Until what time did the band play


Jun 6, 2007
11
0
71
I'm surprised there isn't any thread about the band during the aftermath of the collision and subsequent sinking of the ship. Perhaps I haven't looked in the right places?

I'm specifically interested in knowing how long Wallace Hartley and his companions played after the collision. Is there any timeline that was ever suggested? I know there is much debate (that will probably never be solved) about the last song that was played but I haven't found any information about how long the band played.

Thanks for any information any of you might have!
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,649
830
563
Easley South Carolina
>>I'm specifically interested in knowing how long Wallace Hartley and his companions played after the collision.<<

I don't think anybody has ever seriously attempted to cobble up a time line if only because nobody was checking anything against a stopwatch. It's been suggested that they kept on playing pretty near to the end and then either played "Autumn" or "Nearer My God To Thee" just before the ship sank.
 
Jun 6, 2007
11
0
71
If I recall correctly, the last radio message was sent at 2:17 and Harold Bride stated that:

"Phillips clung on, sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes, or maybe fifteen minutes, after the captain released him. The water was then coming into our cabin. From aft came the tunes of the ship's band, playing the ragtime tune, 'Autumn. '"

After Bride came up on deck and helped with collapsible B before being thrown into the sea:

"The ship was gradually turning on her nose -just like a duck does that goes down for a dive. I had only one thing on my mind - to get away from the suction. The band was still playing. I guess all the band went down. They were heroes. They were still playing 'Autumn. ' Then I swam with all my might."

This means that the band played until at least 3 minutes before the ship sank. But how long did they keep at it? Did they keep playing after the lights went out? Or even after the ship broke in two? How would that even be possible?
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Mar 16, 2000
5,055
338
433
I haven't time to chase every reference, but opinions on how long the band played varied quite a bit. Algernon Barkworth and Colonel Gracie thought they stopped playing about 20 minutes before the end. Steward Edward Brown said he heard the band in the last moments, while he was trying to launch collapsible A. The notoriously unreliable Harold Bride said they were still playing when he was in the sea. Take your pick!

The story of the band that played to the end was made more likely by the common assumption that it was a wind band, that could play on a sloping deck while making a considerable volume. We find this in early US books. The USA was the home of John Phillip Sousa and to the US press a band was a wind band.

I think the whole band legend should be taken with a grain of salt. Give the musos credit for doing what they thought to be their duty and let the details go.
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,432
1,726
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
The legend of Phillips according to Harold Bride.

If the water was already coming into their cabin, then the collapsibles A and b would have been floating free already, the crow's nest would have been submerged, and Bride would have had no time to climb up and go forward to help with getting them off. Also, from evidence on the bottom of the Atlantic, Phillips or Bride, pulled the switches to shut off the transmitter before leaving the wireless cabin. So Phillips was not still there transmitting when the power failed suddenly when all the lights went out as the ship started to break in two.
 

Tad G. Fitch

Member
Dec 13, 1999
581
14
263
I think the water coming into the cabin while they were still there is one of the details that is not consistent throughout Bride's accounts, similar to the "air pocket" under Collapsible B differences between his American and British inquiry testimony, how he back-peddeled in his description of his level of involvement in dispatching the stoker who tried to steal Phillips' lifebelt, etc.

I agree with Sam, and feel that it is highly unlikely that water reached the wireless room while they were still there. With the port list, Collapsible B would have already been floating free if water had reached that point, and as he points out, one of the operators threw the switches before exiting.
 
Apr 30, 2007
64
0
96
There is enough testimony to confirm that the band stood out on deck in the freezing cold night air playing music whilst they must have been all too aware that the ship was slowly getting lower in the water and in danger of sinking.

Simultaneously there were men jumping into lifeboats, hiding under thwarts and manoeuvring themselves into positions whereby they could calmly step into the boats just as they were being lowered.

Far from being a ‘legend’ who’s details should be ‘let go’ I believe the bandsmen’s exact movements and timeline that night is just as intriguing as Smith, Andrews, Ismay etc. So well done Etienne for raising an interesting question.

On the subject of Bride’s evidence I would have thought it was perfectly feasibly for the officers quarters etc to have become awash in perhaps 6 inches to a foot or so of water as the head was slowly sinking. The water at this time would not necessarily have been up above the officer’s quarters and hence would not have been able to wash Coll B away which would still have been lashed to the roof, or in the process of being released.

