Thursday, April 12, 2012

Boston Symphony Honors Titanic Musicians

In conjunction with this weekend's commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the Boston Symphony Orchesta will spotlight a memorial plaque in honor of the musicians who drowned while still playing (famously alleged as “Nearer, My God, to Thee”); the BSO tribute will take place during performances at Symphony Hall April 12-14.

Boston philanthropist and arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner, a close friend of BSO founder Henry Lee Higginson, was so moved by the story of the musicians who continued to play while the ship was sinking that she commissioned a marble plaque in their memory. Though the musicians were not members of the BSO—nor were any of them connected to Boston (all Europeans, they were employed through a company out of Liverpool)—the poignant plaque was hung in the main hallway of Symphony Hall, where it remains today, in honor of their bravery.

A press clipping from the Boston Post dated September 23, 1912, describes the plaque, and states that the donor preferred to remain anonymous. It wasn't until many years later that her identity was revealed. The BSO is also presumed to be the first institution to do a musical tribute honoring the lives lost (this fact was referred to in a news clipping a day after the tribute), which took place on April 26, 1912. The BSO performed the Funeral March from Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, Symphony No. 3, under the direction of Max Fiedler.

From today through Saturday, the Boston Symphony will place flowers near the plaque, and a display case in the main hall of Symphony Hall will offer information about the installation of the plaque and the BSO's musical tribute.

The full text of the plaque is:

In Memory of the Devoted Musicians

Wallace Henry Hartley, bandmaster
John Frederick Preston Clark
Percy Cornelius Taylor
John Wesley Woodward
W. Theodore Brailey
John Law Hume
George Krins
Roger Bricoux

Who were drowned still playing as the Titanic went down April 15, 1912

Image Courtesy of The Boston Symphony Orchestra

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