Music

Susan Alby

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Oct 22, 2004
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Hi Matthew,
Do you mean aboard the 'Titanic'? That would probably depend on what class ticket you held. I would recommend listening to Ian Whitcomb's recordings of the White Star Orchestra: Music As Heard on The Fateful Voyage. There is a nice mix of Ragtime, Waltz's, and Musical Comedy tunes.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Actually, you might be surprised at the amount of classical music that was familiar to third class. Arrangements of the classics were commonly performed by brass bands and in music halls. My mother, who was born in 1903 and raised in a Western Australian railway town, knew quite a lot of opera and knew a good singer or three.

The English music critic, Neville Cardus, wrote movingly of the deep love of classical music found among the working class in Britain. Working in a mine or a mill seems to have inspired them to find something meaningful to enrich their lives. They often found it in brass bands or choral societies. Only yesterday, I was looking at a poster for a performance of Messiah featuring the band of our local tramways service. That was in 1925. Another concert by the same band included classics by Auber, Verdi and others.
 
May 27, 2007
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Thanks for the info. You learn something new every day. I figured the working class liked hymns and maybe spirituals I really don't know how popular they were in Great Britain. I guess it really depended on who had an instrument or could play a piano. I even forgot about folk songs. Third class as far as I know didn't have a band so it was really the passengers themselves who entertained themselves. My Great-Grandmother could play the piano and in fact gave lessons. My Grandfather could play a little piano and the guitar really well all though he was only 11 in April of 1912 so I don't know how good he would have played. I wonder if any third class passenger even had a guitar. I've never come across mention of one.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I agree with Dave - it would be wrong to assume that the English working classes in 1912 were necessarily unfamiliar with classical music. Then, as now, cheap concert tickets were always available for those who wanted them and the musical standard, even in the provinces, was frequently excellent. This isn't really my pet subject but I would recommend a look at J.B. Priestley's 'The Edwardians' for anybody with an interest.

I can't comment on the musical tastes of those who hailed from the further-flung corners of Europe but I imagine that the folk tradition would still have been prevalent in Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Syria and elsewhere.

I assume that the Irish contingent in third-class would have danced to reels and jigs although I'm not sure if the revival of what I always think of as 'traditional' Irish music had yet to occur or was already going strong.

The ragtime craze was poised to explode in Europe in 1912 although the American working classes would have been familiar with its distinctive sound for several years already. Until the Great War, ragtime in England was really the preserve of the younger members of the fashionable upper and middle classes. Priestley, who was a young man living in, I think, Yorkshire during those years, was not able to recall any of his own friends dancing the Bunny Hug or the Turkey Trot. The Tango was the latest thing in 1912, and would go on to become nothing less than a global phenomenon for the next two or three years, but I'm not sure if the White Star musicians had it on their books yet.

Most West European and American passengers would have been able to execute a variety of dances (such as the waltz) with reasonable competence, since these would have been staples on programmes at balls and parties throughout the social scale. Likewise, nearly all the Anglicans and Catholics aboard would have been familiar with church music, just as we are all familiar with Christmas carols today - I seem to recall that Eva Hart, as a small child of seven, was delighted to join in her favourite hymn at the service held on the morning of 14th April.
 

Mark Ferguson

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Oct 30, 2008
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Hello All,

I was wondering if anyone could help me. I'm a researcher for a TV Production company in Northern Ireland.

We are currently making a three-part documentary for BBC Northern Ireland entitled "Ships that changed the World". This will be a 3 x 40 minute programmes charting the ships that were built in Belfast's famous Harland and Wolff shipyard, such ships as the Titanic, Britannic, Olympic, Glorious and the Canberra. The documentary is due to be screened in January/February next year on BBC1.

I am trying to source popular music (Not Classical) that would have been heard in Belfast 1909-1914, particularly 1914.

Any help would be great
Kind Regards,

Mark Ferguson
mark@aboutface.co.uk