For those of you that haven’t experienced the joy that is The Candlelight Processional, it is an annual telling of the story of Christmas with a full orchestra and choir accompaniment. More than that though, there are celebrity narrators that come in to tell the story while visiting high schools and a volunteer cast choir sing traditional songs to go along with it. The show can be seen every year in Epcot at the America Pavilion stage.
This year, you have a treat, as one of the choir members, a second soprano named Jenn, has agreed to tell all about her experiences with the Candlelight Processional. Jenn has been a Cast Member with Disney since she was eighteen at the Disney Store. Currently, she works with Disney Cruise Line and is approaching her eighth year with the company. Thank you, Jenn, for sharing!
BestofWDW: I’m going to start by saying it’s so exciting that you get to perform with all these different celebrities, so I have to ask, who are some of the celebrities that you have performed with? Which are your favorite?
Jenn: I’ve performed with Neil Patrick Harris, Chita Rivera, Whoopi Goldberg, Edward James Olmos, Marlee Matlin, Gary Sinise, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Blair Underwood. My favorite has to be Chita Rivera because she was just so invested in the whole performance. She made a point to talk and hug all of us before and was dancing along to all the songs. She’d also turn around and crack jokes to us between songs as well. She was just so much fun to perform with. I keep wanting her to come back.
BestofWDW: And who are you looking forward to performing with this year in 2017?
Jenn: This year I am super looking forward to performing with Matt Bomer. He’s one of my favorite actors and I can’t wait to see how he is as a narrator.
BestofWDW: So I know I got ahead of myself there, I should really ask you about how you became involved with the choir. What is the process for being able to participate in the show as a cast member?
Jenn: In order to participate as a Cast Member, there is a selection process around the beginning of August when interested members come in and sing a section of song from the Processional. After that, about two weeks later, there is an email that tells us whether we were selected or not. If we were, we then start signing up for rehearsals and rehearse both in a group and with our vocal sections up until the show start dates.
BestofWDW: Do you have any special methods of practicing your songs once you are selected?
Jenn: Before the actual show, I tend to listen to the music at work or beforehand and then my tradition is to just sing through the songs as I drive into Epcot. I really enjoy listening to the music and I’ve done it for so many years I don’t actually get nervous about not knowing my part. But I like to make sure I am warmed up, especially if it’s a weekend and I haven’t been talking a lot.
BestofWDW: What was the most difficult song to learn out of all of them that you perform?
Jenn: The hardest song was probably Joy to the World. There is a lot of sectional parts and you really need to hold your own in the tree.
BestofWDW: Approximately how long do you rehearse for before you do your first show?
Jenn: I have had eight rehearsals officially before my first show, but I also would have been rehearsing on my own, in my car and at my house to make sure I’m ready to go.
BestofWDW: Singing in the car is a personal favorite of mine. Which is your favorite song to sing?
Jenn: My favorite is Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy because I just love how much the crowd loves it and how fun it is. I also love Silent Night because it’s the one time we can see the audience and really interact with them.
BestofWDW: It is really beautiful when members of the audience join in singing Silent Night. Now why is the Christmas story special to you?
Jenn: I am Catholic, so to me this is truly the greatest story every told. It’s a story of hope and about love and this show is the highlight of the season for me. I love to share my joy with others.
BestofWDW: Is that also why you come back to participate every year?
Jenn: This is truly Christmas to me. Every year I get so scared I won’t be picked because I just love the show so much. I love being up there and being able to sing and hear the narrators tell their story. And I love that I am part of the Christmas tradition for so many other families that come to Epcot and sit together to watch us. It really is magical.
BestofWDW: Have you ever gotten stage fright while performing? What did you do?
Jenn: I never get stage fright, but I do sometimes worry about passing out. I never have, but I always worry, especially on really hot nights. The trick is to just focus on your breathing and know your own limits. I’ve sometimes walked away from doing a second show because I knew I was just too drained to make it through.
BestofWDW: I noticed some people in the choir are wearing green robes and some yellow. Is there a difference between these choir members?
Jenn: The green robes are the cast choir while the yellow robes are our visiting choirs. There are also cast members in yellow who are using wheelchairs on the side, dressed to match our visiting choir.
BestofWDW: Everyone is holding a candle and I don’t see microphones. Are you using any?
Jenn: They are suspended above us. They’re very powerful, too. Only a few carries all our voices.
BestofWDW: So are the candles real?
Jenn: They are real magic candles! Beautiful but enchanted not to hurt us. Disney magic at it’s finest!
BestofWDW: Has the choir or performance changed or evolved over the years you have been involved in it?
Jenn: It definitely has changed. We have a new tree, new songs, new narration, and new selection processes. I definitely think it’s all been for the better. I love our new tree and how we look in it. And I love our new recessional and all the fun songs it has in it. We keep adapting and changing here at Disney. But it’s always for the best.
BestofWDW: I love that, Disney is always working on making things better and better. Do you have any before or after traditions that you do when you perform?
Jenn: My one tradition is, the minute I am done performing, I go to the Japan pavilion and get myself a kakigori (shaved ice with fruit syrup and condensed milk sauce). It’s perfect for soothing my throat after the show, so I’ll pick it up and walk around the showcase on my way out.
BestofWDW: That sounds delicious and practical. How many performances in total do you think you’ve performed in?
Jenn: I’ve been in Candlelight for six years and I have done more than five shows each year, so I’ve probably done a total of more than 30 shows. It’s never enough!
BestofWDW: So this year what are the dates that Candlelight Processional is running?
Jenn: The dates are November 24th to December 30th 2017.
BestofWDW: Can you tell us anything about the dinner packages that Disney offers with Candlelight Processional?
Jenn: I do know it’s the best way to guarantee yourself a very good seat for the show as most of the seats at the front are reserved for the dining package. It’s also a really great way to enjoy your time at the restaurant because, without the package, you should line up about an hour before the show you want to see. Longer, if it’s a popular narrator like Neil Patrick Harris.
BestofWDW: Do you have any tips for viewers wanting to get a good seat for the show?
Jenn: Just line up early. If you HAVE to see a certain show, there is no time that’s too early. Just get in line and wait it out. That’s the best chance, outside of the dining package.
BestofWDW: How early do guests need to arrive to get a good seat? How early is early?
Jenn: An hour is safe for slower shows. But if you know that the narrator is popular, you should think about two hours or more.
Thank you so much again to Jenn for filling us in on all the little details about being on te inside of the Candlelight Processional! It’s such a beautiful show and well worth the wait to see it regardless of if you have a dinner package for it or not. And this year there are new celebrities joining the narrators line up!
Who are you most excited to see tell the story of Christmas? Kurt Russell? Warwick Davis? CCH Pounder? Or is it someone else such as Matt Bomer like Jenn?
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