Q: How did you then go about choosing the music for this album from such a list?
A: At the early stages, I thought to record only the most famous and still relevant pieces - but so many pieces in the list are still known today, that an album like this would be several volumes in size - so instead, we looked at the different jobs and combinations that the musicians would have worked, and tried to create a journey through the ship. Starting with the White Star Line March (the theme song of the company which would have been played as the ship sailed out) we then travel through the central stairway with salon music like Schubert’s Serenade and Dvorak’s Humoresque into the Cafe where the musicians had to play popular contemporary songs like Alexanders Ragtime Band and Let Me Call You Sweetheart, into the grand dining room with waltzes and popular operettas such as The Beautiful Blue Danube and Tales Of Hoffman, party music with the Can Can and then the Sacred Music which they had to play during religious services such as Ave Maria and Nearer My God To Thee.
Q: How did you choose the instrumentation for this album?
A: This is purely historically accurate! There were two groups employed on board. Group one was a String Quintet, group two was a Piano Trio. In total there were 8 musicians on board. This combination would have been occasionally fluid in its format to suit the needs of the guests. All groups were under the leadership of William Hartley (Violinist). Throughout the album, you will hear different combinations of instruments that would have suited the different rooms and job requirements throughout the ship. The popular image of the musicians is as string musicians all standing on deck (no piano) and as such the last number “Nearer My God To Thee” is performed is by strings only.
Q: So you chose repertoire and combinations to take the listener on a journey through the Titanic - were there any other processes you went through to make this a true period style item?
A: Short answer, yes - most of the arrangements are historical arrangements that had been in print at the time of Titanic setting sail - even more specifically, I found arrangements that were available for sale in England at the time. Every period of time has slightly different aesthetics to how instruments should be played. For this album we played in a manner that was attempting to be more period with various slides, fingerings, and tempo variations. Doing this presented some interesting playing challenges where all performers had to re-learn some techniques to fit the style - but doing so was a lot of fun!
Q: You mentioned the last piece being “Nearer My God To Thee” is there any dispute on this number?
A: There are two thoughts as top what piece was played where it was either “Nearer My God To Thee” or “Songe d’Automne” - both pieces sound very similar - but the majority of people believe it was Nearer My God because of survivor memories hearing that number as the last one, plus William Hartley was a very religious man who had a strong liking of this number, and there is anecdotal evidence that he had a discussion where the prospect of perishing at sea and he always said he would play “Nearer My God” as the last number.
Q: The bonus track is “My Heart Will Go On” - that is obviously not period....
A: No, and that is why it is a Bonus Track - putting it on the album is my way of saying, the legend and the stories are still lingering - we also recorded it as a Solo Violin - to almost be like the ghost of William Hartley playing the legend on, and keeping the memory alive of the brave musicians.
Q: Will be able to see a live version of this album anywhere?
A: Absolutely yes - starting in April 2019 the musicians from the album and I will be going on tour through Australia performing highlights from this
album plus, we get share anecdotes of the Titanic that not many people would know...
Q: Such as?
A: Here is a story that is absolutely flabbergasting......... Due to a industry standards change just before sailing, the musicians weren’t classified as crew, rather as guests. This new ‘standing’ meant that they had to hire from the White Star Line their performance uniforms. At the end of the contract, they had to return these uniforms, or pay for them - in the case of the Titanic, they (obviously) did not get to return their uniforms, and the surviving families were sent the bill!
Q: The subject matter is quite serious - but you are presenting it with a lightness - why is that?
A: The Titanic when it set sail wasn’t meant to be the subject of seriousness and solemnity, it was a cruise ship, it was a celebration of what mankind had achieved, it was filled with people travelling to America for holiday or work or to live - so it was filled with optimism and hope - and while the journey was very short, the majority of it would have been filled with happiness. In the album and the show I try to take the listener and the audience on a journey that would have been a delightful, fun filled and exciting time - that tragically ended far too soon. The joy of the album and the show is you get to experience an element of the Titanic which while famous has not often been explored - and to the best of my knowledge - this is the first album that has explored the music in this manner - and while exploring the musical journey of the Titanic, you get to stay dry (big plus!).