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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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


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?

New York Times April 21, 1912


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.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Was Jock Hume a bandmaster on Titanic?

In the aftermath of the sinking of Titanic the deeds of the orchestra were well publicized. So much was said about the final piece heard moments before the Titanic sank that the focus of the press and public fell on Wallace Hartley, who had reportedly led the band in the final number. The survivors testified that they had heard Nearer, My God, To Thee. Hartley’s family confirmed that it was his favorite hymn. With this information the press had fodder for many articles about the band and focused on Hartley, who became known as Titanic’s bandmaster.

Had Titanic arrived safely in New York, no one would ever have known the band members’ names. The passengers on board knew them by uniform, not by name. There was a professional and a social distance between the band and Titanic’s passengers.

Kate Buss letter
This was evidenced in letters written by Second Class passenger Kate Buss, who had developed a fondness for the five-piece band’s cellist. She wrote of him in a letter, “The Cello Man is a favorite of mine. Every time he finishes a piece he looks at me and we smile.” Though she was flirtatiously fond of him, and even spoke to him to make a request, she knew him not by name.

Every ship up to the Olympic Class liners would have had one ensemble and one bandmaster who led the band. (Indeed, is it known whether any ship since has had two bands?) So the public was used to the idea of a ship having one bandmaster. There is no question that Wallace Hartley was a bandmaster on Titanic. But on Titanic there was a second ensemble, a feature that was sure to impress the elite that sailed. Would this not mean that the second band also needed a bandmaster?

To answer this question the role of the leader must be understood. On Titanic it has been said the bandmaster’s job was to tell performers when or where they would play. Perhaps he did at the beginning of the voyage, but as the bands both followed a regular schedule, each day on board predictably followed the same pattern as the last. Performance venues and times were all predetermined by a schedule that repeated each day like clockwork, even on Sunday. It has also been said he was responsible for dividing tips, but he wasn't paid more than the other bandsmen because of scheduling notices or money tallying. He was paid more because of his musical responsibilities.

It has been unclear whether Titanic’s musicians rehearsed (there was no private space with a piano for rehearsals), and so it was unconfirmed whether the bandleader’s position required him to lead rehearsals. Recently it has come to light that Second Class passenger Edwina Troutt mentioned that her cabin had been near the musicians', and that she heard them practicing there (so, without a piano).*

One of the bandmaster’s most important jobs was to choose music for each “set.” The set numbers were chosen ahead of each performance, and would comprise the entire performance if the audience made no requests.

The bandleader tried to anticipate what his audience would like to hear, and chose which pieces would sound good in succession. Like a good DJ, he wanted to please the crowd. He might repeat a few favorites from previous sets, or sprinkle in new choices for variety. Prior to performing, each musician may have organized his sheet music in order so transitions between numbers would go smoothly. Or perhaps the bandleader simply had a master sheet with the order of numbers on it so the bandsmen could turn quickly to the numbered sheets of music.

The bandleader was also the public face of the band. Irving Berlin’s song, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, which was very popular in 1912, describes the scene of public and band interaction. In one verse a gentleman invites his lady friend to make a request of the bandleader:

Sheet music cover for
Alexander's Ragtime Band
Come on along, come on along,
Let me take you by the hand.
Up to the man, up to the man,
Who's the leader of the band!
And if you care to hear the Swanee River played in ragtime,
Come on and hear, come on and hear,
Alexander's Ragtime Band!

It was understood in performance settings like those on Titanic that the audience was invited to make requests. For that purpose each passenger in First and Second Class carried the White Star Line MUSIC songbook, which listed numbered titles. If a passenger noticed a title she recognized and wanted to hear, all she had to do was go up to the bandleader between pieces and make her request.

First Class Passenger Helen Churchill Candee described the making of requests in the First Class Reception Room on D Deck one evening.

Helen Churchill Candee, Collier's Weekly, May 4, 1912:
"...everyone asked of it some favorite hit. The prettiest girl asked for dance music, and clicked her satin heels and swayed her adolescent arms to the rhythm. He of the Two who had walked the deck asked for Dvořák, while she asked for Puccini, and both got their liking, for the orchestra was adroit and willing."

