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Members of the Liberty Voices perform with Carolina Crown at the DCI Orlando event on Saturday.
Courtesy: T. McCourt, DCI.org

A cappella group wows Orlando crowd with Carolina Crown

By: Jeff Griffith
          Release: 07/12/2017
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"Life-changing, breathtaking, amazing" — just a few of the words Dirk Donahue could find to describe Saturday night's encore performance at the conclusion of the DCI Orlando presented by Lone Star Percussion event.

None of them could do justice.

Donahue and the Liberty Voices — an extraordinarily talented a cappella vocal ensemble of which he is a member — had the opportunity to perform with Carolina Crown's horn line on the field of Camping World Stadium on Saturday.

Following that performance, when Donahue was finished greeting several of Crown's brass players, he took a minute to collect his thoughts and come down from the adrenaline rush of the performance.

“Just to stand in front of the wall of sound from those brass players ... Amazing,” he said.

The Liberty Voices, whose members also regularly perform at Walt Disney World at the American Adventure attraction in Epcot, were contacted by Carolina Crown's brass caption head prior to the 2017 season with the idea of performing with one another. The singers were more than happy to take part.

Saturday's encore opened with Liberty Voices' introduction into a combined arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” followed by a run of Crown's 2017 ballad, “For Good,” from the musical "Wicked." The night closed with a Liberty Voices-only “This Land is Your Land,” and finally a unified piece, “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“Those arrangements are the brilliance of Derek Johnson,” Donahue said of the ensemble's long-time arranger. “Matt Harloff obviously is a fan of his arranging and took those charts from a recording and came up with brass arrangements to compliment. He asked us if we'd sing and it worked out perfectly.”

Members of the Liberty Voices and Crown brass caption head Matt Harloff on the sideline of Camping World Stadium.

According to Donahue, Saturday wasn't his first time singing at Camping World Stadium for a DCI Tour event. Back in the late 1990s, Donahue and other members of the Liberty Voices were on hand to perform the national anthem during the DCI World Championships.

As a longtime fan of the marching arts, both experiences made for extra-special memories.

“I grew up in Central Florida and I was in marching band, and some buddies of mine were in (Disney's) Future Corps,” he said. “I've enjoyed DCI for years, I'm very impressed with it.”

Donahue said the first time hearing everything put together — at a Carolina Crown rehearsal the day of DCI Orlando — was stunning for all involved, and even a bit emotional for some.

“It was like, ‘wow,'” he said. “When it came together, it came together, and you could just see the grins on everybody's faces. My professional musician friends and singers here in this group were just blown away. Everyone's just grinning from ear to ear, me included.“

“I was getting a bit teary-eyed myself,” he added. “I was like, ‘I can't believe I get to do this.'”

The Liberty Voices perform with Carolina Crown

Carolina Crown's post-show performances have certainly elicited their fair share of audience reactions in the past, but those in attendance Saturday — a larger amount than are often seen at an encore — provided quite the lively response when the final note of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” resounded throughout the stadium.

And for Donahue — as well as his fellow singers — he couldn't help but be taken aback by the atmosphere.

“To have the corps play with us, in front of a crowd that's totally behind you?

“Chills.”

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