By Tom Maguire
Father Joseph Champlin’s Guardian Angel Society gets “down to earth” — on a busy, scuffed-up dance floor.
“Sweet Cabaret,” a fundraiser for the Society, is a Feb. 11 evening of dining, dancing, and desserts to celebrate 20 years of providing scholarships and mentor services for children at four diocesan schools.
The band for the event — the DeSantis Orchestra — plays weddings and other events all over Central New York. The Feb. 11 gala is the band’s favorite dance event of the year without question, because it honors “Father Champlin’s spirit; it’s down to earth,” said Maria DeSantis, the band leader, vocalist, and producer of the show.
DeSantis recalled that Father Champlin, who died in 2008, used to bring all kinds of music to Mass. She knows because she used to play in a quartet for the evening Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception when Father Champlin was the rector.
If his spirit is timeless, so are the tunes that the orchestra — which includes eight horns and seven vocalists for this event — will play: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Elvis Presley, the Temptations, the Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, Frankie Valli, Michael Steven Bublé, Van Morrison, and many more. The musical styles, if not the dancing itself, will be dizzying.
“They dance to what they know,” DeSantis said of the crowd, “that’s the key. … It’s all about dancing; it’s not a concert; it’s not a symphony; it’s all about dancing … and Father’s kids.”
More than $2 million has been raised for Father Champlin’s kids in 20 years, said Kathy Fedrizzi, executive director of the society. “We provide tuition scholarships for at-risk financially challenged families,” she said.
The Guardian Angel Society gives out close to 100 scholarships each year to students at Cathedral Academy at Pompei (CAP), Bishop Grimes Junior-Senior High School, Bishop Ludden Junior-Senior High School, and Christian Brothers Academy, Fedrizzi said.
“If they start in kindergarten, we stay with that child till the 12th grade,” she said. “A scholarship for one kid can be for 12 years as long as the child stays in the Catholic-schools system.”