There’s something magical about 2MBS Fine Music Sydney according to the Hon. Margaret Beazley, Governor of NSW. “It was real magic to have the boldness to run a radio station exclusively with
volunteers. You have changed the shape of music in this State.”

Governor and her husband Dennis Wilson threw open Government House and welcomed some 100 or so guests to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 2MBS, which began broadcasting in 1974 and was the very first FM radio station in Australia.

After a generous welcome and an impressive Welcome to Country delivered partly in the Gadigal language by Her Excellency, the guests were entertained by a recital from the station’s Artists in Residence, Outback Brass. A quintet made up of trumpet, cornet, trombone, horn and tuba, Outback Brass was formed in 2018 to share and perform top level Australian music far and wide, including remote areas of Australia. To this end, most of the quintet’s repertoire was by home-grown Aussie composers.

The assembled guests were then invited to give a hand to those original founders of the station who are still with us today, all but one not surprisingly in their later years. Senior among them was Max Benyon, now in his 90s, who designed and maintained the station’s transmitters. Max has only recently retired from 2MBS and moved to Canberra. Then there was Graham Wilson, a man with an obsession for radio technology who developed A Magical Evening: Fine Music turns 50 by Michael Morton-Evans the technical backbone of the station and served on its board of directors. “We must move on. There’s far too much back-to-back Mozart,” he was once heard to remark, and move on the station did.

Charles Barton was next, the go-to man for just about everything. A chemistry student at university at the time, Charles was the station’s first Mr Fix-It. And of course there was the station’s first Manager, David James, who threw up everything on a wing and a prayer to be part of what on the face of it was a foolhardy venture, and whose first job was cruising Parramatta Road looking for a suitable second-hand caravan to use as a studio.

The Rev. Howard Cocks was also there, along with technical guru John Xuereb and long-time supporter Leona Geeves. Last, but far from least, was the station’s first Director of Programs, Phil Scott. “It was my first job out of University, wrangled for me by my mentor Peter Sculthorpe,” he says. “I was not the top student in my music class at Sydney Uni, but I had a (deserved) reputation for knowing a wider range of music than any of the others.” We all know him better these days as the piano playing star of the annual Wharf Revues.

Continuity is a long tradition at 2MBS and when we were reminded that it was the then Premier of NSW Tom Lewis, and the Leader of the Opposition, Neville Wran, who officially declared 2MBS open for business, Neville’s widow, Jill was sitting beside me. She now broadcasts regularly as Jill Hickson. It only goes to prove that 2MBS Fine Music Sydney is truly a family affair. Now that’s magical!

by Michael Morton-Evans