2013 Disneyland Candlelight Processional Report

As I mentioned yesterday, with all the runDisney news last week, I got behind on activities from the previous week. On December 7th, I got to sing as part of the Disney Cast Choir at the Disneyland Candlelight Processional. This is not to be confused in any way with the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT. They are two entirely different shows. As a matter of fact the ONLY two things they have in common is singing the Hallelujah Chorus and the narration. For those interested, the Disneyland Candlelight Processional has been an annual tradition at Disneyland since 1958. So, it has been around almost as long as Disneyland itself and was originally considered Walt’s Christmas card to the city of Anaheim. Also, like its counterpart at EPCOT, they have had a celebrity narrator. This year, the celebrity narrators were Blair Underwood (Saturday) and Kurt Russell (Sunday). I sang on Saturday and had Blair Underwood as the narrator. I must say, he did an amazing job as narrator.


The above shot was actually taken a few years ago when Jon Voight was the narrator. If you look on the first row of the tree (green robes), I’m six people back. I actually stuck out that year because I stood on a riser that the male soloist for “Candlelight Carol” sings on. They shoved the riser back against the tree that year unexpectedly. So, when I got up on the tree, I was surprised . I had hoped that the person in front of me would go a little more forward so I didn’t stand out. However, my head is the one that seems a little out-of-place. I put this picture up because I stood in the same spot this year. Only, the riser for the soloist didn’t butt up against the tree.

Anyways, we had a 2:30pm call time to check in and at 3pm the rehearsal started in the Captain EO theatre. We had around 600 singers in the mast choir (80 of which are in the “living christmas tree” made up of the Disney Cast Choir). It was a rainy morning and we all hoped the rain would finish, or at least take a break, in time for the performances to go off in time. One of my friends in the choir was going to be the “star” on the tree for the 5:30pm first show. The “star” of the tree is the person who stands directly underneath the star. For the short people in the choir, it’s kind of a big deal. So, I was really hoping everything would work out for her to get this honor. The rehearsal is always a mix of fun and learning. Our director Nancy Sulahaian is an amazing director and sings in the Los Angeles Master Chorale. So, the advice she gives during the rehearsal is like getting a master vocal class for free. She has such a passion for the music of Candlelight that you can’t help but want to sing your best.

The rehearsal ended at a little after 4:30pm and I was free to go do whatever I wanted to do in the park. After all, I wasn’t performing until the 8pm show. I headed to the Plaza Inn for dinner and then headed down Main Street U.S.A. to catch the 5:30pm show. Since several friends of mine were in that show only, I really wanted to see it. I secured a spot in front of the store that sells Christmas merch near the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln theatre. My pictures didn’t come out so well. However, here is the stage waiting for everyone to arrive.


Before we knew it, the orchestra started up and the processional was on.


Once the orchestra finished, the choir processed up and onto the risers. It’s always really cool to see all the little candlelights make their way up to the stage and eventually fill the spots. Once they were on the risers, it was time to start the show…

The opening of Candlelight always gives me goosebumps when I’m singing in it. I love the herald trumpets are perched high above on top of the Train Station. They actually have to look all the way down to the conductor, just like the rest of us, to stay with everyone. There are no monitors up where they are to see the director. With my fear of heights, I could never do this. Watching the show brought back just how amazing this show is. I watched the rest of the show and took everything in. During the Hallelujah Chorus, I made my way back up Main Street U.S.A. to the place where I could go backstage. I was supposed to meet the person who I would switch with for the second performance at 6:45pm. In the past, I’ve performed for the first show only and know how much I appreciated seeing the person I would switch with on the early end so I could go and get dinner. The choir sounded amazing during the first show! Most of the show sounded like it was pre-recorded kind of good. So, I made sure to let my friends know how great they sounded. Here is the first show in its entirety. The video starts with the orchestra. If you want to see the start of the actual show, go to 13 minutes.

Sadly, I could not find a video of the 8pm show, otherwise, I would have posted that video. We lined up for the second show around 7:15pm by a Cast member dining place called the Inn Between and eventually made our way to the gates where we’d enter the park. The processional stated near the red corn dog cart on Main Street. The time spent waiting for everything to begin can be comical at times. Lots of joking around which prompts the “shhhh” to get us to quiet down. The moments waiting are fun and nerve-wracking at the same time. It’s like waiting for the start of a runDisney race. One thing that I miss from my first Candlelight years is processing up the entire parade route. If you’ve run the runDisney races at Disneyland, you’ve gone through this area…


When we’d go through this tunnel, we’d sing something I’ve heard in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (oh-eee-oh…oh-oh) and sway the candles from side to side. Looking back as we did this was quite an impressive sight. Oh, if only we could take pictures backstage like they let us do at the races. I would love to have a picture of this. Oh well.

