Throughout history, music has been used in times of chaos to help ease the soul. From church hymns at the funerals of great world leaders to battle songs being drummed and sung while troops prepare for battle, it has been proven that music can lighten ones spirits even at their darkest hour.
This April will mark the 101st anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. The passengers abroad that ship in 1912 suffered horror that we simply cannot begin to fathom. Throughout their ordeal, the passengers aboard the ship during its last hours had only one this to make them feel as ease, the beautiful music played for them live by the ship’s Orchestra. The cheerful music being played by Wallace Hartley and his band mates while the lifeboats were loaded offered a sense of peace to those who were surrounded by chaos.
“I shall never forget hearing the strains of that beautiful hymn as I was leaving the sinking ship,” an anonymous rescued sailor recounted of his final moments on board the Titanic. “It was always a favorite hymn of mine, but at such a time and under such tragic circumstances it had for me a solemnity too deep for words.”
At a little after two in the morning on that awful night, just moments before the ship would plummet into the Atlantic with 1,500 passengers and crew members still on board, Hartley released his fellow musicians and began the first few notes of Nearer, My God, to Thee on his violin. One by one, his musicians joined him again and they played what would be their final piece. Not long after, the freezing ocean washed them away to their watery graves.
These men are not portrayed as heroes in history, however, they are remembered for their bravery and Wallace’s quick thinking with only hours left to live. Any feelings of fear or sorrow they may have had, were expertly masked behind the instruments and the notes that were being played on them.
There unfortunately will always be tradgey in the world whether it’s due to Mother Nature or Man Kind, but we can only hope that there will be future and past generations music playing throughout it all to help gently guide us through the turmoil until the end of our days.
To see actual artifacts and other pieces of history from the Titanic, please be sure to visit the Franklin Institute before April 7th.