The public role meant the man who led the band was chosen partly for his “people skills.” He was a kind of master of ceremonies, without a lot of speaking.

In small ensembles like those on Titanic, ones that do not require dedicated conductors, the bandleader (first violin) customarily takes the role of conductor. He does not use a baton (the little white stick) but simple gestures of the body, and perhaps at times exaggerated phrasing of the bow.

This body language conducts the ensemble so all the musicians begin together at the same tempo. Rock musicians sometimes count out loud with numbers (a-1, a-2, a-1-2-3-4) but classically trained musicians use much more subtle methods. Prior to beat one the first violin gives a full-body upbeat gesture. Depending on the speed of this gesture, the other musicians automatically know how fast or slow the piece will be, and they also know the precise moment to begin. Or, if there were ever a change of tempo, the first violin would make eye contact with the others and sway his body slightly to measure out the change.

The following YouTube video of I Salonisti, the ensemble which performed in James Cameron's 1997 movie Titanic, is perfect for demonstrating the role of the first violin as leader. The first violinist is standing closest to the audience. Even though the second violinist has more natural body movement, the movements of the first violinist are directed towards the other musicians for the purpose of musical timing within the performance.

At the end of the piece in the case of a sustained note he gives a little thrust for the cut-off, or quick gestures to lead off pizzicato (plucked) endings so the musicians sound together. It is the leader who takes the responsibility of holding the ensemble together and the others look to him to fill this role, especially at important moments in the music.

It would have been impossible for Wallace Hartley to be the only bandleader on Titanic. There were so many parts of the job he would not have been able to perform for both ensembles, as the quintet and trio performed concurrently in two parts of the ship. From a distance he would not have been able to converse with both audiences, handle requests, or gesture to both ensembles when to begin or end a piece.

Hartley may have been able to choose the set pieces of both ensembles, and perhaps he did. But as each crowd was distinctly different, it was likely that this role was also divided with the other bandleader who would have better known his own audience.

If the role of bandleader was only to administer the band, then only one would have sufficed on Titanic. But in musical terms, a bandleader is a pivotal person within any ensemble during performances. Because of this, both the quintet and trio required a leader.

*Thanks to Don Lynch for this information. It came from a personal conversation with Edwina Troutt.

Related Posts
Which musicians played in Titanic's trio?
Who was bandleader of Titanic's trio?
Titanic's second band: Trio for Restaurant and Café Parisien

I Salonisti official website

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Which musicians played in Titanic's trio?

It is an interesting and difficult proposition to reconstruct the make-up of the bands aboard Titanic. Several have tried, though under the old assumption that both bands had a pianist. Although there were six pianos on board, there was no piano in the trio’s only performance venue, the Reception Room adjoining the à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien. Without a piano one can surmise that theirs was a string trio with two violins and a cello.

The à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien were operated as a separate concession on Titanic and the manager, Signor Luigi Gatti, hired the staff, including waiters. The cooks were French and the waiters, Italian.

When looking to fill the positions of the musicians who were to play in this location, C. W. & F. N. Black, musical directors, also made an effort to find musicians from Continental Europe who could speak with accents.


Cellist Roger Bricoux, 20
It has been suggested that the cellist Bricoux, who was French-speaking, was placed in the trio. His persona would have added a touch of authenticity to the French atmosphere of the restaurants. Because he played only the cello, the possibility that the trio had a cellist who alternated on a piano is slim.

Bricoux must have been an outstanding musician, because at the tender age of twenty he was hired to play the best seagoing gig, not just on the Titanic, but in the most exclusive venue on Titanic for the world’s most elite passengers.

His pedagogical pedigree was second to none. The son of a professional musician, he had begun his musical studies as part of his Catholic education in Monaco. After graduation he was accepted to study for three years at the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, Italy, and won first prize in cello performance. He then studied in France for a year at the Conservatoire de Paris.

It was in his late teens that Bricoux set out to begin his professional career, first taking a position at the Grand Central Hotel in Leeds, and later taking positions at establishments in Lille. Prior to his embarkation on April 10, 1912 he had only played on two previous voyages on the much smaller steamer, Carpathia. He had certainly climbed the ranks quickly. Had he lived he would have gone on to a stellar career.


