Dirk Donahue and the Voices of Liberty

by MouseStation Crew, staff writer

MouseStation 77 - Dirk Donahue and the Voices of Liberty

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Run time 0:39:23

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Featured Topic - The Voices of Liberty

This week's show is in stereo because we've got a special feature. We've got an interview that Mark did with Dirk Donahue, lead conductor of the Voices of Liberty, as well as a great performance by the Voices.

The interview started with chatting about our Top 3 Live Entertainment acts at Epcot. Dirk was happy to hear that the Voices came out on top, and listed Mo'Rockin and Mariachi Cobre as two of his favorites.

Dirk has been with the Voices since October, 1995, and says that it's a "dream come true job" for him. He became full-time lead about four-and-a-half years ago, after having served as a part-time lead prior to that for some time.

There are currently about 18 full-time Voices, plus many part-time and fill-in performers. There are hundreds who have performed with the group over the years.

The dedication of the National Treasures exhibit at the American Heritage gallery was a great experience for the Voices to sing at. In the past, the group has sung at the White House, the Indianapolis 500, football games and other interesting events.

Dirk is also the cast choir rehearsal conductor for the Candlelight Processional. 70-80 current and/or retired cast members can participate. About 1,200 people are selected each year. Sign-ups are in August and rehearsals start in early September. There are two rehearsals per night, three nights per week, all the way through early November. Each cast member must attend 10 rehearsals in order to be eligible to perform in the show. Dirk loves the enthusiasm that the cast choir brings to the show. Dirk's favorite moment in the show is the song "Shout for Joy" just before the narrator comes up.

Dirk's favorite narrators back when he performed with his college choir were Walter Cronkite and Rock Hudson. His favorite narrator during his tenure with the Voices is Phylicia Rashad.

Dirk related a great story about a member of the Voices of Liberty who asked Art Garfunkel to sign with him following Garfunkel's performance as Candlelight narrator – and asked Garfunkel to sing Paul Simon's part because he only knew Garfunkel's part.

The group performs outside of Disney as the Liberty Voices or the Liberty Singers. One performance that sticks out was in San Francisco where they met Jay Leno and got to hang out with him. Singing the National Anthem before the Citrus Bowl was another great moment.

We noted it a couple of weeks ago in the show notes and the Walt Disney World Park Update, but the Voices will be having a special reunion concert where anybody who ever walked onto the floor with the Voices of Liberty is invited to perform this Friday night. The show is called "An Evening with the Voices: A Celebration of 25 Years of the Music of Derric Johnson." If you're interested, you'd better hurry. Online ticket sales end tonight at 6 p.m. EDT.

Dirk recalled a Magical Moment where the Voices were singing and signing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" and a hearing-impaired person was able to tell their signer that they could take a break because the Voices were signing the song. Other memorable moments include watching old soldiers stand at attention during the armed forces medley. Singing on September 12, 2001, was a Magical Moment for him, watching the audience's reaction.

Dirk's favorite songs to sing are "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair" during the year and "O Come All Ye Faithful" during the holidays.

There are some interesting moments that occur during the audience participation numbers such as "Oh, Susanna" and "Skip to My Lou". An interesting incident occurred one day after a performance where the Voices sang "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

After the interview wrapped up, Mark and Mike talked about how long Mark has been a fan of the group, and how long it took to actually get this interview recorded, since Mark first chatted with Dirk about it last year whiel doing the Magical Moment Podcast.

The prior lead conductor for the Voices, Kevn Miles, is now performing with the Dapper Dans on Main Street, U.S.A., and with the barbership groiup Platinum, with whom he has won several awards.

With Dirk's kind permission, we then presented a performance of the Voices of Liberty. (That's why today's show is coming at you in stereo.) This particular set included "This is My Country," "When You Wish Upon A Star," "Oh, Susanna" (with Dirk singing lead), "Shenandoah" and "America the Beautiful".

Mark was surprised that he was not able to correctly predict who would be chosen as the audience participant for "Oh, Susanna," as he's usually very good at that.

What do you think of the Voices of Liberty? Are they a must-see for you? Did you enjoy their performance on the podcast? Let us know by sending an email or calling our toll-free feedback line (1-866-939-2278) and let us know what your favorites are!

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