Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013


Disneyland’s tradition of the Candlelight Processional, featuring a massed choir performing Christmas music, began in 1958. Unlike Epcot, it is only performed on two nights, typically the first weekend of December, making it more of a challenge to see. (Last year it was performed on 20 nights, but they did not repeat that this year.) Some people arrive at park opening to stake out their spots for the processional at 5:30 in the evening!

The risers for the choir are set up at the Main Street train station with a stage for the orchestra and narrator.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

Chairs are placed in Town Square and on Main Street.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

Lee and I had the opportunity to see the processional on Sunday as guests of Disneyland Public Relations. Most of the photos below are Jason’s. He saw it on Saturday night and his photos are better than mine. 🙂

It had been a long time since I’d seen the Candlelight Processional at Disneyland – like many of you I am much more familiar with the one at Epcot. The Disneyland version is quite different: there are some aspects I like about it and some where I prefer Epcot’s version. But either way, it’s still a beautiful and moving experience.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

The massed choir is composed of Disneyland cast members and a number of other vocal groups such as high school and church choirs, mostly from southern California. We did not receive a program, so I don’t have any of the names, unfortunately.

The choir proceeds down Main Street, singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, “The First Noel”, and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” as they enter and fill in the risers.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

Unlike Epcot, there are no Voices of Liberty at Disneyland. A couple of the songs featured male and female soloists, but otherwise we heard the choir singing – and I really liked that. At Epcot I think the Voices of Liberty overshadow the beautiful sound of the massed choir.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

There were also performances by a hand bell choir and a guitar soloist. The guitar solo during “Silent Night” was quite poignant.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

Several of the songs are different than those performed at Epcot: “The Candlelight Carol”, “Sing Noel”, and “The First Noel”. Even those that are the same generally have very different arrangements, like “Joy to the World”, and “We Three Kings”. I missed one of my favorite Epcot songs: “Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy” and I also preferred the Epcot version of “Joy to the World”. But I really liked “The Candlelight Carol”.

The celebrity narrators were Blair Underwood on Saturday and Kurt Russell on Sunday. The passages they read from the Bible were somewhat different than I’ve heard at Epcot. I must say that I think the song selection at Epcot complements the scripture passages better than at Disneyland. For example, even though “The First Noel” describes events after the birth of Jesus, the song followed the reading of the angel Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary. Unfortunately most of them were like that and it seemed a little disjointed to me.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

One of Lee’s favorite parts of the Candlelight Processional is the herald trumpets – and they were featured often. Their placement on top of the train station was very effective.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

It was a wonderful show – it brings home “the reason for the season” in a way that you don’t see very much these days. It’s unfortunate that it’s so difficult to see at Disneyland, though maybe that makes the experience all the more meaningful.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013

Disclaimer: Laura Gilbreath was an invited media guest. Her opinions are her own.

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Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

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3 Replies to “Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2013”

  1. I have seen the candlelight processional at Epcot twice and have enjoyed it very much. Last year on one of my regular trips to Disneyland (I am an AP holder) I got stuck in the congestion on Main Street before the Candlelight performance. I don’t see why they don’t utilize the Fantasyland theater for the processional, it would hold a large number of people and not congest the entrance of Main Street for everyone.

  2. Thanks for sharing this review–

    We were at DL over this same weekend and had hoped to see this. Was extremely disappointed to find out from the concierge at the Grand CA Hotel that the seating was by invitation only–and not even passholders were offered an opportunity at tix this year. There was standing room around the perimiter, but most of that was obstructed view so for those who are height challenged, it didn’t seem worth waiting 3+ hours to not actually get to see the performance.

    If DL is going to commit to this, I would love to see them go back to offering more shows and at least a few lotteries so folks other than “invited guests” could enjoy it.

    Laura replies: Lori, I’d like to see that, too! I know the logistics are complicated, because it totally disrupts the flow of traffic on Main Street, but still, it would be great if more people had the opportunity to experience it.