, it is much more likely that his piano skills still exceeded his skill on the cello, which made it far more likely that he went on to play piano professionally.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence of all that Brailey was Titanic’s pianist: just prior to embarking on Titanic Brailey had been playing in a band on another ship, the Carpathia, with Roger Bricoux, also destined to play on Titanic. Brailey’s instrument on the Carpathia was the piano.

PERCY TAYLOR

Percy Taylor
The following quote from the New York Sun was typical of the press coverage of Taylor, the other bandsman thought to play piano on Titanic. Including the errors on Taylor, how many mistakes can you find?

New York Sun, April 21, 1912:
“There were five other musicians on the Titanic. Herbert Taylor was the pianist, a skilled musician, about forty years of age. His wife is an actress. The 'cellist was George Woodward, unmarried, of Leeds, England. The other three men were Brailey, Krins and Breicoux, who formed a trio which played in the second cabin and when the other men were off duty.”

[1. Taylor’s first name was Percy, not Herbert. 2. Did Taylor really play piano on Titanic? 3. Woodward was named John Wesley, Wes for short, not George. 4. Woodward was from Hill Top, not Leeds. 5. Brailey played in the quintet, not the trio, as the trio had no piano available to them in their performance venue. 6. Breicoux is spelled Bricoux. 7. The trio played only in First Class on a regular schedule, never in Second Class, nor did they fill in for the other band.]

This particular New York Sun quote was so wrought with errors that it is difficult to believe the accuracy of the statement that Taylor played piano. But at the time, because most readers in the public assumed both ensembles had access to a piano, no one questioned that the Titanic had two pianists on board.

The fact that Taylor had two instruments credited to his name suggests a bit of grasping on the part of the reporters. Perhaps to be safe, on the offhand chance they were wrong about the piano, they included the cello as a backup for good measure, copying the instruments attributed to Brailey.

Louis Cross, a player of double bass on White Star liners, was credited with an interview given to the New York Sun. This, too, gave Taylor the incorrect first name, Herbert. (In fact, google “Herbert Taylor Titanic,” and you will find many online sources calling him by this name.)

Credited to Louis Cross, New York Sun, 1912:
“Herbert Taylor, the pianist, was considered a master of his instrument. He was a man of an intellectual turn of mind with a thin, studious face. He was married and his home was in London.”

Cross had sailed with several of Titanic’s bandsmen prior to her maiden voyage. But as this was Taylor’s first gig on the open sea, it is unlikely that Cross knew him at all. It is possible that the above quote was completely made up and simply attributed to Cross.

In the search for Titanic’s pianist, there is ample evidence to back up Brailey and no reliable evidence to support Taylor. We can therefore be confident that Titanic’s pianist was Theo Brailey.

Second Class passenger Kate Buss wrote a short reminiscence about a conversation with this man, and now we can know for sure that it was of Brailey that she wrote:

Kate Buss, On Board Carpathia, April 16, 1912:
“That night the pianist had asked me if I would mind taking round the subscription, as I had appreciated the music. At supper I talked Mr. N.* and Dr. P. into promising to do it for me, and as a joke the former rehearsed a possible speech, and then said ‘Meet me on the upper deck at six in the morning. I will talk it over.’ I saw the pianist as I was going to bed, and promised. That is the last that I saw of them.”

The next post on Titanic Piano will explore Percy Taylor’s role on Titanic.

*Mr. N was Robert Douglas Norman, a Scottish Second Class passenger. It was he who played piano for the Second Class hymn sing on the night of April 14, 1912.
___

Related posts
Titanic's quintet: Which part did Taylor play?
Titanic's quintet: Who was the quintet's cellist?
Titanic's quintet: Wallace Hartley, violin and bandleader

Links:
New York Sun article on Titanic's bandsmen

Friday, 13 July 2012

Titanic’s quintet: Who was the cellist?

Three of the four musicians on board Titanic credited with playing cello were members of the five-piece band: Theo Brailey, Percy Taylor and Wes Woodward. It would have been highly improbable for an ensemble of only five players to have more than one cellist, so it is necessary by process of elimination to decipher which one actually played cello in this ensemble on Titanic.

Second Class passenger Kate Buss spoke of the cellist in a lengthy letter she wrote on board in installments throughout the voyage. It is certain that Buss was referring to the quintet’s cellist because she travelled in Second Class, and only the quintet played in that part of the ship.

You will notice that she always spelled cello with an apostrophe. That is because cello is really an abbreviation of the real name of the instrument, violoncello, and Buss knew she was using the shortened name. In modern nomenclature the apostrophe has been dropped.

The other point of interest is that she always spoke of the cello or of ‘cello man’ in the singular.

Kate Buss, On board RMS Titanic, April 11, 1912:
“We have three promenade decks, one above the other. Each one has a sort of hall lounge and on the one above my cabin the band plays every afternoon and evening. The ’cello man is a favorite of mine, every time he finishes a piece he looks at me and we smile.”

Kate Buss, On board RMS Titanic, April 12, 1912:
“Saw Doctor just after dinner, and reminded him of his promise to ask our ’cello man to play a solo. Says he would if I’d go to Kentucky. He waited for us, and we took our seats on the stairs. Too late to arrange, so going to ask for it tomorrow. ’Cello man quite nice. Very superior bandsman, and he always smiles his parting to us.”

Kate Buss, On board RMS Titanic, April 13, 1912:
“Arranged to meet the Doctor and go and hear the band. Couldn’t get near to ask our ’cello man for solo. […] After luncheon we went with a French lady to hear her sing. We had previously met the ’cello man and asked if he would play a solo. He is quite gentlemanly. He agreed, and we chatted, amongst other things about the Olympic. He was on her when the accident happened. She was struck just where their berths were, and he said that had they been in there, they must have been killed. We have the Olympic captain on board.”

