One of the “hidden gems” of Disneyland during the holidays is the Disneyland Candlelight Processional. This event was started by Walt Disney himself in the third year of Disneyland as a “Postcard to the City of Anaheim.” It has morphed into a version of the processional that you can see today around 1961 (as far as I can tell). As a member of the Disney Cast Choir, I have had the privilege of singing in the Disneyland Candlelight Processional for the past 7 years! Before that, I got to sing with the choirs of Azusa Pacific University 3 years. So, this is the 10th year I’ve been able to sing in this wonderful production.
I know that many of you who read this blog are only familiar with the version of the Candlelight Processional that is performed at EPCOT. So, I thought it would be fun to post videos of both versions of this show for your viewing pleasure. If you haven’t seen the Disneyland Candlelight Processional, but have seen the EPCOT version, I highly recommend viewing the Disneyland version first. Likewise, if you’ve seen only the Disneyland version, view the EPCOT version first. They are two different productions entirely. From what I understand there are only two elements that both productions share…a celebrity narrator and the Hallelujah Chorus. For the Disneyland version, I’m posting each song individually from this year because it is from the performance I sang in. I’m also posting a video of the processional from a previous year in its entirety. So, you can choose which to watch. The older version has an element which was taken out recently…the poem “One Solitary Life.”
Part 1 is the orchestral oveture. This is played in Town Square as the choir is processing up Main Street U.S.A.
Once the orchestra is done, the choir sings 4 Christmas carols while making our way up onto the risers.
Then, the main show begins with “Sing Praise to Him Our Lord.” I love this song because it all starts with the herald trumpets perched on top of the Main Street Train Station. Every time I hear this it gives me goosebumps!
After the fanfare of the opening song is over, the narrator is introduced and his narration leads to “The First Noel.” This arrangement is glorios!
Up next is my favorite song of the whole Candlelight Processional…Candlelight Carol!
If you’re familiar with the EPCOT version, you will recognize this song. We sing a little different arrangement of Now is Born than they do at EPCOT.
Next up is Angels We Have Heard on High. Again, I love this arrangement. When we sang this song this year, the ending (when the herald trumpets come in) gave me chills. I was so caught up in it that I had to stop singing for a little bit. What can I say? I’m a trumpet player.
Then, What Child is This follows.
We Three Kings features the guys. So, being a guy, I love this one. I like this particular video because I can see myself. There are some good up close shots of the choir in this video.
Sing Noel is another favorite of mine because it features a killer brass part.
Silent Night is a beautiful song period. This arrangement even more so. The tenor soloist is fantastic.
Joy To the World! Not too much to add here.
We finish up the ceremony with the Hallelujah Chorus. What I love about this arrangement is the additional trumpet parts for the herald trumpets on the Train Station.
Then there’s the concluding remarks and the recessional as the choir exists.
I also sang in this performance from 2012 with Dick VanDyke as the narrator. It features one of the most magical moments I’ve experienced at Candlelight. Towards the end, rain almost causes the performance to come to an abrupt end. What follows is pure Disney magic. This is also the last year that the processional featured the poem “One Solitary Life” by Dr. James Allen Francis.
I know that I’ve spent a majority of this post on the Disneyland Candlelight Processional. That’s because this is the version I know very well and love. This year, I’ve finally made it through the EPCOT Candlelight Processional. I know that Neil Patrick Harris is a popular narrator out there. So, I wanted to find a video of the full show featuring him. The Disneyland version of Candlelight is almost entirely a reading of the Christmas story from the Book of Luke in the Bible. The EPCOT version of Candlelight has some additions that are not from the Bible. This doesn’t make it better or worse in my opinion. It’s just different. I’m not a big fan of this version of the show. However, I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve been apart of the Disneyland version first. If you love the EPCOT version, that’s cool with me. I present it here so you can see both versions in one place. I also present both versions for those of you who have only seen one version. Hopefully, you’ll be able to appreciate the version you haven’t seen before. Even though I prefer the Disneyland version, I think the EPCOT version is also very good and once I made it past the first song or two, I really enjoyed it. So, give both versions a chance.
10 thoughts on “Candlelight Processional Disneyland vs. EPCOT”
Last year (at Epcot) was my first year experiencing the Candlelight Processional and I fell in love. I hope in another year or two I’ll be able to experience the Disneyland version, those videos make it seem just as wonderful!
I’m glad that you got to experience Candlelight at EPCOT! If you come out to Disneyland, keep in mind that it only runs the first weekend after Thanksgiving. So, you’ll need to plan accordingly. However, you won’t be disappointed. I hope you get to see it at Disneyland!
Thanks for the tips! I haven’t been to Disneyland in over a decade, so I’m looking forward to eventually going back and experiencing it as an adult
So much has changed in that decade. Disney California Adventure is so much different as well! Hopefully, you’ll find your way out here one day!
California Adventure wasn’t even built the last time I was there…so maybe it’s been closer to 2 decades since I’ve been. It probably was…I was 10 and now I’m almost 30. Wow. Time flies!
I’m planning on running the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in 2016, so hopefully I’ll be able to take some time to enjoy the parks that weekend
I’m an EPCOT Candlelight devotee (probably because I was a WDW CM) for 4 years), and I had never taken the time to watch the DL version. I really like it! It breaks my heart that both versions removed One Solitary Life. It was one of my absolute favorite parts of the entire show! (good thing I have the CD, so I can relive it over and over and over) 🙂
I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m a total Disneyland homer. I worked at Disneyland while in college and now work for the mouse up in Burbank. I grew up going to Disneyland. So, I’m completely biased. In writing this post, I finally made it past the second song of the EPCOT version. I’m glad I did because it was interesting to see how different the two shows are. I don’t think anything will change my opinion that the Disneyland version is best. There’s just something really cool about 650 singers, a full orchestra, hand bells, and the herald trumpets on top of the Main Street Train Station. For me, Candlelight belongs on Main Street in big, grand fashion. Saying all of that, I do respect those that would prefer the EPCOT version. After all, I think that whatever you saw first will probably be the one you prefer. The point of the post is that BOTH versions are great! I’m so glad that both coasts have this show!
It is a bummer to see the One Solitary Life gone from the program. I do miss it. You Tube is great for reliving the past moments. So, we can still see the program with One Solitary Life in it.
My only thing about the Disneyland one it is so hard to get to be able to see it. I loved when they offered it to APs 2 years ago-I finally had a good viewpoint for the whole show!
I do like the Epcot one runs longer so you have more opportunity to hear different people.
Good points. I think you outlined the good and the bad of both. For me, it’s all about the music. I love the Disneyland program (totally biased) and the way the music fits the narration. Plus, it’s on Main Street U.S.A.!
You say there aren’t a lot of similarities, but I count SIX songs both shows feature. The biggest difference between the show is that the EPCOT version celebrates Christ and Christmas in an international format, while Disneyland appears to celebrate the holiday of Christmas.