Violinist Georges Krins, 23
Historians feel sure that, based on his nationality, Georges Krins was also a member of the trio. In one statement the directors C. W. & F. N. Black had identified him as a German, but Krins was indeed French-born and French speaking, and had spent part of his upbringing living in Belgium.

Krins left home at thirteen and studied for six years at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liege. His first professional position was with the city of Spa’s La Grand Symphonie. After two seasons with the orchestra he played first violin in a Parisian theatre, and from there went to London’s Ritz Hotel where he played for high tea in the city’s most exclusive Palm Court.

Although it has been suggested by at least one source that Krins played viola, it does not seem likely. In his studies he was the recipient of a number of first and second prizes, all for theory and violin performance. In Paris when he played at the Trianon Lyrique theatre, his position was first violin.

While some string players are able to switch back and forth between instruments, there is a lack of evidence in the case of Krins. If he had played viola on Titanic there would be mention of him studying or performing viola in other period sources. Musicians of his caliber never take public performance lightly; they make it their life’s work to master their instrument, and perform on the instrument they have worked to master.

The trio is two-thirds complete. Traditionally Percy Taylor was listed as the trio’s third musician. But he was listed as pianist, alternating on cello, and the trio had no piano and had no need of a second cello (assuming he played piano and cello). Taylor is no longer a viable candidate for inclusion in Titanic’s trio.

If you have heard Titanic albums that are currently on the market you might have noticed that a piano has been exclusively included in every instrumental arrangement. Anyone thinking about recording Titanic’s music or filming a Titanic movie in future should consider including music for string trio in the spirit of historical accuracy, especially when following Titanic’s richest travelers to the Restaurant.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Which instruments made up Titanic's bands?

Ever since I began reading about music on the Titanic I’ve been perplexed about the instrumentation. At first, like most, I assumed that both ensembles had a piano. Had they both had a piano, the trio would have been a standard piano trio:

Trio Possibility 1 PIANO TRIO

Piano trio: violin, cello and piano

Had this been the case, the five-piece would have had the two remaining violins that are listed on board, thus:

Five-piece Band Possibility 1 PIANO QUINTET
Stand-up bass

With the above configuration both ensembles would have had a balanced instrumentation, meaning a balance between instruments in the upper and lower ranges.

But upon deeper investigation I learned from the ship’s design that the trio performed in only one venue, the Reception Room adjoining the à la carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien, and that there was no piano installed there.

So the problem is that the instrument list that has come down to us through the years is flawed, including the second pianist. Because two of the musicians were listed as having the capability to alternate between piano and cello, then the absence of a piano in the trio’s venue would seemingly flip the second pianist over to the cello. But even this doesn't solve the problem, as demonstrated by the following hypothetical instrument listings with an extra cello.

Trio Possibility 2

A trio of this make-up is unheard of, both because of the imbalance between upper and lower instruments, and because sheet music for this combination of instruments simply would not have existed (certainly not in the volume they would have needed to cover all the titles in the W. S. L. songbook). In the absence of a piano, the trio would have been a string trio, typically for two violins and cello. This has always been a very common ensemble to composers, arrangers and audiences.

Trio Possibility 3 STRING TRIO

String trio: two violins and a cello

But to correct the imbalance in the trio a violin must be borrowed from the five-piece band and substituted for the leftover cello. With this adjustment the instrumentation for the quintet is left with too many cellos:

Five-piece band Possibility 2
Stand-up bass

If the five-piece band truly was made up of this combination of instruments, it would have been a bottom-heavy ensemble with two cellos and a double bass (and remember that the piano also covered this range with the left hand playing in the bass clef). That would have left only one treble stringed instrument, a violin, to carry above, as well as the piano in that range.

Neither of the two-cello scenarios would work in a real performance situation. Music is simply not arranged for bottom-heavy ensembles with an over-balance of instruments in the low register. To say it again, the sheet music would not have existed for a small ensemble like a quintet or a trio with two cellos.

