Looking Back


At 10.30 am on 1 March 1979, 4MBS ClassicFM commenced broadcasting with Michael Toohey introducing the Ode to St Cecila by Purcell - St Cecila being the Patron Saint of music. A new chapter in Brisbane's broadcasting history had begun.

Resources were scarce and many pieces of equipment were made by the volunteers or obtained second hand. Financial support from the Department of Cultural Activities of the State Government, the 31st Australian Jazz Convention and the Utah Foundation had helped obtain vital equipment to get the station on the air.

We rented a small area under Block A at the Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education (now QUT) Kelvin Grove Campus.

Studio equipment was a console, two turntables and a tape recorder. We had a small library of several hundred LPs and a couple of typewriters. An early windfall was a large collection of LPs loaned to the station.

The first station manager, Paul Seto, and the dedicated team of volunteers who made up the station's Board (under the chairmanship of Bill Duncan) and workforce, performed minor miracles in those first weeks, setting the groundwork for the future success of 4MBS ClassicFM.

There were the usual concerns that come with any fledgling operation - lack of money, scarcity of equipment, little outside awareness or recognition, to name just a few, but there was always plenty of enthusiasm and a strong love of music. This helped us get through the first years as we slowly but surely developed our place in the musical life of Brisbane.

Committees met, new volunteers were trained, fundraising events were planned and carried out and word started to spread amongst music lovers. Subscriber numbers slowly but steadily crept upwards.

4MBS saw the need to encourage young musicians and introduced student music prizes at three tertiary institutions - the University of Queensland, Queensland Conservatorium (Griffith University) and Queensland University of Technology.

From the start there was a strong committment to local performers. A Concert Recoding Team was set up and recorded many musicians in the early 1980s who have since become established internationally. Recordings were made on very large and heavy reel to reel tape recorders which were carried to venues throughout Brisbane. Then we went to videotape, then to DAT and CD, and hard drives. Up to 10 volunteers are now actively involved in the 4MBS Concert Recording Team which is sponsored by Hitachi Data Systems. About 120 concerts are recorded each year - an amazing effort by the hard working team of volunteers. Recently David Helfgott released a CD using 4MBS Recordings.

By 1993 4MBS had outgrown its Kelvin Grove premises and, with the help of a Capital Cultural subsidy from the Queensland government, purchased a large house in Coorparoo. The then Premier of Queensland, Wayne Goss, helped us secure a full dollar for dollar subsidy. Several businesses contributed material for the construction of two spacious studios. The new facility was officially opened by Premier Goss in 1994.

After six years or so a 70 seat Performance Studio was built and a larger music library was constructed to cater for more volunteer programmers. There were also developments happening at our transmitter site Mt Coot-tha. After about seven years of meetings and negotiations a new, taller tower and larger transmitter building were constructed.

In 1994, encouraged by a small grant of $2500 from the Brisbane City Council, 4MBS decided to present a festival which featured local classical musicians. Six concerts were held in the Coorparoo area in one weekend. Since then, the annual 4MBS Festival of Classics has grown to a ten day event with more than 20 concerts plus films, plays and music appreciation classes - all related to classical music. It is now the largest annual classical music event in Australia!

The Brisbane City Council's financial support has been instrumental in helping the Festival grow and achieve its aim of highlighting our superb local musicians. In recent years, Arts Quensland has supported the Youth program of the Festival, helping 4MBS to develop programs that appeal to a younger audience.

The annual 4MBS Festival of Classics - with over 500 local performers in choirs, orchestras, ensembles and soloists - is unique. It is the largest event of its type in Australia and is a tangible example of 4MBS ClassicFM's practical support of Queensland talent.

Another example of this commitment to local talent is the annual Musician -in- Residence scheme which has been operating since 1989. Until 200, 4MBS Classic was the only radio station in Australia with such a scheme. A local ensemble or musician is selected to be the 4MBS Musician-in-Residence. The station provides promotion, a rehearsal facility, concert opportunities and other assistance throughout the year. 4 MBS Musicians-in-Residence have included the Queensland Youth Orchestra,the Queensland Choir, Kevin Power, Tahu Matheson, Queensland Wind Soloists, the Fyra Quartet, the Southern Cross soloists and many more.

For many years 4MBS's only program for young people was Children's Corner. In recent years, the station has expanded its work with young people through Kids Classics, Youngspace, and Music L Plates. There is now a Kids Classics section of the 4MBS website, Kids Classic Radio Courses in the 4MBS Summer School and a Youth Coordinator for the annual 4MBS Festival of Classics. It's one of the reasons that 4MBS continues to be a vibrant organisation - we don't see age as a barrier to the enjoyment of great music!

Some of the most popular classical music programs on radio have found a home on 4MBS Classic FM. We are delighted to bring Howard Ainsworth's Music Lover's Choice back after its long run on the ABC and it remains a highlight of the week's listening. Kark Haas' Adventures in Good Music, heard on about 600 radio stations around the world, was secured by 4MBS and is also broadcast via satellite to stations in every State and territory of Australia.

Jazz has been a part of 4MBS ClassicFM's programming from the start. We still broadcast more jazz than the ABC's fine music service. A very popular addition to our weekday lineup has been The Village Music Hour with its popular hosts - Ray Watson, Marvin Crawford, Michael Keating & John Carrier - presenting a mix of light classics, musicals and nostalgia.

We are constantly developing aspects of the station that will take us forward - the 4MBS Ticketing service, 4MBS Classic Management and the innovative use of our website to educate and entertain as well as informing people around the world about great music.

All of this has happened because a small number of music lovers in the 1970's decided that Brisbane needed its own fine music radio station.

Today, you can tune in to fine music at 103.7 on the FM band any time of the day or night or participate in a wide range of related activities including music appreciation courses, the 4MBS Festival of Classic, the 4MBS Summer School, music tours, book tickets for concerts through 4MBS Ticketing or hire a string quartet through 4MBS Classic Management. All this is a testament to the beliefs of those dedicated music lovers that Brisbane would support its own fine music radio station.

Gary Thorpe
General Manager

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