Monday, October 10, 2016

The Brave Musicians of the Titanic Knew Just What to Play

Many students of the Titanic disaster believe that “Autumn,” an old Anglican hymn, was one of the songs played by the 8 musicians in the ship’s orchestra before the mighty craft broke and sank below the frigid north Atlantic waves.

The song was featured in the classic 1957 film about the tragedy, “A Night to Remember,” as well as a 1979 film version.

It is intriguing to speculate how that well-known song would have affected the hearers, some being rowed away to safety (though they would hardly have known that at the time) and some knowing full well that they had but minutes to live.

I print the lyrics below, compelling spiritual lyrics that would have been known and remembered by many of those hearing the heroic members of the orchestra play the song…lyrics which may well have caused the hearers, even at that last opportunity, to trust in the soul-saving truths they presented.

(Early 19th Century) 
(Lyrics written by Louis von Esch, music by François H. Barthélemon.)

“God of Mercy and Compassion, look with pity on my pain. Hear a mournful broken spirit, prostrate at thy feet complain. Many are my foes and mighty, strength to conquer I have none; nothing can uphold my goings, but thy blessed self alone.

Savior, look on thy beloved; triumph over all my foes. Turn to heavenly joy my mourning, turn to gladness all my woes. Live or die or work or suffer, let my weary soul abide, in all changes whatsoever, sure and steadfast by thy side.

When temptations fierce assault me, when my enemies I find, sin and guilt and death and Satan, all against my soul combined, hold me up in mighty waters, keep my eyes on things above, righteousness, divine atonement, peace and everlasting love.”

The Titanic band members all went down with the ship. 

These Brave Musicians Knew What to PlayThey were Englishmen Theodore Ronald Brailey (pianist, 24 years old), John Frederick Preston Clarke (bassist, 30), Wallace Hartley (Bandleader and violinist, 33), Percy Cornelius Taylor (cellist, 32),  and John Wesley Woodward (cellist, 32); Frenchman Roger Marie Bricoux (cellist, 20); Scotsman John Law Hume (violinist, 21); and Belgian Georges Alexandre Krins (violinist, 23).

A second class passenger who survived the tragedy gave a fitting epitaph for these men, “Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.”