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Santa’s Catholic drummers

Chaminade-Madonna drumline to perform at Hollywood Christmas festival

Presidents of the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, are, from left, Justin DiFrancesco, Taylor Despars, Fabian Carrillo and John Mendez. Behind them is their instructor, Carlo Ricchi. The drumline has been invited to perform at Christmas Near the Beach, a community holiday celebration.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Presidents of the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, are, from left, Justin DiFrancesco, Taylor Despars, Fabian Carrillo and John Mendez. Behind them is their instructor, Carlo Ricchi. The drumline has been invited to perform at Christmas Near the Beach, a community holiday celebration.

HOLLYWOOD | When Santa comes to a South Florida Christmas festival, he won't arrive to the click, click, click of reindeer hooves. He’ll step to the boom, boom and rat-a-tat of drummers from a Catholic school.

Deena McDaniel, co-founder of Christmas Near the Beach, said the Chaminade-Madonna drumline “stood out like a bright shining star” at a festival.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Deena McDaniel, co-founder of Christmas Near the Beach, said the Chaminade-Madonna drumline “stood out like a bright shining star” at a festival.

Carlo Ricchi is the instructor the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Carlo Ricchi is the instructor the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Setting the beat will be members of the drumline from Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory in Hollywood. They’ll be appearing for the first time at Christmas Near the Beach, scheduled for Dec. 15 at Young Circle in downtown Hollywood.

The drummers will beat a rhythmic welcome for St. Nick, who will enter ArtsPark in a classic car. They’ll escort the red-suited saint to the stage, where he’ll offer a gift to a costumed trio representing the Holy Family. Then he’ll bow to them.

That's “the pinnacle of the show,” according to Deena McDaniel, founder of the festival along with husband Mickey. And that's why she wanted an ear-catching cue like a drumline.

“I want people to say, ‘Oh, look at Santa!’,” McDaniel said. “And then I want them to say, ‘It's not about Santa – it’s about Jesus!’ ”

It’s a familiar role for the drummers, similar to those of Chaminade-Madonna’s cheerleaders and dance team. They literally drum up enthusiasm during sports events of Chaminade-Madonna, which was founded by the Society of Mary in 1960.

The drumline has also taken part in other community events, such as Hollywood’s Candy Cane Parade and St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was at the latter that they caught McDaniel’s attention.


‘BRIGHT SHINING STAR’

“They sounded amazing,” McDaniel said in an interview. “They stood out like a bright shining star. My husband looked at me and said, ‘You want them in the show, don’t you?’ ”

About half of the 20-member drumline will take part in the festival. For costumes, they’ll adapt the garb they wore in the St. Pat’s parade – something between an elf and leprechaun look.

“It’s fun performing,” said John Mendez, who plays snare drum. “We’re giving a gift to people, the gift of music.”

It’s a typical attitude, said Carlo Ricchi, the drumline director. “The kids are always eager to do any performances that come their way. And Christmas Near the Beach will have the greatest aspects of Florida: Christmas and the beach.”

Drumline captain Taylor Despares went further: As an only child, she said she views the group as a second family.

Fabian Carrillo is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Fabian Carrillo is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Taylor Despars is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Taylor Despars is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

“You get together with people you love, performing and sharing your passion with others,” said Despares, who also plays snare drum.

Justin DiFrancesco said he can throw aside his shyness as he hoists his big bass drum. But even then, he said, he doesn't want the focus on himself or the group.

“I don’t want people to see the drumline and say how amazing we were,” he said. “I want them to come away excited about Christmas.”


FEEL-GOOD DRUMMING

And yes, they see their work as music.

“There is something about drumming that makes you feel good,” said Fabian Carrillo, who plays the four tenor drums known as quads. He quoted St. Augustine: “He who sings, prays twice.”

Justin DiFrancesco is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Justin DiFrancesco is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

John Mendez is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

John Mendez is in the Chaminade-Madonna High School drumline, based in Hollywood.

Santa and the Chaminade-Madonna drumline will be only two of 10 acts for Christmas Near the Beach, which was founded in 2007. The eclectic festival will also include r&b group Sensere, Latina singer Destiny Rayne, and the choir of First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs.

Although Christmas Near the Beach is basically an evangelical event, the Chaminade-Madonna drumline is not the first Catholic group to appear there. The 2017 lineup featured EPIC the Band, a contemporary group out of southwest Broward who are scheduled to play at World Youth Day in January.

Catholic participation is part of a bid by McDaniel to broaden the variety of Christians in Christmas Near the Beach.

“Everyone worshiping Jesus Christ as Savior should be involved,” she said. “Catholics are all about Jesus, too. And we all need to focus on Christ as Savior, at a time when people are looking for something. They may not think about Jesus all year, but at Christmas they do.”

IF YOU GO

  • Event: Christmas Near the Beach
  • What’s happening: Carols, choir, drumline, ballet, jazz, folk-rock acts
  • When: 4 to 9 p.m. Dec. 15
  • Where: ArtsPark at Young Circle, U.S. 1 and Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
  • Cost: Free
  • Info: christmasnearthebeach.com
 

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