RIP Titanic

As a classical pianist who gave recitals on cruise ships for many years, I couldn’t pass the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking without any comment. It was 100 years ago today that the great ship sank beneath the icy waves of the North Atlantic Sea. I, like many others, have crossed that section of the Atlantic many times and can confirm that it is a most hostile environment and must have been terrifying for all those poor souls involved.

I loved my job giving classical recitals for passengers but I did have a couple of ‘near misses’ myself, as well as many extremely rocky, uncomfortable trips; one was in the Atlantic and the other in the Bay of Biscay. They happened on small ships and on the first occasion the ship nearly tipped over – we were all up on top with our life jackets on! Even though we were close to impending disaster it never occurred to me to stop cruising because it’s generally very safe.

What moved me about the Titanic’s sinking though, was the fact that the musicians played on right to the end. This is something that I could never have done, so I have the utmost respect for those band members. A newspaper at the time reported ‘the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea.’

Band leader, Wallace Hartley and his fellow band members (there were 8 musicians in all), played in the first class lounge to help the passengers keep calm during the lifeboat evacuation. They later moved to the forward half of the boat deck, where they continued to play until the very end according to many survivors. Reports suggest that the final work they played was  ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ which has since been forever associated with RMS Titanic; whether this is true is unclear but former band mates have claimed that Hartley said if he was ever on a sinking ship he would either play ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee or “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”.RMS Titanic Musician's Memorial - Southampton.jpgThis memorial is dedicated to these musicians and it resides in Southampton, UK: Wallace Hartley (bandmaster and violin), Roger Marie Bricoux (cello), Theodore Ronald Brailey (piano), John Wesley Woodward (cello), John Frederick Preston Clarke (string bass and viola), John Law Hume (violin), Percy Cornelius Taylor (piano) and Georges Alexandré Krins (violin) who all lost their lives on the Titanic.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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