Thursday, January 7, 2010

And the Band Played on.....

There are conflicting opinions about the final song played on Titanic.
Nearer My Gold to Thee is the most popular choice. Accounts list a song
titled Autumn as the final song.
Top Row, Left to Right: Fred Clarke of Liverpool and P.C. Taylor of Clapham.
Middle Row, Left to Right: G. Krins of Brixton, Wallace H. Hartley of Dewsbury, the Bandmaster and Theodore Brailey, of Notting Hill. Bottom Row, Left to Right: Jock Hume of Dumfries and J.W. Woodward of Headington, Oxon. Roger Bricoux, the cellist, was missing from this photo.

White Star Line song book peformed with violin, viola, violoncello and piano to recreate as authentically as possible 17 selections which most closely conformed with tradition: Can-Can from Orpheus, Maple Leaf Rag, Nearer, My God, To Thee, Merry Widow, Emperor Waltz, Humoresque, Barcarole, Gold and Silver Waltz, Elite Syncopations, Hail Columbia, Yankee Doodle, Tritsch-Tratsch Polka

Wallace Hartley, the bandleader, was asked by a reporter --months before he sailed on the Titanic --what he would play in the event of a disaster at sea. He said he'd play "cheerful stuff" such as ragtime. Nothing to cause a panic. "I'd never play 'Nearer My God to Thee,' " he said, for he'd reserve that for his own funeral.

As a functionary providing mood music, he knew it was his job to prevent panic, not create it. So he ordered a diet of ragtime on that last night. Survivors have detailed the names of the rag songs--"Oh, You Beautiful Doll," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," etc.

Harold Bride, the radio operator, one of the last to leave the ship, told the New York Times (after the tabloids had spread the hymn myth) that the last tune performed was "Songe d'Automne," a then-current pop hit by British dance bandleader Archibald Joyce. It's a beautiful waltz and makes a much more fitting swan song than the wretched hymn. Truth is always richer than fiction.

I vote for "Songe d'Automne" as the final song on the Titanic.

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