Yanni once titled an album “Dare to Dream,” and he’ll be doing exactly that in a wide-ranging new deal with Disney Music Group. On March 24, the company’s new Disney Pearl imprint will release “Yanni Voices,” the artist’s first studio album in six years, and its Buena Vista Concerts division will produce an extensive tour beginning in April.
Disney is also working closely with PBS, which will air the first of two Yanni specials Nov. 29. The program chronicles the creation of “Yanni Voices,” which blends fresh interpretations of vintage Yanni tracks with newly written material. It also introduces the four new vocalists at the center of the project: Nathan Pacheco, Chloe, Ender Thomas and Leslie Mills. On March 2, PBS will air a “Voices” concert from the Forum at Mundo Imperial in Acapulco, Mexico.
Disney will devote formidable resources from throughout the company to promote “Voices,” which Yanni conceived in partnership with producer Ric Wake.
“There’s such an opportunity to include the music in Disney motion pictures,” says Buena Vista Concerts senior VP/GM Chip McLean, who worked closely with Disney Music Group chairman Bob Cavallo on the worldwide 360 partnership. “Some of these songs sound like they could be classics and work in any number of Disney films we’re all familiar with.”
According to McLean, the album “creates the same sense of wonder in adults that we think Disney generally is perceived as doing with kids. We’ve long been thinking of ways to try to expand Disney’s reach on the music side and not just go for the newest Disney fans.” It was thus the perfect inaugural project for Disney Pearl, which is targeting an older demographic. For now, the imprint is being staffed by a “dream team” from throughout Disney Music Group.
McLean is particularly excited about Yanni’s four new singers, who bring vocals to the forefront of his music for the first time in his career. Thomas is a Venezuelan TV personality, while Chloe is a Florida native who had a record deal at age 11. Mills has impressed McLean with her “poetic lyrics,” and Pacheco is comfortable singing in Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and English.
Eventually the singers could release their own albums, record in pairs or pursue film or TV roles. But McLean says that Disney will let Yanni and Wake guide the quartet. “We’re standing beside them and trying to help leverage our infrastructure and talent,” he says. “We want to let Yanni and Ric do exactly what they’ve been doing.”
For the first decade of his career, Yanni recorded for Private Music, becoming one of the biggest names in new age music despite widespread critical drubbing. His best-selling album, “Live at the Acropolis,” has sold 3.6 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
And though his sales have waned since that set came out in 1994 — his last studio album, the 2003 Virgin release “Ethnicity,” has sold 324,000 — he remains a top touring act internationally. His last two treks, the 2003-04 Ethnicity tour and the 2004-05 outing Yanni Live, grossed nearly $49 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.
McLean says that even music fans who have ignored Yanni may think twice after hearing “Voices.” “This is different than any other project Bob or I have ever seen before,” he says. “It led us to marvel at just what it is. It was like, ‘This is Yanni?’ This is amazing.