RTÉ’s Lyric FM celebrates 20 years on the airwaves

Decision to hold celebrations in Dublin criticised by artists but defended on ‘cost grounds’

The RTÉ Lyric FM team celebrate 20 years on air at the station’s Limerick studio headquarters. Photograph: David Raleigh

The RTÉ Lyric FM team celebrate 20 years on air at the station’s Limerick studio headquarters. Photograph: David Raleigh

 

Twenty years ago, Limerick native and ex-2FM presenter Lorcan Murray broadcast from Cruises Street in Limerick to mark the opening of RTÉ’s Lyric FM, while crowds were kept back by barriers.

“Such was their enthusiasm. We were cleaned out of all our memorabilia on the opening day,” Murray recalled on Wednesday before he headed to Dublin to present his “Classic Drive”programme, temporarily relocated there for the day.

Despite Lyric’s base in Limerick, RTÉ decided to hold the station’s birthday celebrations in Dublin, including a performance on Wednesday night in the National Concert Hall by the National Symphony Orchestra.

The decision to hold the celebrations in Dublin, rather than Limerick has led to some criticism from the local arts and music world, but it was defended on “cost grounds” by the head of Lyric FM, Aodán Ó Dubhghaill.

It was, he said, important to have the 90-strong National Symphony Orchestra involved in the celebrations and to host the gathering in the National Concert Hall “because we are a national station”, he told The Irish Times.

Lyric FM presenter Lorcan Murray has said the presenters have a ‘close bond’ with their listeners. Photograph: David Raleigh
Lyric FM presenter Lorcan Murray has said the presenters have a ‘close bond’ with their listeners. Photograph: David Raleigh

Overnight and transport costs would have been significant in Limerick, he said. However, Limerick’s associations with the station will be marked by a choral concert there in December.

Having a national station for culture and music based in Limerick is “a great feather in the cap” for the Treaty city, argued Lorcan Murray, saying presenters have a “close bond” with listeners with a shared love of all things classical.

Saying that many staff are on first name terms with loyal listeners, Olga Buckley, a Lyric producer, remembered one listener, who shared with them the important stories in the lives of her grandchildren and children”.

“Subsequently and unfortunately, she became very ill, but she still communicated with the various presenters on the programmes that accompanied her through her treatment, through to her final days.”

“Her family wrote to us, and shared with us what her final day was like, and, the music that was playing on Lyric at that time,” said Buckley, saying the woman had been “a constant presence in our lives” since the station’s birth.

Her passing “really affected us all”, Buckley explained: “In fact, on that day, we all gathered in the canteen here, and raised a cheer of a cup of tea to her; it was a truly moving experience.”

Over the years, communication has moved from letters to email to social media, but, whatever the means, relationships have been forged between those on air, and those listening “in their homes, at work, or in their cars.

“The intimacy of the radio is what remains, regardless of any technological revolution. So, humanity wins out in the end,” Buckley concluded.

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