It is known for sure that the quintet consisted of a piano and four stringed instruments. Everywhere the quintet performed they had access to a piano, so their arrangements were unquestionably for this kind of instrumentation. A standard quintet configuration could look like this:

Five-piece band Possibility 3 PIANO QUINTET
Stand-up bass

Piano quintet: violin, viola (or violin 2), cello,
double bass and piano

This instrumentation is balanced, with the violin in the soprano position, viola as alto, cello as tenor, bass as bass (of course), and piano supporting all of the above. This ensemble works musically. Sheet music would certainly have been arranged for this grouping of instruments (or a similar one with two violins), and may have been copied by hand or printed and used on many liners, not just Titanic.

Even if the written arrangement was standard: violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano, it is highly unlikely a cellist would have stepped in or substituted for the viola part. The balance of sound would still have been off.

The only trouble with the trio and the five-piece band on Titanic is that the available evidence is very sparse, very obscure. However, after months of searching and pondering, evidence has come to light that may solve the problem of Titanic’s instrument imbalance. The next several posts will explore my search and thought process as I navigated survivor accounts, family statements as well as those made by Titanic’s musical directors, to the point where I feel I can accurately place all eight musicians and their instruments within the two ensembles.

Related Posts
Titanic's instrument list as reported by the press
April 11, 1912: Day with Titanic's quintet
Titanic's second band: Trio for Restaurant and Café Parisien

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Titanic's instrument list as reported by the press

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.

The Sphere, London May 4, showing six of Titanic's bandsmen.
Bricoux and Clarke missing. 

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.

Photomontage showing seven of Titanic's bandsmen.
Bricoux missing.

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

Amalgamated Musicians' Union poster, Spring 1912,
showing all eight bandsmen.

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.

Related posts
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

Monday, 4 June 2012

When did Titanic's bands stop playing?

The main gist of the last few posts has been to explore the likelihood that Titanic’s bands did not perform together as Titanic sank. The performance locations were quite far apart, one at the top of the forward Grand Staircase, and the other on B Deck of the aft Grand Staircase. Most passengers would have heard only one band, or believed there was only one, and therefore referred to the band in singular form, “the band.” This can be misleading.

For example, survivor Washington Dodge said in his account that five musicians had been lost, a sure indication that he did not know there was another band performing on the ship, with a total of eight musicians lost.

The theory the bands played separately could explain why there was conflicting information on when the musicians stopped playing. The present discussion will explore survivor accounts that describe the last moments of performance, in the attempt to explain the approximate time the band(s) stopped playing.

One passenger seems to have heard both bands perform during Titanic’s final hours. A past Titanic Piano post related May Futrelle’s account of the trio’s performance in the restaurant’s Reception Room on B Deck early in the sinking, just after passengers had donned lifebelts.

This post will focus on her experience late in the sinking when she witnessed the launching of lifeboat 4 from the port side of A Deck forward, when Col. Astor placed his wife in it and asked the officer for the boat’s number. It was at this time that Futrelle first noticed the band playing in this area of the ship. It is certain that she heard the five-piece band which was playing in the First Class Entrance Hall at the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase, for lifeboat 4 was loaded just one level down and a few feet forward on A Deck.

The fascinating thing about Futrelle is though she clearly heard both bands, she did not pay enough attention to notice that they were different bands. She indicated that the band had moved, an incorrect assumption if the bands performed separately, but added that they now had a piano. Perhaps the fact that she was one level lower on the ship and had no eye contact with the band led her to assume it was the same group of musicians she had heard earlier.

May Futrelle, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, April [29?], 1912:
“The orchestra had come out on the boat deck, where there was a piano, at about the time when they launched the fourth boat.”

Although Futrelle mentioned the band had played “out” on the deck, it should be noted that passengers referred to the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase as the “deck.” The piano was anchored inside the ship and immobile. Having noted that the band played with the piano at the time lifeboat 4 was launched (approximately 1:55am), her account pinpoints that at this late time the band remained inside the ship.

As one of the last to leave the ship, Futrelle had spent the final hours walking with her husband. After observing the lowering of lifeboat 4 they continued to walk for a few moments, until her husband led her to the last lifeboat to be lowered, Collapsible D, which was lowered from the Boat Deck at 2:05am.

May Futrelle, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, April [29?], 1912:
“As we made our way across the deck they were playing ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ – to keep us moving, I suppose. [An] officer picked me up and fairly threw me into the boat.”