Kate Buss, On board Carpathia, April 16, 1912:
“The musicians were such nice men. I asked one night for a ’cello solo, and got it at once.”

Because Buss always referred to the cellist in the singular, we will continue the search for his name assuming there was only one cello in the quintet.

There are three candidates for cellist: Theo Brailey, who studied cello, Percy Taylor, who has always been credited as playing cello, and Wes Woodward, a noted professional cellist.

THEO BRAILEY

Theo Brailey
Theo Brailey is a candidate for the quintet’s cello position by virtue of the fact that he had studied cello. Although he was a recognized talent on the piano in his youth, two of the instruments he studied at the Royal Military School of Music just outside London, were cello and flute. Perhaps he studied these because he felt playing them would give him a better chance of filling a position in a military band. He received recognition in January 1906 for his progress with a “good degree of proficiency” on the cello and a “very good degree of proficiency” on the flute.

It is unknown what the term “proficiency” meant in this context. Typically in university programs today a musician’s “principal applied instrument” is the main instrument of study. “Proficiency” classes are meant for the purpose of teaching basic skills, a general knowledge of a class of instruments.

For example, an education student who hopes to teach high school band may major on the trumpet, their own principal applied instrument, but would need to have a general knowledge of all wind and percussion instruments, and so would take proficiency classes to learn how to play them all in a rudimentary fashion. Young composers are also often advised to learn how all the orchestral instruments work in order to compose effective music.

In Theo Brailey’s case it is unknown how well he learned to play cello or flute, or whether his skill ever equaled that of his piano playing.

PERCY TAYLOR

Percy Taylor
So little is known about Percy Taylor as a musician that it is completely unknown what instruments he studied or where. There are no known professional performances on any instrument prior to the one on Titanic. The only source of evidence that he played cello and piano was from the posters published of the bandsmen after the sinking of Titanic. The few obscure statements about him in newspapers after the sinking suggested he was a pianist.




WES WOODWARD

Wes Woodward
In 1900, at the age of 21, John Wesley (Wes) Woodward received his teacher’s and performer’s licentiate from the Royal College of Music in London. There is ample evidence that he played cello professionally. In his mid twenties he performed with small ensembles in Oxford, then in his late twenties with the Duke of Devonshire’s Band, a privately funded orchestra that gave public concerts in Eastbourne. Prior to sailing on Titanic he had performed at the Constant Spring Hotel near Kingston, Jamaica, as well as on ships: White Star Line’s Olympic for the duration of her early career, and Cunard’s Caronia.


In Buss’s letter she had mentioned a conversation with the cellist in which he had said he was on Olympic when she collided with Hawke. It is known Woodward was on Olympic from her maiden voyage until the day of the accident. This piece of information alone identifies him as the quintet’s cellist.

John Wesley Woodward, cellist
Beyond that, photographs of Woodward match the pleasant character Buss described in her ‘cello man.’ She made note that he was a 'superior bandsman.'

One other Second Class passenger made mention of the quintet's cellist, now identified as Woodward. Lawrence Beesley wrote of his experiences on Titanic after the collision with the iceberg. Beesley watched the activity on the ship from the Starboard side of the Second Class section of the Boat Deck.

As the bandsmen were also Second Class passengers, they would have used all the usual Second Class corridors and stairways, and would have been seen by their fellow passengers between performances. It seems as though the quintet accessed their performance venue at the top of the First Class Grand Staircase by ascending the stairs in Second Class up to the Boat Deck level, and then making their way along the length of the Boat Deck all the way to the First Class Entrance Hall.

It can be believed that it was the quintet's cellist that Beesley saw because the Boat Deck led directly to the quintet's venue. As mentioned in a past post, the trio's cellist would have accessed the inner First Class Reception Room on B Deck from a crew stairway located inside the ship.

Lawrence Beesley, The Loss of the S. S. “Titanic”, June, 1912:
"Soon after the men had left the starboard side, I saw a bandsman--the ’cellist--come round the vestibule corner from the staircase entrance and run down the now deserted starboard deck, his ’cello trailing behind him, the spike dragging along the floor. This must have been about 12.40 a. m. I suppose the band must have begun to play soon after this and gone on until after 2 a. m. Many brave things were done that night, but none more brave than by those few men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea and the sea rose higher and higher to where they stood; the music they played serving alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recorded on the rolls of undying fame."

One wonders--what had delayed Woodward, what had held him behind and caused him to rush?

With Wes Woodward named as the quintet’s cellist, only two musicians remain to be placed in the ensemble: Theo Brailey and Percy Taylor. The next two posts will attempt to sort out the parts they played on Titanic.

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Related posts
Titanic's quintet: How many cellos?
Titanic's quintet: J. F. P. Clarke, contra basso
Titanic's quintet: Wallace Hartley, violin and bandleader

Monday, 9 July 2012

Titanic's quintet: How many cellos?

Titanic sailed with two small ensembles, a piano quintet and a string trio. A standard instrumentation for these instrument groupings would normally require only one cello each, with a total of two cellos on board.

One of Titanic’s Second Class passengers, Juliette Laroche, identified the instruments she heard in a concert by the quintet on the morning of April 11, 1912. She mentioned the band’s performance in a letter she wrote to her father while sitting in Titanic's ‘salon de lecture.’

Translated from French, she wrote, “I am writing you in the reading room and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano.”

This account has led many to believe that Titanic sailed with more than two cellists. For if Laroche had witnessed two cellists in the quintet alone, perhaps that meant there were three cellists on board. 1912 press reports seemed to reinforce this, listing as many as four cellists: Roger Bricoux and Wes Woodward playing cello only, and Percy Taylor and Theo Brailey playing both cello and piano (one instrument or alternating on both).

