Disneyland Candlelight Processional Music

This year will be my 6th year of singing in the Disney Employee Choir for the Disneyland Candlelight Processional. It will mark the 9th time I’ve sung in the Disneyland Candlelight Processional overall (my college choir was the honor choir for the processional back in the early 1990’s). I love being a member of this amazing choir. Most of my Monday nights from September through the beginning of December are spent rehearsing music and getting ready for our performances. Now that I’ve sung in the choir for so many years, I know the music inside and out. So, the rehearsals are about getting better. Our director does an amazing job at hearing little things to fine tune our choir each year to help us get even better. Not an easy task with a choir that is already really good. However, the results are evident to those that listen.

One of the highlights to the Candlelight season for me is the rehearsal we had last Monday night. You see, the Disney Employee Choir is made up of people who work up in the Burbank/Glendale area and those that work at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. So, for the rest of the season, we practice in two different places. There is a rehearsal in Glendale for the “studio” and at Disneyland for the “resort.” However, on one night, we all come together and have the combined choir rehearsal. The entire Disney Employee Choir in one place. It’s my favorite because it’s just us. No one else. After this rehearsal, we will have a regional rehearsal to attend which is conducted by the Candlelight conductor, the dress rehearsal at Disneyland (with the full orchestra and herald trumpeters) and the big day of the performance. The combined rehearsal is the only one that is just the Disney Employee Choir. Monday night was so much fun that I recorded some of it and want to share with you a couple of the songs we will be singing.

Sing Praise to Him Our Lord is the opening of the processional at Disneyland. For those who are familiar with the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT, the Disneyland version is completely different. There is only one song that both Candlelight Processionals use…The Halleluiah Chorus. Outside of that, they are different. This song opens up the whole show. Here is what it will look and sound like at Disneyland.

Don’t the trumpets add so much to the song? I think so. Anyways, at the performance, the Disney Employee Choir makes up the living Christmas tree in the middle of the giant mass choir. The size of the mass choir has varied over the years. When I first sang in Candlelight with the Azusa Pacific University Choir, the mass choir was round 1,000 people strong. In recent years, the mass choir has been around 650 singers strong.

From Sing Praise to Him Our Lord, we move into The First Noel. As you will see in the video, my choir buddies had some fun with the camera. I love the first part of this arrangement. The women’s parts just shimmer. I can tell you that this is a song which gets pretty draining by the end. It is lots of fun to sing. However, I’m grateful for the narration in the processional because it gives us time to recover from all the energy we expend singing songs like this one.

I’ll be singing in the Disneyland Candlelight Processional on December 7th. So, if you’re in town, feel free to come to Disneyland and see this awesome performance first hand. The Disneyland Candlelight Processional is going to be performed on December 7th and 8th this year. Blair Underwood will be the narrator on December 7th and Kurt Russell will be the narrator on December 8th. If you’re reading this post from a place where you can’t make it out to California to see the Disneyland Candlelight Processional or, if you’re just interested in what the Disneyland Candlelight Processional is like, check out this video…

By the way, I chose this video because Dick Van Dyke did an amazing job as narrator. Also, I sang in this performance and it had one of those Disney magical moments. At around the 50 minute mark of this video, you’ll see that rain almost caused the performance to end right before the last song. There was a brief pause. Dick Van Dyke, being the great performer he is, made sure the pause didn’t ruin the performance. After this performance, as we were exiting, several of us Disney Employee Choir members turned to each other and said, “Best Candlelight Ever!”

I know that these songs are not on my running playlist. So, I hope that’s okay. However, on a music Wednesday, I wanted to share something that I get to do as a Disney employee that’s so much fun. I really enjoy being apart of this choir and wanted to share a little of the “behind the scenes” with you all. If you liked these two songs, be sure to check back on Christmas day. I’ve got two more songs I recorded on Monday night that I want to share on Christmas day.

5 thoughts on “Disneyland Candlelight Processional Music

  1. We saw the Candlelight Processional last December at WDW and I so wanted to be able to experience it this year at Disneyland, where we are vacationing. We will actually be there for it but with only 2 shows it’s fairly certain we will not be able to see it. Too bad we weren’t there last year when there were 20 shows 😦

    1. Too bad you won’t be able to see it. The 2 nights of Candlelight are what Candlelight at Disneyland has always been. Last year was an experiment. I think that, with Candlelight being on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland, it’s hard to pull off so many nights. If you do happen to be by Main Street on Saturday, December 7th, stop by for a listen. Even if it’s only for a song or two. I’ll be singing on that night. Even if you don’t make it, I hope you enjoy your time at Disneyland!

  2. I sang in the Walt Disney World Candlelight Processional as part of the Cast Member choir back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Dr. Charles Hirt would conduct Disneyland’s performance one week end, then fly to Florida and conduct Disney World’s performance. Our music selections were the same at that time, and we were still performing on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. We did try performing in front of the castle one year, it made a fantastic backdrop, but we could not use risers and the choir lost sound and clear sight lines of the conductor. Perry Como was our narrator that year, he stepped back from the podium and sang with the choir on the Hallelujah Chorus.

    After Dr. Hirt retired, a new conductor took over. He had written several arrangements for small ensembles, and he began replacing the various songs with his own compositions. Some people liked them, personally I thought he managed to make a 1000 voice choir sound like a bad barbershop quartet convention. I dropped out at that point, although I would still watch them occasionally.

    The Florida Candlelight then lost its procession when the program was moved to Epcot. The choir basically crosses the street from the American Pavilion to the America Gardens Theater, then divides into two columns for each aisle to process to the stage. The Herald Trumpets are now in tuxedos rather than medieval herald costumes, and are on stage on either side of the choir rather than above them. The organ and handbells are gone, although the orchestra has enough elbow room and they have increased its size. Curiously, the orchestral basses are mostly inaudible in the new setting, I could see the tuba player puffing, but could not hear it. It makes the whole performance sound tinny. I know the sound system has plenty of bass, some of the rock groups that have played there make the seats rattle, I assume the audio techs have limited experience with symphony orchestras.

    Thus ends my short history of how the east and west coast Candlelight Processions became so different. I would love to travel across country and hear the Disneyland edition some time, it sounds so much better than the Florida version.

    1. Thank you so much for posting this! In my first year working to the Walt Disney Company, I got to hear a presentation by Becky Cline of the Walt Disney Archives about the Candlelight Processional. The presentation largely covered Disneyland. So, I didn’t now the specifics of why they changed doing Candlelight from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT. I do know that, part of the reason the music changed at WDW was that Disney was able to use songs that were “works made for hire.” This allowed them to monetize the music. This is why there is a CD out with the EPCOT version of Candlelight and not one from Disneyland. It should be noted that Disneyland’s version has changed a little of the years as well. What I found most interesting is that Candlelight was originally supposed to be a small ceremony performed down Main Street U.S.A. However, the crowd that showed up to the first processional forced them to perform it on the steps of the train station. It’s been there ever since (except for a few years when they did the processional in the Fantasyland Theatre).

      You absolutely should come out west some day. However, we only do the processional on the first weekend after Thanksgiving. There are 2 shows on Saturday and 2 on Sunday with no dining packages. I like the Disneyland version better myself. However, I’m totally biased. I’ve sung with the Disney Cast Choir for 9 years now and 3 more times prior to that. I absolutely love our version. Anyways, thanks for the history lesson. I LOVED IT!

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