Classic Mornings

Fitting Them All Into Your Radio


It was a traffic nightmare on the U of I campus, unlike any you might imagine! But it was only in my imagining that it occurred. 

I pictured ever-arriving airport shuttles and semis transporting musicians and equipment to the studios of Illinois Public Media. Radio orchestras from around the world had come to help us celebrate the 100th anniversary of WILL!

To be honest, it would be impossible to accommodate something like that. So, I scaled back my fantasizing and saw the production crew of Classic Mornings on their phones and computers, assisting orchestras in performing live from their studios to our airwaves.

OK, even that would have been a tall order. Can you imagine the musicians from all those ensembles agreeing to come together to play a single selection, even in tribute to another public broadcaster? Besides, I’m a program staff of one, even though I’ve been known to say – usually on Friday afternoons – that everything gets done by a team of elves that I’ve never seen.

In short, I had to rely on the “magic” of radio to make it possible for us to have classical music tributes to WILL Radio from international broadcast orchestras on our 100th anniversary (April 6, 2022). But that meant that I could include legendary orchestras of the past as well.

When it was over, it was exciting to learn that the Friends of WILL Library could have accommodated that “radio magic” for days and days, if not weeks and weeks. It also was impressive to realize that WILL began operations even before some of the largest international public broadcasters and their orchestras were established.

And what a lineup! While news and information listeners have long enjoyed programs from the BBC, which formed in 1922 as well – in October of that year, we heard from two of the BBC’s five orchestras: the BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic. The others are the BBC Symphony, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

We had the chance to celebrate with a number of German radio orchestras, or at least from the studios of broadcasters like Deutschland Radio in Köln (Cologne). There’s a lot of music making that goes on in that city, just as there is in Berlin. In fact, we were able to enjoy a performance with an orchestra that was in existence during the years of the divided Berlin: the RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) Symphony.  Bavarian Radio (Bayerische Rundfunk), based in Munich, was founded six or seven days before WILL in 1922, though it didn’t begin broadcasting until 1924. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra came along in 1949. We heard from that orchestra and the North German Radio (NDR) Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg, which began in 1945. Today it’s known as the NDR Elbphilharmonie.

Radio in the Netherlands originated in 1919, when a ham radio operator named Hans Idzerda, based in The Hague, was sending out programs. He managed to reach the UK. So, he’s credited with the first international broadcast. He’s remembered for being a radio pioneer, having broadcast concerts as well. In 1923, the first national broadcast station in Holland was established in Hilversum.

Do you know the oldest radio orchestra in the world? It’s the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, which formed right along with Danish Radio on April 1,1925. We heard from that orchestra as well as the one remaining radio orchestra in North America: the National Broadcast Orchestra of Canada, based in Vancouver and once a part of the CBC, as were other orchestras

The Swedish Radio Symphony was featured on the program. And we heard a 1939 live broadcast by the Helsinki Grand Radio Orchestra (known today as the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra) with Jean Sibelius conducting his Andante festivo as a radio greeting to the New York World’s Fair. Introducing the performance, the announcer, speaking in English, expressed the hope that the fair would shine as the beacon light to mark a new era, in which nations would live “banded together in the inspiring course of amity, better international understanding and peace.”

There was a performance from the studios of Swiss Radio, which traces its roots to an aircraft radio station that was operating before 1922. A national broadcast system began in 1931 – in 4 languages: French, German, Italian, and Romantsch, which is spoken in the Swiss canton Grisons.

Yes, they and others were here with us. So were you. It’s because of your support that we even had a centennial celebration! 

If you haven’t had a chance to be a part of that support, our spring fund drive, in honor of the WILL centennial, takes place next Monday through Wednesday. You don’t have to wait until then. You may call 217-244-9455 now or contribute online at Thank you!