Queensland Symphony Orchestra 4MBS Festival of Classics

How community broadcasters have found their festival feet - 4MBS

Joshua Cole, 24th May 2023

In our previous installment of this series on how community broadcasters have risen to the task of organising music festivals we spoke to RTRFM's Simon Miraudo on In the Pines, a festival 30 years in the running which aims to provide an authentic and entertaining slate of performances by West Australian acts. 

The desire to create an authentic local music experience is shared by Gary Thorpe OAM, the General Manager of Brisbane fine music station 4MBS Classic FM and the Artistic Director of the 4MBS Festival of Classics, also taking place for the 30th time from 12 May to 11 June this year.  Mr Thorpe sees the festival as a "perfect extension” of the role of 4MBS as a community broadcaster – by engaging with audiences, recording concerts for broadcast and providing employment for local musicians, actors and directors. 

Having begun with the goal of providing employment and performance opportunities for local performers, the festival is now one of Australia’s largest classical music festivals and has maintained its focus on only engaging with artists that have a connection to Queensland. 

Keeping the festival relevant to audiences as well as performers is a challenge that 4MBS has responded to through innovation. The Festival of Classics has often adopted themes, such as a composer, period of music, or the music of a particular country; it also includes marathons, days featuring the works of just one composer. 

It also commissions new compositions, as well as theatrical works about composers, with this year to feature plays about Beethoven, Mahler and Wagner. 

To accommodate these changes to its program the Festival of Classics has grown dramatically, expanding from a weekend format to a series of performances spanning a month. 

“Thirty years ago, the first 4MBS Festival of Classics had 6 concerts over one weekend in 6 local venues. The 2023 Festival of Classics has 30 concerts in 30 days in 18 venues across Brisbane and South East Queensland with 10 symphony orchestras, two concert choirs, dozens of pianists and other soloists - more than 600 Queensland classical musicians in total.” 

How has the Festival of Classics managed to maintain that growth? According to Mr Thorpe it was no easy feat, relying partly on ongoing support from the Brisbane City Council and grants from Arts Queensland, and ultimately patrons with box office receipts greatly helping to cover costs. Despite this he is confident that the event will continue to thrive.

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets to Festival of Classics performances. 

In the last installment of this series we speak to Alice Springs station 8CCC about their soon-to-commence One Frequency Festival.

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