A Fond Farewell To Divaville
Yesterday morning, Christa Wessel, the host of KMHD 89.1 FM’s Divaville, announced she is retiring her radio show after 20 years as a volunteer DJ. The show is perennially near or at the top of the most listened to shows on KMHD and is focused on the vocal jazz of the ‘20s through the ‘60s. Great stuff! In an open letter posted to her Facebook page, Wessel says, “Divaville has been a part of my life for the last 20 years, and it’s been my joy and privilege to share these great old vocalists with you.” Her departure leaves a void in the radio landscape that will be tough to fill and it’s not just because of the music. It’s because of the host, Christa Wessel.
Christa is the consummate professional radio host, which is often improperly defined as “spinning discs” or “playing records”. Anyone can play records. A gifted host reaches through the airwaves into our hearts and imaginations and makes us feel part of the music and of the stories the songs tell. A host weaves a narrative that links together songs and ideas, a narrative that accompanies, compliments and becomes part of the music. Using only their voice, a DJ brings to life the singers, lyricists and composers, completing our mental portraits of these artists. They put the music into its historical and cultural context, often bridging gaps and drawing parallels between our glorious past and the ridiculous present, (or vice versa.) A great host has an infectious enthusiasm that elevates the material. Their knowledge, understanding and passion for the music must be on a par with the artistry of the writers and performers to be a great host. Christa Wessel is great. Call her a DJ, a disc jockey, a radio host or an on-air personality, whichever you like. I call her “The Mayor of Divaville” and she is irreplaceable.
For those of us mourning the loss of this program, The Mayor has pointed the way (and as far as metaphoric road trips go, much preferred company to Golem from Lord of the Rings.) Like a tour guide through The Museum of Recorded Popular Jazz and the Great American Vocal Standards, she has shown us the great and important artists of the genre. So, now it is up to you to get out there find the music. Some have told me they plan to start their own Pandora or Spotify channels and this could be an effective stopgap under the circumstances. But whenever a song has played and the next tune starts, and you miss hearing the voice of your affable tour guide leading the way, tune into All Classical 89.9 FM weekday mornings, where Christa is still doing what she does best and what we love, treasure and are lucky to hear.
I will post again in the coming days about the Divaville Farewell Concert, which will be a joyous celebration of Christa, this wonderful music and the community she fostered. But today I simply wanted to say, “Thank you Christa, for a job well done and for filling our lives with music and joy.”
Full disclosure: Christa Wessel is a personal friend. I have hosted listener parties at my own venue that I profited from and am producing a farewell concert at the Alberta Rose Theatre, that again I will benefit financially from (provided you buy tickets!) Christa has been paid for her appearances at our listener parties, and considerably more than she has been paid by KMHD or OPB, which, after 8 years comes to a whopping grand total of (drum roll please………) $0.