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The Villages
Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Villages entertainers come together with special ‘We Are the World’ message

Mary Jo Vitale has created a chorus of unity for Villagers facing the Coronavirus.

Vitale helped organize 20 Villages’ singers in a video called “We Are the World Villages Edition.” She spent the last week of March contacting local singers and having them create videos of the famed song, “We Are the World.” Then she edited all the clips together in the final product.

“I was very proud to put this video together,” Vitale wrote on her Facebook page. “I’m thankful to each of the entertainers who participated in this project. We need kindness and love right now … We are all in this together. We are the world.”

It wasn’t an easy chore. Most performers sent in clips with the whole song. They had to be edited down into a coherent and musical style.

“I don’t know how Mary Jo did it; it was a lot of hard work for her,” said Alex Santoriello, who has starred in and directed local stage productions with Vitale.

At first, Santoriello was a bit reluctant to join the chorus.

“There were so many singers,” he said, “but I told Mary Jo, if she wanted me to do it, I would do it.”

Billie Thatcher shared that sentiment.

“Mary Jo emailed a lot of people and like everybody else I wanted to be a part of it,” Thatcher said. “I just thought it was such a good thing; it’s about unity and coming together to get through this awful time. We will get through it.”

Like most others, Thatcher recorded her video on a cellphone in her home.

“I remember when the original ‘We Are the World,’ song came out,” she said. “I thought it was so great that all those singers got together to do something to make a terrible situation better. That’s how I feel about this video.”

Thatcher was pleased with the finished product.”

“Mary Jo did a wonderful editing job,” she said. “I’ve gotten positive responses not only from The Villages, but people I know in Pennsylvania and New York. It’s overwhelming and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Vitale appreciated the positive response from all the singers.

“I’m thankful for all the people who took part in this project,” she wrote. “Kindness and love are so needed right now.”

The popular local entertainers who came together to make ‘We Are the World Villages Edition’ include organizer Mary Jo Vitale, Sue and Jennifer Schuler, Fine Tuned (Charlie Snyder and Barbara Hanberry), Alex Santoriello and Billie Thatcher, Clark Barrios, Dawn DiNome, Alex Scopino, France Neil, Tony Brown, Betty Odendahl, Donna Doherty, Mark Goldberg, Suzie Casta, LauraLea Keys, Jill Santoriello, Mark Steven Schmidt, Petrina and Donna Moore.

That holds true for the people watching the video and the performers.

“I think this is a positive thing for everybody in The Villages,” Santoriello said. “I hope the people watching it will enjoy it. I hope it will make them feel better about this terrible situation we are all going through.”

He praised Vitale for organizing the effort.

“Mary Jo has created something that will make a difference in peoples’ lives,” Santoriello said. “And it’s not just the people watching and listening to this video – but also the performers.

“It gave us a chance to not just sit home but get together and do something for the good of the community.”

The start of the video includes these words printed on the screen: “The entertainers you love/decided to join their talents together/We hope this brightens your day…”

In addition to Vitale, Santoriello and Thatcher, those participating in the video: Clark Barrios, Dawn DiNome, Alex Scopino, France Neil, Tony Brown, Betty Odendahl, Donna Doherty, Mark Goldberg, Suzie Casta, LauraLea Keys, Jill Santoriello, Mark Steven Schmidt, Petrina, Donna Moore, Sue and Jennifer Schuler and Fine Tuned (Charlie Snyder and Barbara Hanberry).

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