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The Beat Goes On: Titanic Band Leader's Violin Verified

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

An auction house in Britain announced this week it has authenticated a violin they believe belonged to Wallace Hartley, the band leader aboard the Titanic, who famously continued playing, even as the ship went down. Host Rachel Martin talks about the find and the seven-year process it took to authenticate it.




It is one of the most romantically tragic stories ever. In 1912, as the Titanic sank, the story goes that Wallace Hartley and his orchestra stayed on deck and continued playing "Nearer My God to Thee." The band and their instruments, according to lore, went down with the 1500 other people who died that day.

Well, this past week, an English auction house confirmed the authenticity of a violin thought to belong to Hartley. News reports at the time suggested Hartley's body was found with his violin strapped to his chest. But the auction house says that the violin was actually returned to his fiancee and donated to the Salvation Army after her death. From there, it found its way into the attic of its current owner who remains anonymous.

The auction house says it took seven years to authenticate the violin. It will be on display at the Belfast City Hall, after which the violin will likely be auctioned. It's expected to fetch at least six figures.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "NEARER MY GOD TO THEE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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