Howard Ainsworth

Vale Howard Laurie Ainsworth AM

Helen Henry, 16th September 2015

Gary Thorpe OAM, General Manager 4MBS Classic FM, Brisbane, pays tribute to the station's long-serving Broadcasts Manager Howard Ainsworth:

Howard Laurie Ainsworth AM
4MBS Classic FM Broadcasts Manager
19 October 1931 - 6 September 2015

Howard Ainsworth was the voice of classical music in Brisbane for 50 years. His broadcasting career began in 1963 when he became an announcer on ABC Radio in Brisbane. After leaving the ABC in 1991, he worked at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music for about two years as the Co-ordinator of Adult Education. During that time, he became a volunteer presenter for 4MBS Classic FM, Brisbane’s classical music community radio station. In 1993, Howard became the Broadcasts Manager of 4MBS Classic FM – a role that he filled for 23 years right up until his death aged 83 after a short battle with cancer.

His contribution to the cultural life of this state was immense and unmatched by any other broadcaster. His signature radio program, Music Lover’s Choice, was heard every Saturday morning for 40 years – at first on 4QG and for the last 23 years on 4MBS Classic FM. Howard’s guest on the program would select their favourite classical music and Howard would interview them about their life and the music they loved. Over the years guests included Governors General, Governors, Archbishops, Arts Ministers, musicians, authors, artists, scientists and people from many other walks of life. Some of the international classical musicians he interviewed included Dame Janet Baker, Yehudi Menuhin, Elizabeth Harwood, Jorge Bolet and Vladimir Ashkenazy. For lovers of classical music, Music Lover’s Choice was a Saturday morning institution. In recent years, due to popular demand, 4MBS Classic FM repeated the program on Sunday nights for those who missed the Saturday session.

His commitment to promoting local classical talent was second to none. Over the years, his other long running programs such as Music for Brisbane gave listeners information about thousands of classical events and included interviews with established as well as emerging musicians. His long career meant that he sometimes interviewed performers at the very beginning of their career and then many years later when they had made their mark either in Australia or overseas. His presence on the Brisbane classical scene provided a sense of continuity for many performers and listeners.

Howard’s first career was as a ship’s purser with the Adelaide Steamship Company travelling to ports around Australia. Later he travelled to London and began a career in insurance. On his return to Australia, he auditioned for the ABC and began his long career in broadcasting. A famous incident occurred when Howard was reading the ABC television news. A moth flew into his mouth and without skipping a beat he swallowed it and kept on reading the news.

Howard will also be remembered for his many Anzac Day march broadcasts for ABC TV. His commentary was always respectful and informative, only speaking when it was needed. He was also called on to compere Royal receptions for the Queen and Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Kent. All carried out with his trademark ease and relaxed professionalism.

After joining 4MBS Classic FM, he was able to put his love of travel to good use by leading many overseas tours for the station. He took groups to the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA. These always included classical concerts and operas by some of the greatest classical performers. He also hosted the annual 4MBS Classic Concerts Cruise for many years taking him back to his early seafaring career.

For a man who had interviewed so many great musicians, Howard admitted to a modest personal music achievement – he studied pipe organ and passed Grade 1. When he learned that in Grade 2 you had to use your feet as well as your hands he decided to call it a day.

Howard’s other great passion was cricket- he was a qualified cricket umpire. He had resisted getting a computer until it was pointed out to him that you could get the latest cricket results online.

Howard was awarded several honours during his career, including an AM in the Order of Australia for service to the media and communications industry as a radio broadcaster and television presenter, to the promotion of the performing arts, and to historical preservation organisations. He was also honoured with an Advance Australia Award. He was a member of the National Trust in Queensland for almost 30 years and a Life Member of the Friends of Newstead and one of the instigators of the Salon Musicales at Old Government House raising significant funds for the heritage cause.

Working six days a week at 4MBS Classic FM, on his ‘day off’ Howard would often present concerts for 4MBS Classic FM with his partner, soprano Kerry Vann and others. He was highly sought after to compere concerts and events for charitable causes. He might even officiate at a wedding, funeral or baby naming as a registered celebrant.

Tributes have flowed in from performers from around the world. They all remark on Howard’s commitment to classical music and to his support for their careers. Listeners have reflected on the huge part that Howard played in their appreciation of classical music – his broadcasts became part of their daily life. Howard’s funeral in a packed St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane was filled with magnificent performances by Brisbane’s musicians paying homage to the voice of classical music.

Howard summed up his life thus - ‘At 4MBS I am surrounded by what I love – great personal friends and classical music. There’s nothing like it – you have it all your life, it’s my hobby, it’s my work, I love it.’

Howard is survived by his partner Dr Kerry Vann, his children, Charles and Lindel and four grandchildren, Colin Daniel, Jessica and Martin.

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