Hooked on Classics: What started as a niche market is still tracking after 45 years

For the past 45 years 4MBS Classic FM has been integral to Queensland’s cultural life – fine music for our ears worth celebrating all year long

Jan 25, 2024, updated Jan 25, 2024
4MBS Classic FM general manager Gary Thorpe will celebrate 45 years with the station on March 1, when the radio station also celebrates its 45th anniversary.

4MBS Classic FM general manager Gary Thorpe will celebrate 45 years with the station on March 1, when the radio station also celebrates its 45th anniversary.

When Brisbane’s classical music FM station first went to air on March 1, 1979, it was the beginning of more than four decades serving music lovers.

This year 4MBS Classic FM celebrates its 45th anniversary. While March 1 is the anniversary, this cultural treasure will be celebrated throughout 2024. 4MBS was the second FM radio station in Brisbane. The first was 4ZZZ and we love it too!

In its 45 years,4MBS Classic FM has won more than 20 awards for its broadcasts, festivals and support of local composers and performers.

In fact, 4MBS Classic FM is the only classical music station in Australia to be named Radio Station of the Year (2004) by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. It is also the only classical music station to be awarded the highest honour in community broadcasting – the Tony Staley Award (2017). If you didn’t know, Tony Staley was a former minister for communications.

General manager Gary Thorpe, a passionate advocate for the arts who has been with 4MBS since its inception, says the station will celebrate 45 years on air with a four-day radiothon over the first two weekends in March.

“It will feature performances of some of the brilliant Queensland musicians that the station has broadcast over the past 45 years and special guest appearances of current Queensland talent,” Thorpe says. He’s proud of the station’s achievements and its string of firsts.

“In the 1980s 4MBS created the first classical music drivetime program on Australian radio,” Thorpe says. “Drivetime Classics is still on the air from 4pm to 6pm Monday to Friday. The station is now regarded as one of the most innovative classical music stations in Australia and has also been recognised overseas.

“One of the things that sets 4MBS apart from other classical stations, indeed any radio station, is its festivals,” Thorpe says.

“The 4MBS Festival of Classics has been produced by 4MBS for 30 years and is a platform for Queensland performers and is the largest classical music festival in Australia.

“The other festival is the 4MBS Brisbane Shakespeare Festival, now in its 18th year. It presents fully staged productions of Shakespeare’s plays in the Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre. The festival provides opportunities for Queensland actors, directors, costume designers and arts workers to work on some of the greatest plays ever written.

“The importance of our support for Queensland talent has been recognised with many awards and grateful performers who have gone on to national and international careers, including international soprano Jessica Pratt, head of music for Opera Australia Tahu Matheson and actor/director/writer Tama Matheson, now based in Europe.

“4MBS Classic FM is the only radio station in Australia to operate a theatre company – Classic Arts – which commissions and produces plays about composers as well as other theatrical works. 4MBS toured their Queensland production of  Amadeus to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Wollongong and Hobart, the first time a radio station had toured a play. The production won a Matilda Award.”

At one stage, three key 4MBS people had Order of Australia awards for their service to broadcasting – former broadcasts manager Howard Ainsworth AM, former long-serving board chair Bill Yarrow AO and current general manager Gary Thorpe OAM.

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4MBS operates two other stations – the digital station MBS Light and the nostalgia station Silver Memories.

Arguably Brisbane’s most famous classical music export, London-based pianist Piers Lane, says “4MBS is a legend in the Brisbane, Queensland and Australian classical music fraternity”.

“Everybody knows of the tireless, inspired, creative, generous and challenging work the whole station has sustained over 45 years, with extraordinary volunteers and other staff constantly giving of their time and energy,” Lane says.

“Hats off and huge congratulations on their forthcoming milestone birthday, along with heartfelt thanks from me, and on behalf of a generation and more of artists and listeners whose lives and opportunities have been so enriched by your flow of ideas and sheer determination and hard, loving work.”

4MBS has planned a full year of celebrations, including the Festival of Classics and Shakespeare Festival and several student music competitions as well as special broadcasts of concerts recorded over the past 45 years of Queensland performers.

4MBS patron and the Governor of Queensland Dr Jeannette Young will host a reception at Government House in March to mark the 45th anniversary of 4MBS Classic FM.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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