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Titanic and Carnegie Hall: The Night of the Sinking

This week, to mark the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the resulting loss of more than 1,500 lives, we will post a short series devoted to the close Carnegie Hall connections with the tragic event on April 15, 1912.

We begin with what was happening in the Hall at the time the Titanic sank 100 years ago.

The Scene: Carnegie Hall, April 14, 1912. Time: 9:40 PM

At 9:40 PM on April 14, 1912, the much-beloved Irish tenor John McCormack was probably wrapping up his encores, bringing his only Carnegie Hall recital of that concert season to a close before throngs of admirers that filled every seat in the house, overflowing into seats on the stage. Neither McCormack nor anybody in the audience could have known that at that moment less than 1,000 miles away, the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic was striking the iceberg that would send her—along with more than 1,500 souls—to the bottom of the North Atlantic two hours and 40 minutes later.

Among those fated to perish was McCormack's close friend, Major Archibald Butt, the military aide to President Taft. They had met by chance several years previously in Washington, when Taft sent Butt to deliver an invitation for McCormack to join him for lunch. According to McCormack, the two became "intimate friends," meeting for lunch at the Waldorf=Astoria each time Butt happened to be in New York.

He later recalled that at their last meeting in early 1912, Butt remarked with unconscious irony, "It's peculiar, John, how friendships grow out of chance meetings; I believe we shall be friends all our lives."

"His death," said McCormack, "was a shock from which I did not soon recover."

The great tenor—who was performing at Carnegie Hall that night for only the second time in his career—went on to perform here almost 50 more times before his death in 1945.

John McCormackArchibald Butt
John McCormack and Major Archibald Butt

Related: Hall History

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