In her letter Laroche identified the piano, only one violin, two cellos, and made no mention of a stand-up bass. In the interest of considering all the evidence with a fair look, let’s assume for a moment that Juliette Laroche’s account was accurate and that there were indeed two cellos in Titanic’s quintet.

VIOLA SUBSTITUTE THEORY
There are several important musical considerations to keep in mind when discussing the makeup of Titanic’s bands. Would the agents, C. W. & F. N. Black, have been able to provide written arrangements for an ensemble that consisted of that group of instruments? Would the music have sounded balanced with the voicing of those instruments? If the instrument lists that have been passed down to us are accurate, then figuring out the discrepancy in the number of cellos on board is the biggest obstacle in figuring out the matter of arrangements and sound. Sheet music arrangements for one violin, two cellos, double bass and piano simply would not have existed.

The arrangements for the five-piece band were most likely written for an ensemble that looked like this on paper:
Violin
Viola
Cello
Stand-up bass
Piano

Here is an example of a complete score for piano quintet. Notice that the instruments appear top to bottom in the order of highest to lowest stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello, double bass), with the piano’s grand staff on the bottom.



The Viola Substitute Theory proposes that arrangements written as such were performed by an ensemble that looked like this in the room:
Violin
Cello 1
Cello 2
Stand-up bass
Piano

This theory suggests that C. W. & F. N. Black could not find a violist to sail with the ship, and at the last minute substituted a cello into the part. Musically, this would have been possible. Viola music is written in the alto clef, a clef that has a range between the treble and bass clefs. Cellos have such a large range, extending through bass, alto and treble clefs, that cellists are required to learn to read all three.

Musically it would have been possible for a cello to perform a part written for a viola. This would have maintained a kind of balance in the ensemble, with the violin playing the soprano voice, cello 1 playing the alto voice, cello 2 playing the tenor/baritone voice, double bass carrying the bass, and the piano in all ranges, at times in the lead, sometimes doubling the strings, and still others providing a rhythmic backdrop to the strings.

It is impossible to prove the Viola Substitute Theory, but it seems to be the only way to reconcile the instruments as they were listed in press reports after Titanic sank.

LOCATION AND ACCURACY
To recap Laroche's letter: “I am writing you in the reading room and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano.”

The longer I think, the more I believe Juliette Laroche’s incomplete instrument list was also incorrect, having called the two large stringed instruments cellos when they were really one cello and one double bass. But how could an eye witness be wrong?

Some historians have interpreted that Laroche saw the band perform in the Second Class Dining Saloon, taking the French word 'salon' and using it to suggest 'saloon.' After all, there was a piano in the Dining Saloon. If this were the case there would be no reason to question the accuracy of Laroche's instrument listing, as the piano and band would have been in full view of the audience in the Dining Saloon, and it could be assumed that she saw the instruments directly before her and wrote of them as an eye witness.

However, upon deeper investigation it becomes known that the piano in the Second Class Dining Saloon was in place only for Divine Service on Sundays, not for regular performances, and that volunteer passengers, not bandsmen, played there. Titanic's hired band had only one known performance venue in Second Class, and it was in the Entrance Foyer on C Deck. In the ship’s design an upright Steinway piano was stationed in the Entrance Foyer just outside the Second Class Library door, and it was here that the band performed three times daily.

Several details from Laroche's letter pinpoint this as the location of the concert: mention of the piano, her mention of hearing music while writing in the 'salon de lecture' (library is a more accurate translation than dining saloon), as well as her description of the band ‘next’ to her (the Entrance Foyer and Library were side-by-side).

If it is true that Laroche wrote her letter while sitting in the Second Class Library, then a wall would have separated her from visual contact with the band. In reading Laroche's short description it can be assumed that she saw the band briefly as she walked by them on her way to the library, and had had but a quick glance at them in passing. The music would have been audible in the library, and she would have heard it while she wrote. But the fact that the band was out of sight caused her to provide her father, as well as generations of Titanic enthusiasts, with an inaccurate listing of instruments.

As students of the Titanic, it is important to appreciate first person accounts as points of interest to be considered within a body of information rather than as absolute pieces of fact. It is the opinion of this author that Laroche heard Titanic's standard quintet in performance, but for some unknown reason listed only four out of the five instruments and erroneously listed two cellos where there was indeed only one.

With this conclusion the total number of cellos on board the Titanic would have been two: one in the quintet (commonly known as the 'deck band') and one in the trio (commonly known as the 'saloon orchestra.')

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Related posts
Did Titanic's band play their music by memory?
April 11, 1912: Day with Titanic's five-piece band
Titanic sailed in the golden age of trained musicians

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Titanic's quintet: Wallace Hartley, violin and bandleader

Titanic’s best-known musician has always been Wallace Hartley. It should be clarified that he became well known after Titanic sank, after the final brave performance. On the voyage itself he was simply one of the esteemed musicians who drew the attention of the ship’s more musical passengers, but was otherwise anonymous, not known by name.

Wallace Hartley
He has always been listed as Wallace Hartley, violin and bandleader. It is interesting that he has never been referred to as first violin, as Jock Hume was, but just simply as “violin.” The distinction is that Hume’s trio had two violinists, for where there is a first, there must also be a second. With Hartley violin is always listed in its singular form, so the deduction is that the quintet had only one.

He was remembered by one of Titanic’s survivors, First Class passenger Helen Churchill Candee. And in describing a conversation she remembered from one of the quintet’s evening performances in the Reception Room on D Deck, she, too, used violin in its singular form.

Helen Churchill Candee, “Sealed Orders” Collier's Weekly, May 4, 1912:
“…after dinner there was coffee served to all at little tables around the great general lounging place, for here the orchestra played. Some said it was poor on its Wagner work, others said the violin was weak. But that was for conversation's sake, for nothing on board was more popular than the orchestra.”

