Radio legend Ron Della Chiesa brings the swing to Raffael’s February 15.
|Ron Della Chiesa (left) with fellow Boston music legend Fred Taylor|
In the world of popular music, there are a few legends who are instantly recognizable and who always seemed to have a party going on around them.
One of these was, of course, Frank Sinatra. Not only could he be known by his first or last name alone, but millions of fans refer to him simply as “The Voice.” Whether in New York or Vegas, Sinatra was always the center of attention and always gave full attention to whomever he was with at the time.
In the world of Boston radio, we have our own “Voice.” Ron Della Chiesa has been a staple on the stereo for over 50 years – first at WBUR and WBCN and still today on both WGBH (where he is “the voice” of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and WPLM (where he has hosted his weekly show “Strictly Sinatra” show for over 16 years). While his gig at Symphony Hall has allowed him to expand upon his already encyclopedic knowledge of and passion for Classical music and Opera (and also Jazz), it is perhaps as the host of the Sinatra show that Della Chiesa has made the most stir.
On February 15, Ron will stir it up again as he brings his popular Sinatra-themed concerts to Raffael’s at the South Shore Country Club in Hingham.
“It’s a swinging evening of great live dance music,” Della Chiesa says. “Our singers and bands always play the music of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and Big Band Classics.”
The live show has been a popular staple on the scene for over 10 years. What makes this show extra special, however, is that it will also mark Della Chiesa’s 75th birthday!
“It's different for me because birthdays always mark their time,” explains Della Chiesa, who recently took up boxing at Gold’s Gym in South Boston. “For me it's the music.”
While Della Chiesa clearly loves the music and looks forward to every broadcast, he says that the sounds and sights of people singing along and dancing to their favorite popular tunes add a great new aspect to the music. “I love seeing the audience and the interaction,” he beams. “I never get that in a studio!”
As for how and when his own love of music came about, Della Chiesa admits that he never considered himself a musician, but explains that, as a “youngster,” he played trumpet in school and spent many afternoons at Symphony Hall listening to the BSO.
“My father had a huge collection of opera recordings,” he recalls, “and I became fascinated with the music of Puccini, Verdi and Rossini. I also began to explore the Jazz world visiting the clubs, and building my record collection of Jazz, Classical, and Opera.”
Though he is now most closely identified with Frank, Della Chiesa also explains that his first “favorite” artists were actually the great tenor Enrico Caruso and the legendary horn player and Jazz entrepreneur Louis Armstrong. “Caruso…was responsible for creating the recording industry,” Della Chiesa suggests, “and Armstrong just about invented Jazz.”
As he loves both genres, it may be no surprise that, though many fans see Ron around Symphony Hall these days, his first radio show was actually a Jazz show. “I host my first show at WBUR in 1958,” he recalls. “It was called ‘The Sound of Jazz.’”
These days, Della Chiesa still splits his sonic schedule between Opera, Classical and Jazz.
“I listen to Opera every day and have attended hundreds of performances,” he says. “To me it's the ultimate art form, combining great voices, drama, history, dance and live theatre. I enjoy jazz because of its link to the great American Songbook. Improvisation makes every performance different, no two [are] the same.”
With all of his musical knowledge and all of the artists he has heard and gotten to know, Della Chiesa says that Sinatra still stands out. “He made each and every lyric he sang come to life,” Della Chiesa says, “and changed forever the way singers expressed themselves….He reinvented the art of singing.”
Clearly, Sinatra’s legacy and fame endure, which is why so many of Della Chiesa’s live events sell out. That is why he is already looking forward to the next event on May 3. On May 24th, Della Chiesa will also be hosting a seven-day cruise to Bermuda, during which some of his favorite Boston-based vocalists will perform and pay tribute o the music of Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the rest of the “Rat Pack.”
While he is looking forward to both of these events, Della Chiesa sees them as short-term goals. When asked what he plans to do with his next 75 years, however, he smiles and assures his fans that, “If I'm here, I'll still be doing ’Strictly Sinatra,’ the dance parties and our cruises.”
That is why there is always a party around Ron Della Chiesa and why he remains The Voice of Boston radio.