One hundred years ago, on April 14, 1912, the largest ocean liner in the world, the Titanic, struck an iceberg in the middle of the North Atlantic and sunk on her maiden voyage. Traveling from Southampton, England, to New York, this wonder of ships was considered the highest form of luxury of its day, a massive testament to mankind’s technological progress throughout the 19th Century. In a mere seven days, this floating palace could travel 3,500 miles from continent to continent while its passengers danced and dined in the highest standard of luxury.
The Titanic, a ship of the White Star Line, was conceived as part of a trio of the largest ships in the world at the time: Olympic, Titanic, and Gigantic. Titanic, the second of the three ships to be built, was considered a marvel in engineering with its unfathomable size. It was 882 ½ feet long, making it the largest moving object ever made by man. Her unique safety features such as her 16 watertight compartments, special lifeboats, and water pump system were considered state-of-the-art at the time. The press called her “unsinkable”. She was launched in May 1911 and was scheduled to depart on her maiden voyage eleven months later on April 10, 1912. From Southampton, she left to Cherbourg, Normandy, and then Queenstown, Ireland, and finally across the Atlantic bound for New York.
On Sunday, April 14, several ice warnings of unusually large ice flows and large numbers of ice bergs were reported to the Titanic. By nightfall the sky was clear and calm with little movement on the water making icebergs difficult to see. At 11:40pm, Frederick Fleet, the ship’s lookout, spotted an iceberg directly in Titanic’s path. First Officer Murdoch attempted to steer the ship out of the way but was unsuccessful and the ship began taking on water. The lifeboats were ordered lowered, but even when filled to capacity, there were only enough for half of those on board. Most of the boats were not filled to capacity due to the mistaken conclusion that the ship was not damaged enough to sink her.
By 2:05am, all of the lifeboats were lowered and 1,500 people were left on the ship. Her stern began to rise out of the sea due to the immense pull on the now-flooded bow. At the critical breaking point she split in two and both part of the ship sank into the sea. It was 2:20am on April 15 and the Titanic had gone under; the 1,500 people left in the water perished from either drowning or hypothermia.
Titanic 2012, a work written to commemorate the centennial of this tragedy, is a narrative of the story told through the eyes of the survivors. The three narrators recite quotes from survivors as a testament to their emotional and spiritual states before, during, and after the sinking. The main theme, representing Titanic is derived from a major triad arpeggio expanding to a series of consecutive fourths. The theme is first heard in the solo trumpet and used throughout the piece being distorted just as the ship was in distress. The hymn quotes of “Nearer My God to Thee” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” are presented in various guises from straight hymn-like tonality to bitonal sections where the hymn is in two keys at once. Various references to the Morse code wireless are presented in the piece spelling out various messages such as “SOS” or “MGY”, Titanic’s call sign.
The Titanic story has been connected very personally to me. As a young child I was fascinated with this greatest shipwreck of all time. Video games and Hollywood blockbusters further intensified my passion. But it is the stories of the survivors that are most important to me; the bravery of the band, the chivalry of the men giving up their space in a lifeboat for their wives, the waiting in the cold night with no rescue ship in sight. These stories are what keep the legend of Titanic alive. My hope is that through this music you will gain new appreciation for this story and its characters. I have been looking toward the 100th Anniversary for some time and this work, Titanic 2012, is my expression of my passion for this story.
April 28, 2012
Three Narrators, Choir, and Orchestra: 3 Flutes (1st doubling Piccolo and Alto Flute), Oboe, 2 Clarinets, Tenor Saxophone, Bassoon, 4 Horns, 3 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba, 3 Percussion, Piano, 2 Synthesizers, Strings
St. Davids Orchestra Society: Eastern University Spring Music Festival, April 28, 2012