Hartley was the violinist in the ensemble of which Candee wrote. The “weak violin” comment is rather nebulous, for there have always been some troublesome audience members who like to express pretentious opinions about classical performances. This alone should not be used against Hartley as a testament of his skill as a violinist. Candee, herself, discounted the opinion citing that it was only for conversation’s sake.


A letter written on Ttianic
from Hartley to his parents.

Hartley led the quintet in six one-hour performances each day of Titanic’s voyage. In Second Class they performed morning, afternoon and evening in the Entrance Foyer on C Deck. The remaining three performances were in First Class: mornings at the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase, and afternoons and evenings in the Reception Room outside the First Class Dining Saloon.

It was at the Boat Deck level of the First Class Grand Staircase that Hartley led the quintet in Titanic’s most famous performance in the hours of the sinking. It was his five-piece band that played until the very end, heard by at least four survivors who remained on board the ship within minutes of the sinking. The final two numbers were a ragtime tune, identified by May Futrelle as Alexander’s Ragtime Band, and a waltz tune identified by Harold Bride as “Autumn” (Songe d’automne). Apparently the final number was cut short and the instruments abandoned.

Although it has been widely circulated that the band played Nearer, My God, To Thee as the final number, no one on board the ship heard the band play a hymn within the last fifteen minutes. It is possible that the melody wafted on the air and heard at a distance by those in lifeboats was the opening passage from the introduction of Songe d’automne, which bears a striking similarity to the first phrase of Nearer, My God, To Thee.

A violin being investigated that may have belonged to Hartley,
or possibly played by him on Titanic.

Hartley’s body was recovered from Titanic’s wreckage as body No. 224, returned to Colne, Lancashire and buried on May 18, 1912. It was estimated that upwards of 40,000 people showed up to watch the funeral procession and attend the funeral. His interment received extensive coverage by the international press. To this day several elaborate memorials or statues pay tribute to his service on Titanic.

Hartley's gravestone.

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Related posts
Titanic's final number: Three Note Theory
Where did Titanic's band play during the sinking?
When did Titanic's band stop playing?

Links:
Sealed Orders by Helen Churchill Candee from Collier's Weekly

Additional biographical information on Wallace Hartley:
The Band Played On by Steve Turner



Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Titanic’s quintet: J. F. P. Clarke, contra basso

In reading about Titanic’s bands you may come across the puzzling information that J. F. P. (Fred) Clarke, who played double bass, also played the viola on the Titanic. It is hypothetically possible that he was capable of playing more than one instrument, as some musicians are, but it is unlikely that he alternated between stand-up bass and viola on Titanic.

Double bass.

Clarke’s business card does not mention that he played the viola professionally. It lists his name and instrument, thus: J. F. P. Clarke CONTRA BASSO.

J. F. P. Clarke's business card, actual size.
Courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives.

Contrabass is another name for the double bass. However, there is yet another more uncommon name for this instrument, bass viol.

The word “viol” in “bass viol” must be the source of confusion, leading some Titanic historians to assume that this made reference to the “viola.”

The term bass viol has been used in one other instance in association with Titanic’s music, in a New York Sun article that asked contemporary musicians about Titanic’s bandsmen. "'The thing I can't realize is that Happy Jock Hume is dead,' said Louis Cross, a player of the bass viol."

Perhaps a century ago the general public knew the term bass viol. But such is not the case today, even with some musicians. In his book The Band That Played On, author Steve Turner interpreted the information that Cross was "a player of the bass viol" and identified him as “…viola player Louis Cross…” [page 97]. In a similar misunderstanding, Cross and Clarke, both credited in 1912 as playing bass viol, seem to be credited today as players of the viola.

Bass viol and viola are completely different instruments. The bass viol is the same instrument as the stand-up bass seen in jazz ensembles or as the double bass seen in orchestras. These are all one in the same instrument, just as the violin and the fiddle are the same. On the other hand, the viola is the stringed instrument from the violin family that is played under the chin like a violin, but larger and with a lower range.

Violin family (technically the double bass belongs to the viol family)

Although the double bass looks like it belongs to the violin family, in actual fact it belongs to a rare string family, the viol family, played primarily in the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Viol family.

If you look at the double bass compared to instruments in the violin family (violins, violas and violoncellos), you will notice a difference in the curve of the shoulder, which is one of the main defining features between the two stringed families. Instruments in the viol family also have deeper bodies, often more than four strings, a lighter, more personal tone, a different bowing technique, and are different in enough ways that together they constitute a stringed family separate from the violin family.

The following YouTube video offers an example of early music performed on the Viola da Gamba, an instrument from the viol family similar to the cello that has resurfaced in recent years.




The only instrument from the viol family still commonly used worldwide today is the bass viol, or double bass. The following YouTube video shows an outstanding double bass performance.




To show how different the violin family's viola is to the two instruments above, here is a gorgeous performance from YouTube, performed on viola.




Did Fred Clarke play the viola? None of the primary sources make reference to him playing the viola, so the sure answer is no, he did not play the viola on the Titanic (or likely anywhere else). This information seems to stem from a misunderstanding of the meaning of the term “bass viol.” On the Titanic Clarke played the double bass, also known as the stand-up bass, contrabass and the bass viol.

There could be another reason historians have tried to credit someone with playing viola. So far my blog has mentioned two such attempts: Georges Krins, who played violin in the trio, and now Fred Clarke, who played double bass in the quintet.  Viola was the only instrument that was never officially listed for any of Titanic's musicians, and yet viola is a standard instrument in large and small stringed ensembles. Wouldn't it make sense for there to have been a violist on Titanic?

