Dave Bronstetter hosting All In A Weekend at the CBC studio in Montreal. (photo: CBC)
I believe it was in the fall of 2007 that I first tuned to the enlightening CBC Montreal program, All In A Weekend, with host David Bronstetter. Unlike listeners in Montreal, or anywhere in the province of Quebec, for that matter, I didn’t hear the show on FM radio, nor streaming over the internet–it was on a shortwave radio.
You see, each Saturday and Sunday morning at 7:00 EST (12:00 UTC) Radio Canada International turns on a shortwave transmitter at their Sackville, New Brunswick site, and broadcasts CBC Radio One Montreal programming on 9,625 kHz for North Quebec. They’ve done this for years. That means that many of us south of the Canadian border can catch the “back side” of this broad signal quite easily.
When I first heard All in A Weekend, I was favorably impressed by the program’s host, Dave Bronstetter. When I landed on his voice the first time, he was in the middle of an interview, and even in that brief interval of tuning I could tell that this was an insightful interviewer. Returning to hear the following half-hour segments of the show, I learned that his keen intelligence was manifest not only in intimate, articulate, and adaptive interviews with his guests, but also in an absurd wit.
In short, I was hooked.
From that day forward, I joined thousands of Quebec listeners, right here from my home in the southern US, as we tuned in All In A Weekend. Dave and his Montreal crew became my weekend morning coffee companions.
Dave chats with host Sonali Karnick, Elias Abboud, and Nancy Wood. (source: CBC Radio One)
In my many years of listening to radio, I’ve heard hundreds of hosts from around the world, but this guy stood apart. Dave Bronstetter’s hosting was fueled by a quick wit, which he wove into his interviews with an eloquence that would make any comic green with envy. Moreover, this fun, catch-’em off-guard approach resulted in better interviews with his diverse guests, all excellent listening, such as with famous jazz photographer Herman Leonard, singer Emilie-Claire Barlow (and many other Canadian artists like her, whom I’ve since learned to appreciate), and a stand-out interview with a Palestinian that I haven’t forgotten, nor am likely to.
And more than once, while reporting weather, in the midst of listing all the towns and cities across the vast province of Quebec, Dave slyly inserted the tiny town where I then lived. This always made me start, and brought a chuckle. Of course, I couldn’t help thinking that this caught the attention of many other listeners, too, but leaving them scratching their noggins–Sylva, Quebec? Where on earth’s that–?
Radio Canada International's Sackville, New Brunswick shortwave transmitter site. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
How could Dave have known about Sylva? Well, he interacted with his listeners, and I was no exception. It didn’t matter if listeners were sending him a compliment or complaining about the fact that he was reading off the wind speed in Baie-Comeau and Kuujjuaq, he paid attention. I would dash off an email to request songs, play along with his contests, or brag about our lovely Southern-states weather when Montreal was having a brutally chilly day. Many of my emails were sarcastic, and Dave’s rebuttals, two-fold.
Once, Dave actually made a call to my home in Sylva and interviewed me on the air. A couple of days prior to the interview, he called to ask my permission and to, well, just chat. We probably talked for an hour–even in that casual conversation, I noted his interviewing talent: I felt like I was talking with an old friend, one who understood me and appreciated my offbeat sense of humor.
Many times while listening to All in a Weekend, I reflected, this is what I love about radio. The footprint is vast–it jumps national borders with ease, and offers an instant level of interaction that’s hard to replicate even in our internet-driven age.
To my dismay, Dave recently announced that he was retiring after 33 years with the CBC. Last Saturday’s show was his last.
At least, so he says.
Regardless, I can tell you this: I will miss my buddy, Dave Bronstetter, on the air. I know of no replacement, and I can only imagine how difficult it may be for the charming Sonali Karnick to follow his tough act. I hope it will be by carving her own unique personality into the show. That’s what gave the unassuming All In A Weekend its moxie in the first place, and drew me in regularly to listen.
My hat’s off to you, Dave; may you enjoy whatever you do going forward. You are unquestionably one of a kind. And please–keep in touch!
Want to hear what the send-off broadcast All In A Weekend sounded like on shortwave radio? Try this: