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July 20, 2006

Group enjoys performing for Villages audience

Villages Daily Sun (FL):

Hearing the Liberty Voices sing may send goosebumps down one’s spine, including the people creating the harmonies. “If we’re singing ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ and we get to the climax, I’m enjoying (the song) more than the audience,” Gary Baer said. “I still do get thrilled.” The nine-member a cappella group from Orlando were the special guests of the Mickey Finn Show on Monday night at Savannah Center. “The Villages crowds are the best crowds,” Dirk Donahue said.

After the Liberty Voices opened the show with a powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the band — headed by Fred “Mickey” Finn on piano and his wife, Cathy Reilly Finn, on banjo — put its unique spin of Dixieland jazz on several standards, from “When You Wish Upon a Star” to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Dueling Banjos,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and the Beatles’ “Something.” Every now and then, Finn threw in a seven-note phrase to let the audience know they were supposed to shout, “Hey!”

Later in the show, the Liberty Voices returned to sing such songs as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Clementine,” “Danny Boy,” and from the pen of Stephen Foster, “Camptown Races,” “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” About six years ago, Finn had heard the Liberty Voices perform at Epcot in between his gigs and wanted them to be a part of his show. They now appear at least twice a year with Finn’s group, usually around the Fourth of July or Christmas. “Oh, he’s great,” Donahue said of Finn. “A lot of fun. I like standing backstage and listening to his band play. He loves us, and we love him.”

The Liberty Voices have been in existence since 1982, performing mainly Americana, folk, patriotic and inspirational songs. All the members have worked together and sung together at Walt Disney World. Donahue, who joined the group 11 years ago, first heard the Liberty Voices perform while he was in high school. “I was thinking, ‘I want to do that’,” Donahue said. “Now I’m lucky to do that. It is a unique sound.”

Baer has been with the Liberty Voices since 1983; a year before that, he was touring with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians and had a chance to hear the Voices. After he left the Pennsylvanians, the Liberty Voices needed a bass singer and asked him to join. This is the longest amount of time Baer has spent in one group. “I love that it’s a cappella; that there’s such challenging music to do,” Baer said. “The arrangements are incredible.”

The Liberty Voices have become an extended family of sorts — before the first show, the members sang a harmonized “Happy Birthday” to one of their own. “I enjoy getting to see our friends and singing with our friends,” Donahue said. “There are deep friendships,” Baer said. “I keep in touch with the people who aren’t in the group anymore.”

Posted by acapnews at July 20, 2006 12:41 AM