What style did Clarke play?
In 1912 music was in an interesting age of transition. Musicians like those who played in Titanic’s bands were trained in the classical tradition. The fact that Clarke’s business card read “contra basso” attests to his full classical roots. His card did not read “stand-up bass,” a more jazzy term for the same instrument. And yet jazz was in its beginnings. No instrument on board Titanic would have been caught between the classical and jazz styles more than the double bass.

In the absence of the actual written arrangements played by the quintet, several questions arise. Did Clarke play with the bow? If so, the music would certainly have sounded classical. It is likely that most of the music listed in the W. S. L. MUSIC songbook was arranged for bowed double bass.

Anyone who has ever seen the songbook is surprised how few of the titles were popular. However, there were a few. For these numbers, did Clarke let the bow hang and simply pluck the bassline in pizzicato style? Or (a stretch for a classically-trained musician in 1912), perhaps set down the bow entirely and play in the true jazz walking bass style? This we will never know for sure but it is interesting to muse on the possibilities nonetheless.

If primary source evidence surfaces that J. F. P. Clarke played the viola either on or off the Titanic, please contact me. But for now it is safe to say Fred Clarke played only double bass (i.e. contrabass, stand-up bass, or bass viol) in Titanic’s quintet, on his first and only seagoing gig.
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Related posts
April 11, 1912: Day with Titanic's five-piece band
Titanic sailed in the golden age of trained musicians
Titanic's saloon orchestra, deck band and leaders

Links
Additional biographical information on J. F. P. Clarke:
The Band Played On by Steve Turner


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Titanic: Did Hartley or Hume have the better job?

The main reason Titanic’s bandsmen gained the attention and affection of the public was because of their final performance. The tale of their sacrifice cast them as heroes, for in the tale they played a hymn of comfort for the souls doomed to die that night. Rightly so. Wallace Hartley’s name became forever associated with Titanic as the bandleader who led Nearer, My God, To Thee. The focus on Titanic’s band has always fallen primarily on him.

Wallace Hartley, violin/bandleader 

Indeed, from the very beginning Titanic’s second bandleader, Jock Hume, was completely overlooked and misplaced by the press. The following quote from the New York Times correctly placed Krins and Bricoux in the trio, but omitted Hume in favor of a pianist.

The New York Sun, April 21, 1912:
“The other three men were Brailey, Krins and Breicoux, who formed a trio which played in the second cabin and when the other men were off duty.”

The only evidence for Hume holding the position of bandleader came from two individuals who knew him personally: his father and First Class stewardess Violet Jessop. The focus on Hartley as bandleader together with a lack of support for Hume in that position may make it some surprise that Hume had the better position of the two. A century’s worth of popular belief is not enough to change the reality of the work required of the two. Contrary to the claim made by the New York Sun that the trio played in Second Class and only when the other band was taking a break, the trio played only in First Class, in one of the most luxurious spots on board. It was Hartley's quintet that played between First and Second Classes.

Jock Hume, first violin/bandleader

VENUE
Any musician would rather play in the trio, and any bandleader would rather lead the trio. The trio had the posh position of playing in one venue only. That meant less bother moving place to place. Less packing and unpacking instruments. Less carting music sheets around. The trio likely set up for the day and more or less stayed set up for the day, only departing physically for their breaks.

Compare that to the ensemble led by Hartley. The quintet played six one-hour performances each day and had to move for each one. Each two-hour time slot was divided between Second Class and First Class, one hour each (except for the longer final performance in First Class each night). As the venues were quite far apart, all the way from the Second Class entrance foyer to either the Boat Deck level of the First Class Grand Staircase, or the Reception Room on D Deck, it would have been quite a scramble to pack up and move between venues each time. The timing was close. For example, they played in the Second Class 10:00am to 11:00am and then at the top of the Grand Staircase from 11:00am to 12:00 noon.

Not only was the trio’s job made easier by playing in one location only, the venue itself made their position better. As in real estate, a performance venue is all about location, location, location. They played outside the exclusive, luxurious First Class restaurants frequented by the wealthiest notables on board.

TIPS
Read any list of Titanic’s richest passengers. It was from these people that the trio’s bandleader took requests, it was they who gave him tips.

If the bandleader played the crowd right, tips in this location would have been the best on board, and divided amongst only three musicians, it was possibly the most lucrative place to perform. It would have been a disappointment if the tips had to be pooled and divided amongst all eight musicians. The trio would have worked for their tips all on their own, and from a business perspective, deserved to keep them.

Wallace Hartley’s quintet played half their time in Second Class, and their late mornings in the First Class entrance location where most passengers would have walked by, less likely to make requests or give generous tips. While the quintet would have been heard and recognized by more passengers, their audiences were likely for the most part Titanic’s middle to upper-middle class travelers. Tips then had to be divided amongst five musicians. Or, perhaps the quintet’s larger reach made up for this with audience numbers, and the tips evened out between the bands. Although the restaurants were popular, maybe the Trio had a smaller audience overall.

REPERTOIRE
Bandleaders would have planned a program of music, or “set” numbers, for each performance. Hartley would likely have planned a one-hour program each morning, and simply played through it twice, first for Second Class passengers and then again for First Class. Of course, if passengers made requests the set program would have been partially or wholly abandoned in favor of fulfilling requests. Hartley would have done this again in the afternoon and evening, planning a one-hour program and repeating it for both sets of passengers. In this way his job was slightly easier than that of the trio’s bandmaster, as he had to plan ahead for only one hour’s worth of music at a time.

As the trio played in only one location they would have had to play through more repertoire, with likely fewer repeats. The only reason we have any idea as to the quintet’s schedule is because we believe it was somewhat similar to the band’s schedule on Titanic’s sister ship Olympic, and that schedule is known. But as there is no known schedule from the trio that performed on Olympic's maiden voyage, there is no reference for Titanic’s trio’s daily performances. But it can be assumed that the trio played a similar number of hours as the quintet, six hours a day: two mid-day, two at around the time of afternoon tea, and two more for the Restaurant’s late diners. The trio’s musicians were indeed extraordinary and likely played through an impressive repertoire without rehearsing much at all.

