“I rediscovered my past here on Nantasket Beach.”
HULL – As a young boy growing up in Quincy, Ron Della Chiesa was smitten with the world of opera and radio. A fixture of his childhood, he was captivated by the live radio broadcasts from New York’s Metropolitan Opera. His passion for the music and fascination with the medium has followed him ever since.
A household name in New England homes for more than 50 years, Della Chiesa’s commentary has been a familiar, soothing balm, adding color to performances broadcast live from Boston’s Symphony Hall and Tanglewood. His popular Strictly Sinatra and Music America radio show continues to attract a huge and diverse audience, keeping the classics of the American Song Book alive. He followed his heart and it brought him to places he envisioned as a child.
Another passion bloomed within Della Chiesa at a much earlier age, as he recollects in his memoir, Radio My Way.
“Every now and then I used to just get in my car and drive, without any destination in mind. Actually, that’s a lie. I may have taken the scenic route, stopping for this or that along the way, but my heart knew where I was headed if my brain didn’t.
I would sit in my car, eyes closed, and it was if I’d turned the clock back half a century . . .Something about Nantasket Beach in Hull always drew me back. I guess the curse of a great childhood is that you wouldn’t mind reliving it; in fact you seek it.”
A photo accompanies this passage in his book depicting a six-month-old Della Chiesa sitting directly on the sand of Nantasket Beach with the boardwalk and giant coaster of Paragon Park behind him. The year was 1939. A memory he says, he still remembers.
In 2007 Della Chiesa and his wife, Joyce, were taking a walk along the Nantasket Beach boardwalk on a bitterly cold winter day when they came across a “condo for sale” sign, with a photo of the building situated on top of Atlantic Hill, on the very site of the original Atlantic Hotel where Caruso once performed. With this realization, Della Chiesa says, “My heart skipped a beat.”
“I rediscovered my roots here ten years ago…the beach, the carousel, the public library…they were part of my story. We bought the first condo we looked at,” he says.
Now they split their time between their large Victorian in Dorchester and their multi-level modern condo in Hull with commanding views of the ocean. Modern technology allows Della Chiesa to broadcast from a studio here in where he keeps an eye on the beach action and ships at sea as he works.
A conversation with “Radio Ron DC” almost always includes the subject of classical music and opera. A recent afternoon with him was no exception. While enjoying the views beyond the vaulted glass walls of his condo, we frequently comment on the pieces playing softly in the background from his radio tuned to Boston’s classical station, 99.5 WCRB. The broadcast was often punctuated with Della Chiesa’s own voice doing a promo for an event or introducing a piece of music.
Della Chiesas’s passion for music is contagious and his ability to recognize beauty in all things amazing. Classical music, he, notes, stands up to the test of time. “Puccini, Verdi, Beethoven, why has this music been around for hundreds of years? Greatness lasts through the ages, ” he asserts.
He also believes that music is therapeutic, especially in troubled times. “In many ways, I feel that good music is the greatest drug of all. It relieves stress and can bring you to a higher spiritual level. There would be much less road rage if drivers listened to great music. And it’s OK to pull off the road, get lost in a piece of music and let your emotions take over.”
As we conversed, Joyce Della Chiesa joined us at the table, smart phone in hand, finalizing menu selections for a dinner party she was overseeing at the Harvard Club in a few days.
“Radio Ron” refers to his world-class chef wife as his soul mate. When they met she was owner of The Turtle Cafe in Inman Square, Cambridge. A cook book collector and Italian cooking and baking instructor, she rules the kitchen in both homes. “I always tell him, you’re a lucky man, Della Chiesa!” she jokes.
The Della Chiesas are always on the go, and not just the 40 minute jaunt between homes. The Boston Symphony summer schedule has them driving out to Tanglewood in Lenox for a few days each week, then in the spring and fall to Symphony Hall. Personal travel is a big part of their lives as they have a two week trip to Italy scheduled for the fall and other domestic travel planned around that. They also fit in lots of concert, theatre, dinner and movie dates, book signings and lectures, and many fundraising events. And then there are the popular Frank Sinatra Tribute dances held regularly at the South Shore Country Club. The next dance, the Frank Sinatra Summer Wind Dance Party, is scheduled for Friday, June 2. The shows feature Sinatra impersonator Michael Dutra, a swingin’ band, and Della Cheisa as host. Partygoers have an opportunity to mingle with the host as well as purchase his memoir with a personal message and autograph included.
Since moving to Hull, Della Chiesa has become an active and visible part of the community. His group of beach-walking buddies, affectionately known as “The Nantasket Rat Pack,” can be found at favorite spots along the beach and boardwalk on warm days telling stories, hanging out, having fun with visitors and locals alike.
He also volunteers his time with the Friends of the Paragon Carousel. He helps with special events and sits on the Advisory Board of his beloved carousel, and frequently stops at its adjacent Paragon Park Museum to reminisce while enjoying an ice cream from the Carousel Creamery. Local business owners with shops and eateries located in storefronts across from the beach are his friends, and he doesn’t hesitate to stop in to say hello or make a purchase.
A resident of the town he particularly admires is program director for the Hull Community Cable Television station, Peter Seitz. “Peter runs a wonderful cable TV station, he’s the best at what he does, very professional,” says Della Chiesa.
“A while back Peter helped me put together a tribute to my good friend, Tony Bennett. We got Tony’s personal musicians, guitarist Gray Sargent and bass player Marshall Wood, both local folks, together for the show. It was such a good program, that we recently started a new show called Elder Cool,” he enthuses. The show focuses on the older crowd with guests selected who are still doing cool things later in life. Shows are hosted by Della Chiesa, well-knownt PBS star Loretta LaRoche, and Joyce Della Chiesa. Recent episodes have featured topics on cooking, travel, music, movies, featuring great guests. One episode has Della Chiesa learning how to make an omelette from scratch with his instructor/wife giving the lessons. You can watch episodes of Elder Cool on YouTube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/user/HullTVTube.
If you’re in Hull this summer, be sure to spend some time at the beach, as there is a good chance you’ll bump into Ron Della Chiesa while you’re there. He’ll be the guy in the graphic tee shirt with the likeness of Sinatra, Mozart, or some other musician’s image emblazoned across the front. In the meantime, tune in on Sunday nights from 7PM-2AM to WPLM 99.1 for Strictly Sinatra and MusicAmerica. You’ll notice that he will mention Nantasket Beach quite a few times during the program.
If you’ve never been to a Sinatra Tribute Dance, try to score a ticket for the Summer Wind Dance Party, as it’s very popular. Held on Friday, June 2, 2017 at Raffael’s at the South Shore Country Club in Hingham, call Della Chiesa’s producer Paul Schlosberg at 617-633-5100 for tickets or visit www.MusicNotNoise.com And speaking of summer, grab a copy of Radio My Way. If it’s not on your reading list, it should be.
Editorial Note: Remember Ron Della Chiesa’s inspirational tag line as you go through your day, “The best is yet to come!” And when the spirit moves you, pull off the road and listen to the music. It’s therapy!
Reprinted from the May 2017 edition of the South Shore Senior News.