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“I Love This Life”: Cellist Roger Bricoux

"I Love This Life": Cellist Roger Bricoux

Roger Bricoux was an exceptional cellist. He had been educated at the famed Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna in Italy for three years, and in that time was awarded for his talents. Roger then moved on to Le Conservatoire de Paris.

All of that, and he was just 20 years old.

Roger Bricoux.


Roger hailed from an artistic family. His father Leon was an acclaimed horn player who, in 1883, had secured First Horn in the resident band that played at the casino in Monte Carlo. Leon's father and uncle were both artists as well.

So Roger was raised there, in glamorous Monaco. He was Leon's third of four sons, but the first to survive. In fact, Roger's mother was three months pregnant with Roger when his older brother had suddenly died. Roger's younger brother, who was nicknamed Lolo, also survived childhood.

By all accounts, young Roger was extraordinarily close with his family, which we can see in his surviving letters to both his parents and Lolo.

Having completed his studies in Paris in 1910, Roger evidently came to the attention of C.W. & F.N. Black, a company that booked talent for various organizations. He made his way to Leeds, England, to work in the Grand Central Hotel orchestra.

Roger arrived in England ready to hit the ground running, although he knew little to no English. It was reported that he was jovial and "possessed many friends among the musicians of Leeds," and he was described as a "handsome young fellow, although his gait was somewhat married by a limp, the result of an injury due to a motor bicycle accident."

Roger took to learning English very quickly, and attended to his job. Not much is discoverable, however, in the way of details about Roger's stint in Leeds, although his overall schedule can be inferred from those of other contracted hotel musicians. He would have had to perform in at least two sessions per day, and report to a variety of special events as necessary. It was a life of late nights and low pay.

Roger was keen to prove himself self-sufficient to his father, who knew the lifestyle all too well. It was also point of pride in particular for Roger, that he did not have to offer music lessons to pay his way through life.

It's also reasonable to assume that he explored the area and traveled during his down-time. Roger wrote with excitement to Lolo about making a visit to London for his 18th birthday.


Dear Lolo,

Father wrote to tell me that you're coming to London. I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you that if you want to come to see me that would give me such pleasure that I will put you up, feed you, and pay for your journey to London and back so it would cost you nothing apart from the effort but I think you know you'll have some fun too.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

Once his contract in Leeds was up, Roger moved to Lille, France, and lined up some gigs, particularly at bars with bohemian vibes.

On December 30, 1911, he wrote home to his beloved parents from his lodging in Lille.

My Dear Parents,

As it is New Year I am writing to you as I have done in previous years to wish you a good and happy year, good health and as few cares as possible because I know you have some but believe me when I say that I do not have any. You would be right to say, “You’ll see when you earn your living” and I do see and it’s hard. But it seems to me that I m unburdening myself of a huge weight because I love you very much. I have many faults perhaps but don’t think that I do not think about you often.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

It turns out that Roger had been back in touch with C.W. & F.N. Black, and shortly thereafter was offered a trial period as a ship’s musician. Uncharacteristically, Roger didn’t write his parents to inform them until he was already on board. When he did, he said he left Lille to return to England, and received the contract.

Roger played on Carpathia—the ship that was destined to rescue Titanic survivors—with a pianist named Theodore Brailey, who he would also work with on Titanic.

Roger wrote excitedly to his parents from Gibraltar on March 18 about his newest assignment. And in that same letter, he divulged his uncertainty about his personal life.

I love this life but I would happily be with you. As for getting married, I will never marry unless it’s to a girl with money because my tastes… I only want to “love in silk” or at least “a comfortable home,” not living in attics with the fear of not eating the next day. Ambition?  Perhaps. And why not? Something tells me that it is necessary if one is to succeed.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

Roger may not have planned to get married, but rumor is that he may have inadvertently had a child.

On March 5, 1912, a domestic servant named Adelaide, who was 18 years old and residing in Staffordshire, had given birth to a daughter whose father was conveniently left off of her birth certificate.

The father, Adelaide told her family, was a cellist who was about to set sail on the Titanic.

Roger did not mention anything even alluding to Adelaide in his letters to his family, although he did mention some “bad behavior” in passing… but then, as we know, he was extremely close with them and appears to have been very forthcoming about his circumstances.

For what it’s worth, Adelaide’s daughter did bear a strong resemblance to Roger as she grew up.

Regardless, Roger met up with again the pianist Brailey on April 2, 1912, in advance of Titanic's departure. This is also the day that he met Wallace Hartley, his bandmaster, for the first time.

Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley.


All the members of the Titanic orchestra boarded as Second-Class passengers, with a universal ticket number of 250654 issued to each of them.

After being acquainted, or in some cases, reunited, the musicians would have reviewed their placements as assigned by bandmaster Wallace Hartley.

The two units had different repertoires, though all eight men would have been in possession of the White Star music book, which contained 352 pieces they were obligated to know by heart. Every First-Class passenger was also provided a copy of the book, so if someone requested a tune--almost any tune--they had to be able to play it.

Despite this, we know very little about what selections the two units actually made during the voyage. Eyewitness accounts attest to classical, of course, but also to songs that were popular in America and the United Kingdom.

Ragtime was mentioned often, as well as waltzes, fox trots, operatic pieces, and show tunes. Ragtime, in particular, was a bold choice, as it was considered salacious.

Roger played in the cello-violin-piano trio that played in the B Deck Reception Area, lending a cosmopolitan ambience to the A La Carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien; it consisted of himself, Mr. Brailey, and violinist George Krins.

Despite these official designations, there are multiple reports of a quartet in both the First and Second Classes, which was apparently led by an additional and very lively violinist who loved to play a good "Scotch tune." Some speculate that this impromptu bandleader was 21-year-old Scotsman Jock Hume.

Cafe Parisien on R.M.S. Titanic, in which vicinity Roger's trio would have played. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


No member of the orchestra survived the sinking.

They are renowned and immortalized in (what is understood to have been) their final act of valor: playing "Nearer, My God, to Thee" on the boat deck until--as most accounts have it--the water reached their knees.

Titanic's orchestra, as published by the Amalgamated Musicians Union in 1912. Roger's photo is in the upper right corner.


Corpses of three of the eight band members were recovered by the Mackay-Bennett.

Roger's was not among them.

The families of the five lost members were uniquely agonized. They could not bury their sons. They were forever left with questions about their boys' final moments, what exactly had happened to each of them after the last note was played.

Leon Bricoux wrote to C.W. & F.N. Black hoping to ascertain any possible details about Roger. The company wrote back that, sadly, Roger's body had not been recovered.

They went on, stating that if it were to be recovered, Leon would be required to pay 500 francs for an embalming in New York City. His son's remains would be then be shipped back, of course, but only to Liverpool or Southampton. Leon would have to find his own way to England, and then would have to transport the corpse back to France out-of-pocket.

Along with the letter, Leon found a postal order paid to the amount of 19 shillings.

It was Roger's pay for his five fated days on Titanic.

In 1914, France called its sons up to serve in World War I. When Roger Bricoux didn't respond, he was labeled as a deserter.

He would not be considered officially deceased by the French government until 2000.


Turner, Steve. "The Band That Played On." Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2011.

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