Both bandleaders would have been capable musicians and natural leaders. But something must be said for the fact that Jock Hume, a young man who had left home at fourteen or fifteen to make his way in life, and had not studied in any international schools of music, was bandleader of Titanic’s trio. Jock Hume had been chosen to lead the band in the most exclusive dining area on the ship’s celebrated maiden voyage. He was chosen to interact on a daily basis with some of the most powerful men and women in the western world. Moreover, he was leader of two other musicians who had studied and won awards in very prestigious schools of music in Italy and France. Jock Hume must have been a musician of the finest rank to hold Titanic’s plum position. And he had accomplished this by the age of twenty-one.

The trio was not a junior or adjunct ensemble, a second fiddle, so to speak, to the quintet. The trio was a perk reserved for Titanic’s rich passengers, and was chosen to fulfill great expectations. Three strings to lightly complement the Continental flavor of the a la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien.

It is the belief of this author, considering the performance location, the audience, the educational background of his fellow bandsmen, and the nature of the workday, that Jock Hume held the better, the more coveted, position on Titanic.
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Related posts
April 11, 1912: Day with Titanic's five-piece band
Titanic's second band: Trio for Restaurant and Cafe
Titanic's saloon orchestra, deck band and leaders

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Titanic's saloon orchestra, deck band and leaders

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence which helps divide Titanic’s musicians into the two bands is a quote that came from C. W. & F. N. Black, the brothers who managed Titanic’s music including the hiring of musicians. To begin with, Charles Black referred to the bands as a “saloon orchestra” and a “deck band."

“Saloon orchestra” referred to the trio of musicians that performed for patrons of the à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien. This was their only performance venue, and even though they played in the Reception Room, the intention was for their music to soften the air for the diners who supped and socialized in the luxurious saloon.

Reception Room on B Deck, outside the Restaurant and Cafe Parisien.
Artist's impression. 


“Deck band” referred to the quintet that performed in three areas on the ship, two of which were entrance foyers inside the ship that opened onto Titanic’s outer decks, one in the Second Class Entrance Foyer on C Deck and the other in the First Class entrance Hall at the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase. Music would have been heard outside and inside the ship during the quintet’s performances in these areas.

Second Class Entrance Foyer on C Deck,
photo taken aboard Olympic


But the most interesting part of the information Black told London’s Daily Mirror about Titanic’s bands was a listing of the musicians’ names.

The Black agency would have processed so many musicians in the course of a year that it is doubtful Charles Black would have been able to list all of Titanic’s musicians’ names off the top of his head.

Several posts back I suggested that the Black brothers must have had a document in their office where they had recorded Titanic’s musicians as they filled the positions within the bands. It is likely that Black pulled out this document and referred to it in order to list the bandsmen’s names for the Daily Mirror.

Black had been asked what he thought the bands had done during the sinking, and he answered, “Probably they all massed together under their leader, Mr. Wallace Hartley, as the ship sank. Five of the eight, Mr. Hartley, P. C. Taylor, J. W. Woodward, F. Clark and W. T. Brailey were Englishmen. One, J. Hume, was a Scotsman, and the remaining two, Bricoux and Krins, were French and German respectively.” [Krins was Belgian]

I find it quite significant that he began listing them by separating “five of the eight.” To repeat the quote, “Five of the eight, Mr. Hartley, P. C. Taylor, J. W. Woodward, F. Clark and W. T. Brailey were Englishmen.” Could these five musicians have been the quintet?

There is a small piece of evidence to support this from reporter Carlos Hurd, who mentioned the nationality of the band believed to have played Nearer, My God, To Thee. In describing the difficulty of putting the story of the sinking together, he said, “An instance of this difficulty was the incident, still remembered, of the playing of the hymn music by the English musicians in the sinking ship’s orchestra.”

English musicians. It is a curious way to identify the band. Was he assuming the musicians were English only by virtue that Titanic sailed out of Southampton? Or did survivors paint a picture for him based on accents that the quintet’s performers were English? This we may never know for sure.

Admittedly, this is fragmentary evidence from a man who was not on board. However, it raises an interesting point as to how the bands may have been identified during the voyage. A few First Class passengers would have been aware that Titanic had two ensembles. Perhaps these passengers distinguished the bands by nationality – musicians with English accents in the quintet and musicians with other accents in the trio. (The quote from Hurd could also support the theory that the quintet had performed on its own for the duration of the sinking.)

For the Daily Mirror Black then continued to list the remaining three musicians: “One, J. Hume, was a Scotsman, and the remaining two, Bricoux and Krins, were French and German respectively.” In a past Titanic Piano post it has already been proposed that these three made up Titanic’s trio. If so, it is interesting to note that Titanic's three youngest musicians performed together in this ensemble.

It may be significant that the two men traditionally identified as bandleaders were each named first of a group. Notice that Wallace Hartley was the first named of the five English musicians, and J. Hume named first of the remaining three. This placement suggests that Black had divided the musicians by band, with the leaders heading each list.

It has been suggested that perhaps bandsmen switched back and forth between ensembles. In musical terms this kind of activity would be highly unusual. It would be interesting to find out where this idea has come from, or whether there is any primary source evidence to support it. If not, the concept doesn’t deserve consideration.

Attempts have been made in the past to identify the musicians that belonged to Titanic’s two bands. Charles Black was certainly in a position to know who played in the saloon orchestra and deck band. The quote from him is possibly the most important piece of the puzzle found to date.

