I first met Richard Gale thanks to my Mom and Dad. Forty years
ago, my parents used to read in bed each night before they went to sleep.
And they weren’t alone. The old family radio kept them company. It was a
Westinghouse — multi-coloured and art deco with a clock planted right in the
middle. The dial was permanently set to the only FM station we listened to at
our house: 95.3 CKDS. The program my Mom and Dad savoured as they
turned the pages of their books was called “An Evening with Richard Gale”.
It ran weekdays from 10 to midnight, and they never missed a broadcast.
If you’re as old as I am, you’re old enough to remember that Richard
Gale brought classical music into thousands of homes each night.
Perhaps not so remarkable. Other radio hosts have done that before. But
Richard was different. He brought us the classics in the most marvelous way:
he made them come to life. His deep, dulcet voice dripped through our
radios like honey as he told the most wonderful stories about the lives
of the great composers. Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Strauss… the list
Maybe you were a fan. So many people were. Richard had about as
devoted a following as you could imagine. And he knew that in order to
engage his listeners, he had to offer them something different. So instead of
boring us with dull biographical facts, he committed a revolutionary act. He
dished the dirt. And plenty of it. Years before shows like “Entertainment
Tonight” brought celebrity gossip to the mainstream, Richard introduced his
own special brand of it on Hamilton radio. He told juicy tales of the joys and
sorrows of the musical greats. He found the skeletons in their closets and
ripped away the sheets that hid them from view. He peeked into the
darkest corners of their lives and painted a portrait that was often both
tragic and triumphant. He made those classical composers seem
human, real… just like us.
We could appreciate a Chopin nocturne a little bit more, knowing that
Chopin suffered his share of failed romances – just like we had.
We enjoyed a Mozart prelude twice as much, knowing that Mozart’s life was a
series of ups and downs – just like ours. We felt the heartbreak that
Beethoven must have felt when he discovered that he had gone deaf – just
as we had felt heartbreak in our own lives. In short, Richard helped us to see
that on one level or another we are all connected as human beings. We
share the same experiences. We laugh, we cry, we stumble, we fall, we
All these years later, part of me still finds it hard to believe that I
shared the airwaves with Richard Gale at CKDS. As a young newscaster
and reporter, I paid some very necessary dues on the night shift back in the
1980’s and 90’s. Not exactly the most exciting timeslot at a radio station. But
there was a very big perk. I had the huge privilege of doing the 10 o’clock
news each night… the prelude to “An Evening with Richard Gale”. The
newscast was ten minutes long, and when I did it well, I went home feeling
I had done something good in the world that night. I flung my
shoulders back and walked a little bit taller, a little bit more proud.
Richard was a god to me then. And twenty-five years later, he still is.
So full of warmth, wit and wonderful candour. When he turned on that
CKDS microphone, he made you feel like he was talking to you — and you
alone. And that voice. That glorious voice.
I miss it already.
Written by: Karen Cumming is a freelance writer and former CKDS/CHML/CHCH broadcaster.