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Exploring Music: A Compelling Story

The MHS Review 377 VOL. 10, NO. 17 • 1986

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Robert Maxwell Stern


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"The human imagination is unequal to the reconstruction of the appalling scene of the disaster in the North Atlan­tic. No picture of the pen or of the painter's brush can adequately represent the magnitude of the calamity that has made the whole world kin:"

So begins the introduction to the book The Sinking of The Titanic by Jay Henry Mowbray, published by the Minter Com­pany, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1912. In 1972, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Halifax, broadcast an award-­winning radio documentary named "Titanic"; it related the unforgettable story as told by the actual survivors of this most incredible marine disaster. This dramatic representation indeed under­scores Dr. Mowbray's doubt in "picture of pen and painter's brush." I'm sure, however, that he would have little to challenge in an actual document in sound which truly and most vividly accounts this, still after nearly 75 years the most notorious of sea disasters.

The Musical Heritage Society has brought forth this 60-minute transcrip­tion of the original CBC staggering broadcast, written and narrated by Neil Copland and directed by John Nowlan (of television's "One Step Beyond" fame). It features many personal accounts spoken by survivors of the Titanic's fate­ful maiden voyage. Miss Edith Russell, who escaped with her life and her toy musical pig (as depicted in the film A Night to Remember), speaks of the strange premonitions which she had even before the voyage began. Frederic Dent Ray, Steward First-Class, gives his frank and chilling account of the events leading up to the sinking, and the sink­ing itself. Eva Hart was a child of seven in 1912; she gives a most vivid recol­lection of the collision and describes the ma_dness of attempting to put passengers in lifeboats, of which there were too few. Sea historians and witnesses from the ship The Californian, which played a most mysterious role, also give their accounts and voice their suspicions.

RMS Titanic was the pride of the White Star Line, a true castle on the sea, appointed with its glass-enclosed deck, swimming pools, squash courts, minia­ture golf courses, libraries, a gymnasium, Turkish baths, a palm garden, a photo darkroom for passenger use, even a hospital with a complete operating room. It also boasted grand staircases leading from deck to deck, a dinner service of ten-thousand pieces of silver and gold, and Renaissance staterooms. It had been called "unsinkable" or we've come to believe that. As it turns out, the White Star Steamship Company never advertised The Titanic at all as being unsinkable. All they ever touted was the phrase, "Largest and Finest Steamer in the World:' Not until after its sinking was it said that the ship was thought to be unsinkable. This MHS release probes such questions and also raises many points of suspicion, such as: Was the British Inquiry rigged? Could The Titanic have not sunk? What did the steamship Californian do, or not do? Was the ... if I continue, I'll give away lots of the drama!

On Sunday, April 14, 1912 at 11 :40 PM, the greatest triumph of marine archi­tecture, on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, collided with an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland and, within two and one-half hours, was gone forever. Some 1,500 of her manifest of 2,224 passengers and crew drowned in the freezing waters. The passengers includ­ed the highest of world society, names like Astor, Rothschild, Straus, and Guggenheim. They perished as did the extremely poor who were in the steerage class, eight decks down. The fates played no favorites.

The recording itself will intrigue record collectors of all types: those who enjoy historical documentaries, sea buffs, radio program fans, the audio­ visual oriented teacher, as well as those who really want to find out the facts as they were.

Review of The Titanic pg 11

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