At 8pm, the gates opened and we made our way up Main Street U.S.A. towards the train station. I’ve got to admit, this moment is really cool. It’s like being a celebrity. Cameras going off, people videoing, while we’re singing a loop of 4 Christmas carols. I’ve heard people talk about how it is to run up Main Street at the Magic Kingdom during Marathon Weekend. Doing the processional up Main Street at Disneyland might be as close as I’ve come to that. In January, I’ll be able to compare the two experiences. Anyways, the 8pm show went off really well. Nancy seemed pleased with us. Singing the show felt amazing! By the time we get to the end, it always chokes me up a bit. It’s a bittersweet moment for sure. We rehearse from the middle of September almost every week until this moment. Then, it’s over.

After turning in our robes backstage and getting our little gift for singing in the choir, I was free to hang out at Disneyland the rest of the night. I called my wife to see what house we’d be adding to our growing Disney Christmas village and then headed off to It’s A Small World. I got there after they had closed down the ride for the Christmas fireworks. So, I got the above video. I’ve got to admit, this was a great spot for watching the fireworks. It was almost a bit overwhelming with the fireworks going off all around you and the projections on the facade of It’s A Small World. I did the best I could to capture that on video.


Once the fireworks were over, I high tailed it over to It’s A Small World. I knew that the line would grow quickly after the fake snow had finished. I didn’t have to wait very long in line! So, I was one happy camper. I love It’s A Small World at Christmas. The Christmas overlay makes this ride an absolute must for the holidays. Here are some pictures from the ride at Christmas…








Yep, the weather is nice out here in Southern Cal!


From It’s A Small World, I made it over to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Even though it’s not as big as Cinderella’s Castle in Florida, it’s still beautiful at Christmastime.


Since I’m going to be watching the World of Color: Winter Dreams when I go to the parks on December 22nd, I decided to take in Fantasmic on the night of Candlelight. As I mentioned in this post, taking in Fantasmic at the second show is absolutely the best. I got a fantastic view of the show and arrived only 5 minutes prior to the showtime.


They don’t have the Peter Pan scene in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version of Fantasmic. It’s part of why I prefer the Disneyland version to theirs.


They also don’t have this cool dragon that we have out here…


Also, they don’t have the Mark Twain for the big finale…


Gotta love Steamboat Willie Mickey at the helm…


After Fantasmic, it was time to get to Main Street for some shopping before heading home. On the way there, however, I couldn’t resist trying to get a good shot of the Partner’s statue with the Christmas lights and the castle…


The view up Main Street U.S.A. with their Christmas decorations never gets old…


Disneyland always has one huge Christmas tree at the end…


After buying a few Christmas items, I saw the line for Mickey and had to stop for one photograph with him.


And with that, it was time to call it a night. It was a cold night at Disneyland, but oh, so much fun! I love singing in the Disney Cast Choir for the Candlelight Processional. The music is so much fun to sing. Not to step on the toes of those that love the Candlelight at EPCOT, but in my heavily biased opinion, the Disneyland version is superior. That’s not to say that the EPCOT version isn’t worth seeing. I just love our version of the show. I not only love the music that is in the Disneyland version, but I love that it’s performed on Main Street U.S.A. in a big, grand fashion. However, my opinion is incredibly biased as I have performed in Candlelight for 9 years (6 with the Disney Cast Choir and 3 with the choirs at Azusa Pacific University). So, I know the music inside and out and simply love it. I’m sure that if I had performed in the EPCOT version, I might have a different opinion. If you’ve only experienced the EPCOT Candlelight Processional, I highly recommend taking the time to watch the full show I’ve posted here for you to compare. I know it’s a bit long, but so worth it. After expriencing Disneyland once this holiday season, I simplay cannot wait until I get to go again this Sunday! This time, I’ll also get into Disney’s California Adventure. Hopefully, that 26 mile run on Saturday won’t leave me completely unable to move.

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