From this one succinct listing of names it may be possible to conclude that the quintet consisted of Wallace Hartley, Percy Taylor, J. Wesley Woodward, J. Fred P. Clarke and Theo Brailey, that the trio consisted of Jock Hume, Georges Krins and Roger Bricoux, and that both Hartley and Hume were in positions of leadership.
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Note:
It has been interpreted by some that the quintet was the saloon orchestra, and the trio, the deck band.

While “saloon orchestra” could describe the five-piece band, or quintet, which played twice a day in the Reception Room just outside the First Class Dining Saloon on D Deck, this particular description omits that they played four times on deck: three times a day in a Second Class entrance foyer and once a day at the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase. To generalize, they played their two most exclusive concerts each afternoon and evening next to the First Class Dining Saloon (before and after the evening meal, not during), where the Steinway grand piano was located. Although it has been interpreted that they played inside the Dining Saloon, in fact, they did not.

Reception Room on D Deck, photo taken on Olympic.

This would leave “deck band” to describe Titanic’s trio. The trio played in the Reception Room outside the restaurants on B Deck, and only there. There is no connection whatsoever between the name deck band and their venue, which was cloistered inside the ship, nowhere near a deck door.

It makes much more sense to consider the band names as suggested in the article above. It works to refer to the quintet as a “deck band” because they performed four of their six daily sets in venues that opened onto Titanic’s outer decks, both in First and Second Classes. One of these venues was on the Boat Deck, itself.

Furthermore, interpreting the trio as the “saloon orchestra” makes the connection to the luxurious à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien. There music was performed during the serving of meals and some First Class passengers did refer to the Restaurant as a saloon.
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Related posts
Which musicians played in Titanic's trio?
Who was bandleader of Titanic's trio?
April 11, 1912: Day with Titanic's five-piece band

Links
Images from TITANIC The Ship Magnificent, Beveridge, Klistorner, Hall, Andrews. All rights reserved. Many thanks to the authors for permission. Limited Edition here shown (two volumes).


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Who was bandleader of Titanic's trio?

Two men have been called bandleader on Titanic: Wallace Hartley and Jock Hume. The former has been accepted as such for more than a century, and has usually been placed in Titanic’s quintet as bandleader of that ensemble, and has also been attributed as overall leader of all eight musicians on board.

Jock Hume has been dismissed as bandleader, primarily because it was always believed that Titanic needed only one. The second band was thought to be a piano trio with Georges Krins on violin, Roger Bricoux on cello and either Theo Brailey or Percy Taylor on piano. With Krins, Brailey and a pianist there was no room in the trio for another violinist or bandleader. So the anecdotal evidence regarding Hume seemed confusing and out of step.

Hume has been variously called either second violin of the quintet, which discounted the claim that he was first violin, or first violin of the quintet with Wallace Hartley the bandleader somehow playing second fiddle to him. It has even been suggested that perhaps musicians were traded back and forth between quintet and trio to explain the discrepancy in evidence. It is not at all likely that a bandleader would play second fiddle or that musicians would trade back and forth. Instead, it is much more likely that Titanic had a second bandleader.

The last post explained the full role of leader and proposed that Titanic needed two – one for the quintet and one for the trio. This post will explore the evidence in favor of Jock Hume as bandleader, as well as accounts describing the trio’s performances to analyze them for the personality of the leader, whether it was Hartley or Hume.

The trio performed for Titanic’s First Class passengers who supped in the à la carte Restaurant. One survivor remembered the merry, jolly time had by all on the evening of Sunday, April 14.

May Futrelle, Seattle Daily Times, April 22-23, 1912:
“The orchestra played popular music. … There was that atmosphere of fellowship and delightful sociability which make the Sabbath dinner on board ship a delightful occasion. … I remember Jacques and Mr. Harris discussing at our table the latest plays on the American stage. Everybody was so merry. We were all filled with the joy of living. We sat over dinner late that night.”

What was it that infected the mood and made it ‘delightful,’ ‘joyful’ and ‘merry’? Could it have been the music played by the trio, led by the jocular spirit of the bandleader? If so, who could this have been?

From the following story it is clear that Hume was comfortable with the role of bandleader, of taking requests and directing other musicians. It also tells of his good humor, which was infectious not only to passengers and crew, but also to the bandsmen in the playing of practical jokes:

Louis Cross, The New York Times, April 21, 1912:
"When he was bandmaster on the Carmania [Jock] played a little joke on a woman passenger. She'd given us a lot of trouble, pretending that she knew a great deal about music. Once she asked us to play a particularly intricate classical piece. "Jock" whispered instructions, and at the close the woman came up and thanked him. But the piece we'd played was American ragtime, played slowly---and the woman didn't know the difference.”

Jock Hume (left) with bandsmen on the Carmania,
Spring 1912

Cross remembered Hume as “the life of every ship he ever played on and beloved of every one from cabin boys to captains.” People from Hume’s hometown who had known him in his youth remembered his wide smile and good nature.

One of Titanic’s First Class stewardesses, Violet Jessop, who had become friends with Hume one year earlier on Olympic’s maiden voyage, once again sailed with him on Titanic’s maiden voyage. She recalled a spirited performance by one of Titanic’s bands on Sunday, April 14, and identified Hume as the leader. Was this the same jolly performance that had been described by Futrelle?

Jock Hume, final voyage
before sailing on Titanic
Violet Jessop, memoires edited by John Maxtone-Graham, pub. 1997:
“On that Sunday evening, the music was at its gayest, led by young Jock the first violin; when I ran into him during the interval, he laughingly called out to me in his rich Scotch accent, that he was about to give them a ‘real tune, a Scotch tune, to finish up with.’ Always so eager and full of life was Jock.”

