And the band played on...

But what was the tune the band struck up as the ship went down? Few who have seen Roy Ward Baker's 1958 film of the Titanic's doom, A Night to Remember, will forget the scene. As panic sweeps the decks, real men rush about shouting "Women and children first!" while wimps head lemming- like for the stern. Wallace Hartley, leader of the ship's band, puts down his fiddle. "It's the end, boys," he stoically observes. "We've done our duty. We can go now."

But then, as his men begin to drift away, they hear a single plaintive violin. One by one, they resume their places by their leader's side. The camera cuts to the faces of women and children in the lifeboats, upturned in awe as the cellist gently starts to sing "Nearer, my God, to thee." Seconds later, the ship goes down.

It's a touching scene, repeated in James Cameron's new movie. Yet, while Sarah Flower Adams's hymn soon became identified with the Titanic tragedy - not least through its use in a cantata by the German harmonium maestro, Siegfried Karg-Elert, which Edward Elgar conducted at a Royal Albert Hall memorial concert a month after the tragedy - it was certainly not the last tune heard on board.

"I guess all of the band went down," recalled junior wireless officer Harold Bride in the New York Times four days after the disaster. "They were playing 'Autumn'... How they ever did it I cannot imagine."

As Gavin Bryars, composer of The Sinking of the Titanic, points out, the words to the Episcopal hymn "Autumn" - "See the leaves about us falling" - are less than ideally appropriate. No doubt Bride had heard the tune correctly, but was he misheard by the Times reporter? Might he not, as has been suggested, have meant "Aughton" instead? Its words - "And when my task on earth is done... E'en death's cold wave I will not flee" - seem more fit. Then again, Hartley's band included in its repertoire a "Songe d'Automne" by Archibald Joyce, the "English Waltz King". So, soupy waltz or revivalist hymn? It must remain a secret of the deep.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test