The musicians aboard the Titanic were recruited through a Liverpool-based agency, formed by the Black brothers to provide artistic talent for shipping companies. The Titanic's musicians had accommodation in second-class and all boarded the liner at Southampton. A number of the musicians had previously served aboard ships of the Cunard Line and White Star Line. The musicians were a multi-national group, Theodore Brailey from London; Roger Bricoux from France; John Frederick Clarke from Liverpool; John Law Hume from Dumfries in Scotland; George Krins from Belgium; Percy Cornelius Taylor from London; John Wesley Woodward from Oxfordshire, and bandmaster Wallace Hartley from Lancashire.
During the sinking the musicians congregated and started playing together, initially in the first-class lounge, before moving out onto the Boat Deck. As the lifeboats were loaded with passengers and lowered the sounds of the musicians playing popular ragtime tunes filled the air. As the situation became more serious, and the angle of the deck became more perilous the musicians changed to playing hymns, continuing to do so without apparent regard for their own safety. All eight musicians died in the sinking; only the bodies of bandmaster Wallace Hartley, violinist John Law Hume and bassist John Frederick Clarke were recovered. The musicians are commemorated by many memorials, including that in Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall.
Today's Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is the second building on the site. The first Philharmonic Hall was opened on 27 August 1849, but was destroyed by a large fire that broke out on 5 July 1933. The building was reduced to a shell and was subsequently demolished. It was replaced by a Modernist-style building, officially opened on 19 June 1939. The new building survived the heavy bombing of Liverpool by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War that destroyed many buildings in the vicinity.
The Titanic musicians memorial tablet on display in the foyer of the hall is remarkable as it is one of few surviving items from the disastrous 1933 fire. The tablet was originally erected on 4 November 1912, commissioned with the proceeds of a special concert performance by the Philharmonic Society, held in May 1912. It was originally installed in a corridor, not in public view. Following refurbishment of the hall in 1995 the tablet was relocated to the entrance foyer, where it is on public display.
The memorial is in the form of a rectangular brass tablet, with a decorative semi-circular pediment, with scrolled corners. The pediment is decorated in bas-relief with acanthus leaves and has a central cartouche showing a stringed lyre instrument. The main body of the tablet is bordered by a reeded frame with plain, raised corners. The centre of the tablet carries the following inscription:
This tablet is dedicated to the memory of W. Hartley of Dewsbury Bandmaster W. T. Brailey of London R. Bricoux of " Lille, France J. F. Clarke " Liverpool J. L. Hume " Dumfries G. Krins " Liege, Belgium P. C. Taylor " London J. W. Woodward " Headington
Members of the band on board the "Titanic"; they bravely continued playing to soothe the anguish of their fellow passengers until the ship sank in the deep April 14th 1912. Courage and compassion joined make the hero and the man complete.
- Eaton, J. P. & Haas, C. A. (1994) Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (2nd edition) Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd.
- Henley, Darren (2012) Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Liverpool: Picturebook Liverpool, http://www.liverpoolpicturebook.com/2012/02/liverpool-philharmonic-hall.html
- Hind, Philip et al (2015) John Frederick Preston Clarke Oxford: Encyclopedia Titanica, http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/john-frederick-preston-clarke.html
- Washington Herald, The (1912) Nearer My God, To Thee Washington, D.C.: The Washington Herald