As Bride & Phillips were transmitting as long as possible why would they have left prior to the water reaching their cabin (unless the kit had packed up completely)? It seems more likely that the water reaching the cabin was the signal to finally get out of there.
 

Will C. White

Member
Apr 18, 2007
267
2
123
I can well imagine that the band played as long as they could. I believe they where fully aware of the "score". No matter what they played, you cannot doubt their courage. As to pulling the power switch on the Marconi, in times of great stress you fall back on your training and he may have done it by rote, power or no.
 
Mar 22, 2003
6,432
1,726
383
Chicago, IL, USA
www.titanicology.com
quote:

I would have thought it was perfectly feasibly for the officers quarters etc to have become awash in perhaps 6 inches to a foot or so of water as the head was slowly sinking. The water at this time would not necessarily have been up above the officer’s quarters and hence would not have been able to wash Coll B away which would still have been lashed to the roof, or in the process of being released.

If the ship had settled on an almost even keel this might be the case. But I'm afraid that is not the way it was.​
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,649
830
563
Easley South Carolina
>>Far from being a ‘legend’ who’s details should be ‘let go’ I believe the bandsmen’s exact movements and timeline that night is just as intriguing as Smith, Andrews, Ismay etc.<<

That may be so, but the problem here is that the band's story is so steeped in myth and legend that it would be well nigh impossible to sort out the hard kernals of truth from the legends that have been spun.

The decidedly questionable reliability of Bride's account is suspect on a lot of levels. Keep in mind that if water was entering the wireless shack then the whole sinking process was snowballing. If Bride and Phillips were still in the shack as the water was coming in, then it's at the point where things are happening so fast, they would still be in the wireless shack when the hull hit the bottom.

I'm not saying that Bride lied, but I think he conflated the events to such a degree that he got things mixed up.
 
Jun 6, 2007
11
0
71
Michael, everything about the Titanic is steeped in myth and legend. Does that mean we should stop speculating about her? I think not and this is what I have found about the band's last moments:

Let's examine the testimonies of two of lifeboat #6's passengers:

Helen Churchill Candee's and Harold Bride's testimonies are identical, if we are to believe Bride confused "Nearer My God to Thee" with "Autumn" as analysed by J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D. (http://home.earthlink.net/~llywarch/tnc02.html.htm) inbetween the time the captain relieved Phillips and Bride of their duties and the time Bride helped with collapsible B.

Bride: "Phillips clung on, sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes, or maybe fifteen minutes, after the captain released him. The water was then coming into our cabin. From aft came the tunes of the ship's band, playing the ragtime tune, 'Autumn.' Phillips ran aft, and that was the last I ever saw of him alive."

And later:

"I felt I simply had to get away from the ship. She was a beautiful sight then. Smoke and sparks were rushing out of her funnels. There must have been an explosion, but we heard none. We only saw a big stream of sparks. The ship was gradually turning on her nose -just like a duck does that goes down for a dive. I had only one thing on my mind - to get away from the suction. The band was still playing. I guess all the band went down. They were heroes. They were still playing 'Autumn.' [which Harold might have confused with "Nearer My God To Thee" as per J. Marshall Bevil's conclusions] Then I swam with all my might."

Compare this with what Helen Churchill Candee said about what she last heard of the Titanic's band (excerpted from a May 1912 account she penned for Colliers Magazine under the title “Sealed Orders." http://www.charlespellegrino.com/passengers/helen_candee.htm):

"About the time Harold Bride ascended the roof, Helen Candee also heard the song Autumn. Unlike Bride, she happened to be watching and listening from the relatively calm and safe vantage point of Boat 6, from which she recalled hearing the waltz followed by the beginning of Nearer My God to Thee."

Marjorie Newell Robb was also on lifeboat #6 and she was a violonist (although that doesn't testify of any musical talent even though she went on to teach violon after the disaster; but one would assume she had a musical ear) and she claims to have heard Alexander's Ragtime Band, One O'clock in the Morning I get Lonesome, Turkey in the Straw and The Merry Widow but NOT Nearer my God.

One thing that is puzzling to me is that not only are these accounts contradictory but lifeboat #6 was lowered at around 12:55 which is a full hour and 21 minutes before Bride testified he heard "Autumn" at 2:10.

Are we then to conclude that lifeboat #6 stuck around long enough within hearing distance of the band playing (perhaps because of Molly Brown's insistance that they go back for survivors?) for a full hours and twenty one minutes until Bride and Candee heard "Autumn" followed by "Nearer My God To Thee"?

