When the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, passengers were not thinking about listening to classical music. Some of them already knew that they were destined to die. Others fought to save their own lives. While the passengers got on the lifeboats, they heard the music of Wallace Hartley and his band. They could have stopped playing, but they wanted to make the passengers feel relaxed at one of the most terrifying moments of their lives. Can you imagine how much composure the band had when they were able to still play beautiful music?
Even before working for the Titanic, Hartley already had an impressive resume. In 1909, Hartley began his career as a musician on ocean liners. He was an instrumentalist on the Lucania, Lusitania and Mauretania. On April 1912, he got a job as a musician for the Titanic. With his band, he would play music for the first class. Since he was worried about leaving his finance, Maria Robinson, he was a little reluctant to go. He decided to work on the Titanic knowing that it would lead to more opportunities.
Hartley dreamed of becoming a renowned musician. In fact, it was in his genes. Albion Hartley, Wallace’s father, was a choirmaster and Sunday school superintendent at Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel on Burnly Road. His devoutly religious family attended services at Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel. Hartley learned to play the violin from a parishioner in his church. Hartley became a professional violinist who enchanted audiences with his music.
Since he was a virtuoso of high caliber, he was on the path to having a flourishing musical career. He could have even become a famous name in the music industry. As the Titanic sank, he was destined to become a heroic man rather than a well-known musician.
Hartley’s violin became more than just an instrument. Now it was a tool that healed others during a tragedy. All the other seven band members also became healers as well. Their music purged the spirits of all who were on the Titanic. Hartley and his band perished in the Titanic, but they will always be immortalized as heroes.
Nearly two weeks after the Titanic sank, the Mackay-Bennett found Hartley’s body. According to news reports, he was completely dressed with his music case fastened to his body. Unlike others who perished in the Titanic, Hartley’s family was able to give him a proper burial.
Hartley’s funeral was on May 18, 1912. One thousand mourners attended the funeral of this heroic musician. There were approximately 30,000 to 40,000 people at his funeral profession. They all came to pay their last respects to this remarkable man. He had more courage than the majority of us will ever have.
Hartley’s final resting place is Keighley Road Cemetery. His headstone stands 10 feet high. It contains a sculpted violin at its foundation. Playing the violin was Hartley’s true passion. He probably continues to play celestial music with his band in heaven.