M – Music of Mercy: Echoes from the Titanic

Titanic Band



“They kept it up to the very end.  Only the engulfing ocean had power to drown them into silence.  The band was playing ‘Nearer My God To Thee.’  I could hear it distinctly.  The end was very close.” – Charlotte Colyer, Titanic Survivor

On this very day precisely 105 years ago – April 15, 1912 – the RMS Titanic was lost at sea.  1,503 souls were lost in one of the most memorable tragedies the world has ever known.  In the midst of great tragedy, however, we can draw inspiration from the great heroism which was displayed by many of the passengers.  Not the least of these were the ship’s musicians, who used their gift of music to calm others and point them to God for as long as they possibly could.  What a courageous sacrifice.  What a profound sense of duty and calling.  What a gift of love!

In his book, The Band that Played On, Steve Turner provides historical research on each of the eight musicians who were hired to provide music aboard the Titanic’s maiden voyage.  By weaving this true story into a tale that is entertaining and extremely gripping, Turner shows what courage these men truly did demonstrate that fateful morning.  Among other intriguing facts, readers discover that the band was told that all of the women and children were safe and that there was still room on a lifeboat for them.  As musical celebrities of their day, they surely would have been granted safe passage.  But out of an overwhelming sense of duty toward those who were left behind, the band chose to stay behind.  As the men aboard all took a knee, they played the sweet strains of Nearer My God to Thee until the icy waves enveloped them, putting their earthly music to rest.

Why would they have done such a thing?  There are many clues to be found as each of the eight band members are studied.  Perhaps the most telling is the fact that Wallace Hartley, the British bandleader who led this musical group, was raised a Methodist and was described by cellist John Carr as “a man with the highest sense of duty.”  He realized what so many people miss… that his duty was ultimately to God, and not simply to man.

May each of us take a lesson from the faint musical echoes from the Titanic, which still reach our ears 105 years later.  May we realize the duty we have to both man and God, and do our best to serve with dignity, excellence, and above all else – love.



Today’s post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge, where participants commit to posting one article for each day during the month of April – one for every letter of the alphabet.

Check back here at “The Artistic Christian” for a daily slice of art (art reviews, practical tips, and motivation for artists), all steeped in a rich Christian worldview.


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