Wednesday, 21 March 2012

March 1912: Titanic's pianos and musicians in place

By mid-March 1912 plans for Titanic’s music were all beginning to come together.

C. W. & F. N. Black, music agents who organized and hired musicians for seagoing liners, had been considering bandsmen at least since December 1911, mulling over their choices. It is known that cellist Seth Lancaster from Colne was asked to join Titanic’s band at that time.

By mid-March the Black brothers began pinning down some names and penciling in others for Titanic’s list of musicians. With about a month to go before the maiden voyage, Wallace Hartley had already been confirmed as one of the bandleaders. Hartley even tried to convince Ellwand Moody, fellow bandsman on board Mauretania, to join Titanic’s band. But Moody was finished with the sea and didn’t fancy a big liner like Titanic.

Violinist Jock Hume, who had sailed on sister ship Olympic’s maiden voyage the previous year, was aboard Carmania for a monthlong trip to the Mediterranean in March. His fiancé, Mary Costin, had just found out she was expecting.

On Monday, March 18 Roger Bricoux, a cellist on Carpathia, told his parents in a letter that he had accepted a position on Titanic. “I love this life…” he said. Also on board Carpathia was pianist Theo Brailey. When the two returned to New York from their Mediterranean trip they were to meet up with Hartley aboard Mauretania and travel back to Southampton to join Titanic’s maiden voyage.

Titanic at the Harland & Wolff yard, March 8, 1912,
final preparations underway

That same day in March, as Bricoux was writing his letter nearing Gibraltar, the last of Titanic’s six pianos was being moved on board in Belfast.

The year before, in March 1911, five of the pianos had been shipped straight from the Steinway factory in Hamburg, Germany. They were initially delivered to two finishing shops: one in the Harland and Wolff shipping yard itself, and the other, A. Heaton & Co. In the year between March 1911 and March 1912 master craftsmen had worked to finish four of the pianos as few have ever been finished, applying veneers in exotic woods, carved details and elaborate legs and book rests.

First Class pianos
Three pianos were destined for Titanic’s First Class public rooms: two Model R upright pianos, 54” in height, and a Model B drawing room grand, 6 ft 10 ½”. All three were ‘art case’ pianos, elaborately finished to match the grand atmosphere of the rooms. The grand and one upright had been moved on board on March 14, 1912, the remaining First Class upright, March 18.

Second Class pianos
Two pianos were slated for public rooms in the Second Class. Both Model K and 52” in height, the first was ordered rough and finished in the ‘art case’ fashion, and the second was ordered finished in light oak (raw), with only the French polish remaining to be added. Both were moved on board Titanic on March 14, 1912.

Third Class piano
A piano of unknown manufacture was installed in the Third Class, possibly another Steinway, though likely a standard factory-finished model. Little is known about this piano, and its boarding date is unknown.

The pieces were coming together. The musicians were moving about the globe, the Titanic in their thoughts, conversations and letters. There was a plan in place to bring them together. And the pianos were moved into place, only to wait in silence.

Related Posts
Maintaining Titanic's shipboard pianos
To craft a Steinway
Titanic's Third Class General Room and piano

4 comments:

  1. Ellwand Moody lucked out! Kind of odd how the Carpathia was already connected with the Titanic via the musicians. Great post!

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    1. Ellwand Moody was also the man who remembered a conversation with Wallace Hartley, in which Hartley said if he were on a sinking ship he would play O God Our Help or Nearer, My God, To Thee. It seems as though it might have been a conversation on board Mauretania - a possibility, anyway.

      And, yes, the Carpathia connection is quite fascinating. Thanks for reading!

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  2. Nice photo/writeup of the art-case Steinway on Olympic here (from a trade paper of the time): http://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1911-53-8/MTR-1911-53-8-29.pdf

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    1. Thanks for this link - it is interesting to see in the photo how the grand piano is anchored to the floor.

      Gorgeous veneer work and high gloss finish - astonishing.
      Take care,
      Rebekah

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