Jessop was known to hang around an access stairway that connected crew quarters below and the First Class corridors, the stairs located between the reciprocating engine casing and the Nos 1 and 2 boiler casing. It was by this same staircase that the trio usually accessed the Reception Room from their accommodation on E Deck. It is almost certain it was here Jessop bumped into the band as they retreated for a short break (likely for a smoke). The fact that both Futrelle and Jessop noted the same jovial atmosphere on Sunday night suggests they were both speaking of the same performance. The merry mood itself suggests Jock Hume was the bandleader.

And yet Jessop’s words claiming Hume had ‘led’ the band as first violin have either been dismissed or misunderstood. Even Jock Hume’s own grandson completely dismisses the idea he could have been one of Titanic’s bandleaders, as is quoted in his recent book. In his opinion the idea that he was a bandleader was a lie made up by his father, Andrew Hume.

Christopher Ward, And the Band Played On, 2011:
“[At the funeral Mary Costin, Jock’s fiancé,] had been embarrassed to hear Jock described as leading the band. That was another one of his father’s lies, which the vicar had inadvertently written into his sermon. Andrew had also told the Standard that Jock was the bandleader and played only in First Class, neither of which was true. He had even lied in the death notice – that was a first:
‘Mr and Mrs Hume and family beg to tender their sincere thanks to all friends for their very kind and sympathetic notes and telegrams on the loss of John Law Hume, leader of the orchestra in the First Class cabin of the unfortunate Titanic.’”

My first thought when I read that paragraph was – goodness, why is it so impossible that Hume was a bandleader? What if Andrew Hume, a known liar in other circumstances, was actually telling the truth this time? The detail that grabbed my attention was not just that Hume was a bandleader, but that he played only in First Class.

The interesting thing is that Titanic’s trio played only in First Class, in just one exclusive location.

How could Andrew Hume have just made that up? Somehow he knew enough about his son’s band to know that they played only in First Class. Surely he had been told the information directly from Jock himself, who must have been extremely pleased to land the most exclusive position on the Atlantic Ocean that spring.

The trio’s venue was indeed the top gig on board the most luxurious ocean liner, with only the wealthiest clientele patronizing the à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien. Remember there was no piano provided in this location, so their ensemble would have been a string trio, with two violins and a cello.

It has always been speculated that two of the musicians were French-speaking Georges Krins, violin, and Roger Bricoux, cello. Neither one would have had enough experience to lead the band. Bricoux had been to sea only twice before, and this was Krins’ very first voyage. (It should be added for good measure that this was Percy Taylor’s first voyage as well, just to point out that the trio with him would have had a complete lack of experience with seagoing audiences.)

Titanic’s music directors, C. W. & F. N. Black, would have chosen the bandleader of the trio very carefully, someone who had his sea legs as well as a consummate command of his instrument. Someone who would be good with people, who would attract paying customers to the restaurants, who understood how to keep the atmosphere light with the audience.

Instead of convincing me that Andrew had lied about Jock, the paragraphs from Ward’s book simply offered more evidence that Titanic indeed had two bandleaders, that Hume was one of them, and which of the two bands he led. After all, he had been working on ships for seven years, since the tender age of fourteen or fifteen.

Several years after the marine tragedy Andrew Hume was called to the stand in a trial in which his daughter, Kate, was the accused. The following questions were asked of Hume Sr. in order to paint a picture of his character. It should be noted that everyone in the courtroom believed Wallace Hartley had been the only bandleader on Titanic, and the question about Jock as leader was intended to reinforce to all that Andrew Hume was a liar.

Andrew Hume, Kate Hume’s trial, December, 28, 1915:
“About two or three years ago was there a very sad blow to the family in the death of one of the members?”
“Yes, sir, that was my son John.”
“He died well. He was one of the men who went down on the Titanic?”
“He was, sir.”
“And attention was called to the loss of your son particularly by the fact that he was the leader, I think, of the band?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And the band went down playing the hymn ‘Nearer my God to Thee’?”
“Yes.” Andrew Hume became very emotional at this point, his voice breaking up. “There were five of the family altogether, and Kate, the accused, is now seventeen. John was just over twenty-one when he was drowned.”

Until now no one has taken the idea seriously that Hume may indeed have been first violin and bandleader – of Titanic’s string trio. Without a piano, and with room for a first and second violin in this chamber ensemble, all the evidence surrounding the trio and Hume’s role on Titanic adds up and makes sense.

To return Jock Hume to his rightful position as bandleader and first violin of the trio, one can read the memories of First Class stewardess Violet Jessop and believe that she knew what she was talking about. After Titanic had struck the iceberg she bumped into the bandsmen who were going to play their last performances.

Violet Jessop, memoires edited by John Maxtone-Graham, pub. 1997:
“As I turned I ran into Jock, the bandleader and his crowd with their instruments. ‘Funny, they must be going to play,’ thought I, and at this late hour! Jock smiled in passing, looking rather pale for him, remarking, ‘Just going to give them a tune to cheer things up a bit,’ and passed on. Presently the strains of the band reached me faintly as I stood on deck….”

Of all of Titanic’s musicians it is Hume I would have liked to meet most. Perhaps his former bandsman summed it up best:

The New York Times, April 21, 1912:
"The thing I can't realize is that Happy Jock Hume is dead," said Louis Cross, a player of the bass viol. "The merriest, happiest young Scotchman you ever saw.”

Jock Hume’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and buried in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Rebekah Maxner (me) visiting the grave of Jock Hume April 14, 2012

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Related posts
Did Titanic have one bandmaster or two?
Titanic's second band: Trio for Restaurant and Cafe Parisien
Did Titanic's bands play together as Titanic sank?

Links
New York Times April 21, 1912

Sources














Ward, C (2011). And The Band Played On. London: Hodder & Stoughton London, pp. 78, 231.














Jessop, V. (1997). Titanic Survivor, Dobbs Ferry, NY:  Sheridan House, 1997. pp. 124, 129.