It is interesting to note that Futrelle gave accounts of hearing Alexander’s Ragtime Band twice during the sinking: played by the trio early on, and then by the quintet near the end. She went off in Collapsible D, and if she heard Alexander’s Ragtime Band at about 2:05am, it is possible it was the same “ragtime” number Harold Bride heard, but was unable to identify, at the time Captain Smith released the two Marconi operators from duty.

Harold Bride, New York Times, April 28, 1912:
“Then came the captain’s voice: ‘Men you have done your full duty…I release you….’ I looked out. The boat deck was awash. Phillips clung on sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes, or maybe fifteen minutes… From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a rag-time tune, I don’t know what.”*

On recordings Alexander’s Ragtime Band is about two-and-a-half minutes long. With repeats in a live situation musicians could stretch the performance and make it longer. In any case, this was not the final number. According to Bride the band continued to play even after the time Collapsible D was lowered.

Harold Bride, New York Times, April 28, 1912:
“Then there was ‘Autumn.’ Phillips ran aft, and that was the last I ever saw of him alive.”

If this is the case the quintet continued performing even after the Marconi operators abandoned their post. Regardless of the exact time by the clock, it can be believed that the quintet’s musicians remained in position within minutes of the final plunge.

Did the band stop 30 minutes before the ship sank?

Survivor accounts do not seem to agree on the timing of the band’s last number. According to Walter Lord, “…Colonel Gracie, on board to the last, said that the band stopped playing about half an hour before the ship sank.  He added that he himself saw the musicians lay down their instruments. Curiously, Gracie did not mention this in his authoritative study The Truth about the Titanic, but he went into some detail in a talk he gave at the University Club in Washington on November 23, 1912.” [If anyone knows a source for Gracie’s speech at the university club, please share where it can be found.]

It is possible that one ensemble set their instruments down a full thirty minutes or more before Titanic sank, but that the other kept playing until it became impossible to do so.

A quick look at the times lifeboats were lowered from the Second Class promenade section of the Boat Deck (starboard and port) shows that they were all put off in quick succession between 1:20am and 1:35am: at 1:20am, boats 9 and 10; at 1:25am, boats 11 and 12; at 1:30am, boats 13 and 14; and at 1:35am, boats 15 and 16.

Once the boats were all gone from this section of the ship it is possible the passengers dispersed, both because they were on boats and because those remaining on the ship sought survival elsewhere. As the trio’s venue was in this aft area of the ship, perhaps they packed it in early in the absence of an audience.

Besides Gracie, another survivor who mentioned that the bandsmen had put down their instruments was A. H. Barkworth, but it is unclear whether he spoke of the same band as Gracie. He made a quick return to cabin A23 after all the lifeboats had gone, and noted that on his way down the Grand Staircase the band was playing a waltz. His trip was cut short because his door was found locked, and upon his return back up the stairs, he saw that the instruments had been abandoned.

If the waltz he heard was the same one Harold Bride heard as water reached the Marconi room (Songe d’automne), how could there have been water at the bridge level, yet A Deck was still dry enough for Barkworth to have returned to his cabin door? Perhaps someone with more technical knowledge can answer this question. Or, perhaps I am wrong to assume that because he went to his door, that the forward First Class A Deck of the ship was dry.

The music tied in with survivor memories testifies that at least one band played well beyond the lowering of the last lifeboat – with a ragtime number positively identified by two, Futrelle and Bride at around the time of the lowering of the last lifeboat, and a waltz identified by two, Barkworth and Bride, after that.*

One thing is sure, the quintet performed as long as was humanly possible.

*Bride’s claim that Phillips kept sending Morse code ten to fifteen minutes after the Captain released them from duty seems to be confirmed by those receiving messages from MGY. Though jumbled and weak, sources say the messages continued to be received until 2:17am.

*Futrelle, an American, was able to name the Irving Berlin hit, and Bride, a Brit, was able to identify Archibald Joyce’s Songe d’automne, the hit in his country.

Related Posts
Did Titanic's bands play together as Titanic sank?
Evidence that Titanic's bands played separately
Barkworth: Titanic's last waltz