Joe’s Journal

Classical music radio returns

Posted:  Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 10:30am

The hard rock sounds of WTOS radio were just a fleeting memory last Thursday when Radio Boothbay, aka WBQA (96.7 FM) went on the air.

It was a moment when snarling guitar riffs gave way to the soothing romantic piano sounds of “Clair de Lune.”

Let’s give a warm welcome as Maine Public Radio delivers classical music radio back to the estimated 350,000 listeners in Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport, Edgecomb, Wiscasset, Westport Island, Popham, Newcastle, Damariscotta, South Bristol, Waldoboro, Rockland, Camden, Brunswick and the rest of the Midcoast.

Of course, they opened on “Super Thursday,” one of their quarterly one-day fundraising efforts made famous by the state PBS outlet.

As if on cue, Mark Vogelzang, the Maine Public CEO, suggested that listeners of the new station might pledge $96.70 to help the fundraising drive along. That is the way of the world in PBS land.

If you put your hook in the water, you just might catch a fish, and Vogelzang’s off-the-cuff remark (at least he claims it was a spur of the moment idea) paid off as a couple of dozen listeners took the bait and pledged $96.70. One even kicked in $967.00. Overall, the goal of the combined efforts of the seven news/talk and six classical music radio stations of MPBN network was $205,000. The drive picked up about 2,000 pledges that should bring in around $230,000. Not bad for a day’s work in public radio land.

The biggest reason for their fundraising success has a lot to do with the nation’s current political climate, Vogelzang said in a phone interview.

“The public cares deeply about quality journalism in a time when the government wants to silence the free press and journalism. The people stepped up and told us these things are important,” he said.

Let me add a big “amen” to that statement.

MPBN purchased the sixth Maine Public classical station for $550,000 with the help of a donor who kicked in $100,000. It is designed to cover most of the state, bring classical music, opera, and jazz to more than 850,000 listeners.

In our Midcoast area, we have about 350,000 potential listeners from Brunswick to Rockland, from Augusta to the islands. The new Boothbay Harbor-based station will broadcast from a 427-foot high tower located just off the west side of U.S. 1 in Newcastle.

Classical music lovers will remember that MPBN stations used to carry their classical music favorites, including a Saturday afternoon grand opera broadcast. That ended in May 2016 when the network pulled the plug on classical music and switched to a format embracing talk, news and public affairs shows. Then the public radio network began to acquire the six stations that now make up the Maine Public classical network.

The effort that split off the talk and music arms of their programming has proved successful. Vogelzang said Maine Public Radio is now one of the top stations in the state. Leading the way is “Morning Edition,” the network’s top-rated program followed by Saturday morning’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

The network, and, I bet the whole National Public Radio system, is still trying to make up for the loss of the popular “Car Talk,” auto repair question and answer show hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the auto wizards who called themselves“Click and Clack,” the Tappet Brothers.

When MPBN sidelined classical music, it left a void which was compounded when the only other classical music venue, WBACH, went off the air last February. In a surprise move, classical music fans were shoved out in the cold as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Piazzolla were benched in favor of Faith Hill and Travis Tritt and the other “hat” acts.

Early Bird – don’t miss it

Raid the cookie jar, grab the secret stash of cash in the sock drawer, polish up your credit cards and grab your jammies.

The annual Boothbay Harbor Early Bird sale is scheduled for Saturday.

Sure, it is a corny promotion designed to help our local merchants kick-start the Christmas buying season. But, it is a good idea for us all.

Think about it for a moment. All over the nation, retail freestanding stores are scrambling for dollars as Amazon and the rest of the online shopping services eat into their market. Some of our locals are selling their products on the internet, but some others are struggling as they put up a good battle to attract the shopping dollars from our local and visiting friends.

So, if you are beginning your Christmas shopping, and why not, stop down to the harbor on Saturday.

And, while you are at it, why not buy a yearly subscription to our favorite newspapers. For local friends, and those “from away,” it is the best way to keep in touch with our little corner of the world.