Virtual Concert Delivers Hope to Soup Kitchen

Fiona Castro singing, Joe Castro playing guitar
June 26, 2020

Seeking to help a segment of New York’s population hard-hit by COVID-19, St. John’s chapter of Alpha Psi Omega (APO) and the Chappell Players Theatre Group presented Songs for Hope, a YouTube concert that raised much-needed funds for St. John’s Bread & Life soup kitchen.

“The pandemic has brought tragedy upon the very place that we call home—New York City,” said senior Jacob LaChapelle, President of the St. John’s chapter of APO, the national theatre honor society. “During our first meeting this year, we discussed ways that we could ‘seek a life useful,’ as stated in our motto, and help the community.” 

From that meeting, the decision to host a virtual charity concert was made, partly inspired by Cabaret for Charity, a concert that APO and Chappell Players have been hosting each November for more than 20 years. According to Jacob, since the Cabaret's inception, the concert has raised more than $25,000 for St. John's Bread & Life.  

In a given year, the organization registers 40–50 new guests per month; however, during the peak of the pandemic, they registered that same number each day. Bread & Life anticipates that they will distribute more than 1.1 million pounds of food this year.

At nearly an hour in length, Songs for Hope featured both current students and alumni singing a wide range of popular songs, show tunes, and more, ranging from “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin to “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna.  

Jacob led off the concert with a rousing rendition of “New York, New York,” while sophomore Maura Consedine took a cue from Broadway with her rendition of “What Baking Can Do” from the musical Waitress. Fiona Castro, a member of St. John’s class of 2020, was accompanied on guitar by her father Joe, as she performed the Fleetwood Mac song “Landslide.” 

Among the alumni performers was Donald Gormanly ’01CPS; as a student, he helped launch the Cabaret for Charity series in 1999. “Right now, Bread & Life’s work is more important than ever,” he said. “With the uncertainty of when New York City will fully reopen, the services provided by Bread & Life are invaluable.” His heartfelt rendition of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” closed out the show. 

“I want to express how proud I am to see everyone come together to help Bread & Life,” said junior Nicole Petrick, President of the Chappell Players. “It was a privilege to watch the performances. I hope that we can have a live Cabaret for Charity in the fall.”