Amid the media hubbub about a violin that may, or may not, have been played on the tragic ship, little has been written about the conditions that musicians endured on board, and the miserable treatment of their families after the ship went down.
Holly Mulcahy, concertmaster with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, introduces her research in a post to Slipped Disc:
Photo: Bo Huang. www.hollymulcahy.com
Have a look at some of the facts about the musicians that actually add more poignancy to the violin than what the movies and myth portray:
1. Musicians were listed as second class passengers so that White Star Lines could avoid paying union rate. They were actually given rooms next to the potato peeler/washer.
2. Some deceased musicians’ families were billed for the uniforms lost at sea.
3. Upon trying to collect death benefits, the grieving families were told by the hiring talent agency that since they were listed as 2nd class, White Star was to pay benefits. White Star said, no way, they were employees of the C.W. and F.M. Black talent agency, they ought to pay the death benefits.
The violin has become a symbol of a heroic moment; a group of musicians trying to calm panicking people facing death. Their heroic act was also noted by a few survivors as a bad idea and they criticized the musicians for creating a false sense of security, robbing time from people who didn’t digest the gravity of the situation until it was too late.
I did extensive research on this a number of years ago and wrote this: http://www.insidethearts.com/neoclassical/2010/04/its-black-and-white-the-hidden-effects-of-cutting-corners/