On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I found myself standing in the middle of the World Showcase at Epcot. It was chilly—well, for Florida, the holiday lights lit up the evening sky, and guests all around me sported their favorite sweaters—it was definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Everyone was heading to the same place: the America Gardens Theatre to see the Candlelight Processional.
This year was my first time seeing Candlelight; so many of my friends love the show and make a point to see it multiple times a year, so I knew I was in for a treat. I was absolutely blown away. The beautiful stage, the orchestra, the singers, the feeling of togetherness as we sang “Silent Night” together—it truly was special.
After the show, I had the chance to talk to Alex, a cast member who has been singing in Candlelight for six years. “It’s just such a beautiful concert and it’s so powerful to be part of such a good choir, to be able to stand there and hear all of these wonderful voices singing around you,” Alex said. “The show is inclusive of a whole lot of people. It involves cast members, it involves Voices of Liberty, and it brings in kids from high schools and colleges.”
All participants in Candlelight go through the audition and rehearsal process, which spans over three months. “In the audition, they have you sing a song from the show and then they’ll ask you to do the scales or other vocal exercises. This way they have a better idea of your voice and where you’ll fit in the choir,” Alex said. “If you’re a first-timer, they require you to attend ten rehearsals. This year, there were actually a couple rehearsals that were specific for languages, since we have songs that are in German, Spanish, and French.”
“It also gives us the excitement of being able to sing with celebrities, which is pretty cool,” Alex laughed. “I sang with Neil Patrick Harris a few years ago. I’m very tall, and the way they have it set up in the tree is that the tall people are in the front row, which is weird. That never happens! It’s very exciting because I’m almost always directly behind whoever the narrator is.” Check out the image above—that’s Alex next to Ming-Na Wen, the voice of Mulan!
“The show is a pretty inspirational experience, and that’s what keeps me coming back. Every year, I go through this process in my head: “do I really want to do this again? It’s always the same music…’ But every year I choose to continue just because it is so great,” Alex explained. “I could be absolutely exhausted, but I get up in that tree and the lights come on and—it’s very energizing…I just love it.”
After talking with Alex and hearing her story, my love for Candlelight has grown even more. While it was a spectacular show on its own, learning how much talent, dedication, and camaraderie goes into each performance was inspiring.
The Candlelight Processional runs through December 30th, 2018 at Epcot. If you haven’t seen it yet this year, I encourage you to go to experience the magic for yourself—once, twice, or even three times!
Formerly authored by Sarah B. at Partners