April, 1979

WMSP Program Guide April 79

This is the third in a series that began with Part 1 and Part 2.

Before I began searching through the boxes of saved letters and stuff, I’d have sworn that my volunteer career as a classical host on WMSP lasted nearly two years, but documents don’t lie. I didn’t get my Third Class License until March of 1979, and I didn’t go on the air until April at the earliest, and since my final broadcast was a year later, my actual span as a broadcaster was only a year at most. So much for my memory.

By a lucky chance the first opening that became available was for Tuesday Musical Offering which aired right after AJ’s Opera Showcase from 10:05 PM to the station sign-off at around 12:30 AM. There was a five minute break for the UPI news between AJ’s show and mine.

It was Ray Stine who was leaving, and he graciously stayed behind for a couple weeks to show me the ropes. I can’t remember exactly, but I think he did the show one week while I watched him, and I did it the following week while he was on hand in case I needed any help. He also offered some good advice. I think it was at Ray’s suggestion that I pick distinctive theme music for Tuesday Musical Offering. I ended up picking the orchestrated version of the first Mazurka from Borodin’s Petite Suite. I dubbed it onto one of the station’s cartridges, labeled it, and put it with the other carts. All I had to do was insert it into the appropriate slot at the right time and it would play the theme, then after a few seconds, I’d turn down the volume and begin the show.

In addition to Ray’s help, the station provided a booklet that outlined all the rules that had to be followed as well as all the nitty-gritty details of how to cue up records and tapes and run the controls. There were two turntables, so one could cue up the next selection while the current piece was playing. There wasn’t a lot to learn, just a few knobs here and there, and I picked it all up pretty quickly.

The most important thing I had to learn was shutting down the station for the night as I would be the last one there. There was a definite procedure that had to be followed, and the dials had to be watched as they wound down before the next switch could be turned. Again, it was simply a matter of learning 1-2-3. Then I’d lock up for the night, and once I exited the building, there was no turning back, as I didn’t have a key to get back in.

Meanwhile, sometime in March, George and I were talking.

“Oh, Jim,” he began, “I have two tickets for Sw—”

I didn’t let him finish.

Sweeny Todd!!!! Sondheim’s latest? Oh, can I have the extra ticket. Please, please, please!!!” 

OK, I probably didn’t actually say that. In any case George did offer me his extra ticket, probably because he knew I was Sondheim’s biggest fan in Harrisburg, and I eagerly accepted. The tickets were for Thursday April 26 (Sweeney had opened in NYC in early March) so I think I must have worked that morning at Channel, then taken off the afternoon and the following Friday.

George and I drove up in my blue Rabbit that Thursday afternoon, and we stayed with a friend of his in Jersey City. Of course I was blown away by the performance.

I think I must have driven back to Harrisburg the next day as I probably had to work on Saturday, but George stayed behind for a long weekend.

To be continued… 

Sweeney program and ticket stub

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