These are early conclusions from my (as of yet) limited research but from what I've gathered, the following songs were played during the sinking:

Irving Berlin - Alexander's Ragtime Band
Irving Berlin - One O'clock in the Morning I Get Lonesome at 1:00
Turkey In The Straw - American Folk song
Franz Lehár - The Merry Widow

And very near the end, between 2:10 and shortly before the sinking (2:16) and in that order:

Songe d'automne
Nearer My God To Thee

I fully expect to be rebuted but hopefully that will bring us that much closer to discovering the mysteries of the band's last moments on the great ship. Not that we'll ever uncover the full truth but it's the exploration that's fun, isn't it?
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,649
830
563
Easley South Carolina
>>Michael, everything about the Titanic is steeped in myth and legend. Does that mean we should stop speculating about her?<<

Context please.

What I said was That may be so, but the problem here is that the band's story is so steeped in myth and legend that it would be well nigh impossible to sort out the hard kernals of truth from the legends that have been spun." and so far, you've really offered nothing that would change that picture. Especially in the context of the original question which was mooted over a timeline.

It doesn't help in this instance that as you yourself pointed out, the testimony itself is contradictory.

Not that you aren't free to persue it to your heart's content as you certainly are. However, unlike the technical forensics issues that I take an interest in, anything you can come up with is going to be excruciatingly difficult and often impossible to put to any sort of test.
 
Aug 10, 2002
266
1
183
This past semester one of my students as part of her class project played the violin while standing on a plank inclined at 15 degrees above horizontal. I believe that was the angle of inclination as the bridge went under. So I believe the band could have played almost up to the end.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
Feb 24, 2004
907
3
183
Hi, Charlie!

>>"...one of my students...played the violin while standing on a plank inclined at 15 degrees above horizontal."

What was the air temperature at the time? Instrumental musicians' fingers take a beating outside even with a nominal drop in the night-time temp. Forget about any super-fast passage work. Those Titanic boys leave me awe-struck.

Roy
 

Sam Brannigan

Member
Dec 20, 2000
904
15
263
Hi Charles and Roy,

Interesting experiment!

As a one time bass player who used to rehearse in a literally freezing hall every Saturday morning (no heat, middle of November/December) I seem to remember that after playing for a while the old fingers limbered up nicely (to paraphrase ANTR "They don't listen to us at dinner either...let's play anyway, it'll keep us warm!).

The real problem was with the fingers on the bow hand, for the bass players anyway (we used French bows). It was REALLY uncomfortable, but by no means impossible to play.
 
Aug 10, 2002
266
1
183
Roy:
From what she told me I'd say between 35 and 45, I'm not exactly sure. She did it down on the waterfront in early April here in Maine in an empty boathouse. She used a staging and a couple of wood timbers. I'm not certain just how long she played for. She was looking for a topic for her class project. When I discovered that she had an interest in music I suggested she try to find out how difficult it would have been for the band to play while inclined at 15 degrees. She played the violin, but she commented that the cellist might have difficulty, trying to sit and play on the slope.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,043
107
333
UK
They would still be there if they'd had any, but the Titanic bandsmen played only stringed instruments. The bugle sounded by a steward to announce dinner will be out there somewhere.
 
S

Scott R. Andrews

Guest
I would imagine that there's an outside chance that some of the instruments the string players carried with them might still be intact within the wreck or in debris field IF they were still in their leather cases. Certainly, the instruments they were carrying with them and were actually playing that night are long gone, but I've yet to know a professional musician (outside of the pianists) that didn't carry a "spare" with them, or a second, different instrument that they might be called to "double" on when required. The Restaurant Musician's quarters were smack in the middle of the break-up, on E Deck to starboard of center and hard against WTB "K" at the forward end of the reciprocating engine room; any properly cased instruments that survived might be somewhere in the debris field. However, quarters of the remaining musicians were further aft on E Deck -- an outside stateroom on the starboard side, hard against the forward side of WTB "O" in the midst of the 2nd Class area in the stern. Depending on how badly the structure between the Nos. 5 and 6 Hatches was torn apart, there might yet be a violin, viola or cello in a leather case buried in the debris and sediment somewhere in all of that chaos.

Regards,
Scott Andrews
 

Paul Lee

Member
Aug 11, 2003
2,235
30
243
Don't know, but Wallace Hartley's violin case, presumably with violin, was found strapped to his back. Whether that means he had time to prepare for the final plunge, well, YMMV.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads