Once again this year I attended the Candlelight Processional during Holidays Around the World at EPCOT. I enjoyed narrators Levar Burton and Edward James Olmos. For one show I stood the entire time and the other I had a seat. Each time I was moved and reminded of what the season really means. I have written other articles at this time of the year recommending this show so I will not harp on that again but I will provide some background about the show and mention a few changes I noticed.
First the changes, most notable I noticed how popular the event was for each show, each night I was at EPCOT, huge crowds. The night we stood, the crowd was 4 deep! One change is that you cannot just walk in form the routine front entrances of the theater after the show starts, you can only enter though the areas that are used to line up on either side of the theater. The one side is for those who have dinner packages, these packages include a 3-course meal or full buffet for lunch and/or dinner and priority seating for a performance of the processional. The other side is the stand-by line/entrance, which is how we were able to obtain a seat. Although I think this is a good policy change, I was a little disturbed at the empty seats in the theater and people standing outside. Why not fill them all? I noticed that there is new décor too! I like the new ‘stained glass windows’ on the sides behind where the trumpeters play. It sort of looks like the EPCOT Ball! Beautiful!
Another notable change in the past few years has been the removal of the markedly Christian essay, “One Solitary Life,” read during the “Candlelight Processional” since 1976 and written by Dr. James Allan Francis in 1926. It details Jesus’ life, death and historical impact. Disney relates that shows are always reviewed and updated and this change was made to benefit performers. It seems the show was running so long and there wasn’t enough time in between performances for them to recover and prepare for the next show. So the 221 word essay was replaced with a 78 word narrative referencing the meaning for the season. The song DO You Hear What I hear has also been removed. The story and meaning are still there. Tis is why I still enjoy it so much.
Now a little background information. The show originated in 1958 at Disneyland. Walt Disney loved Christmas and wanted a special show for the season, so the legend goes. Carolers first with an evolution to what we see today. It was replicated at the Magic Kingdome in 1971 and moved to EPCOT Americans Garden Theater in 1994. The show is comprised of an orchestra and a mass choir that perform traditional holiday songs while a guest celebrity recites the biblical story of Christmas using verses Luke 1:26-31, Luke 2:1-18, Matthew 2:1-2, 10, Matthew 2:9, 11 and Isaiah 9:6 from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
My favorite conductor is John Sinclair. While I have seen many narrators including Neil Patrick Harris and Whoopi Goldberg, I have trouble picking a favorite! I am always moved by a narrator who I can see signing and is moved by the story by their own added words at one point in the show. I also enjoy watching the interpreter for the hearing impaired.
If you would like to have a CD of the show before some of the changes, check Amazon for a copy with Phylicia Rashad as the narrator.