by Fiona Carroll
Disney’s theme parks are the favorite place of many. This is especially true for those who live in South Florida, with four of Disney’s famous parks only a short drive away from any major school district. For the 60th year, Disney hosted the Candlelight Processional where the story of Christmas is told by a celebrity narrator, accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a massed choir comprised of high school students, adults and the Disney Cast Choir. For the West Broward Choir Club, this year was their fourth year participating in the event.
The club, sponsored by chorus and music teacher Javier Iván Díaz, had been diligently practicing since October to perform on Dec. 11 at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. To be invited to the performance, they had to learn a part of the Christmas song “O Holy Night” and submit a video recording to Disney Youth Programs. Disney would then have professionals look over every audition video and select the best choirs for the Processional.
“Over the past few months, all of us definitely increased our confidence and began to work better as a team because we put our all into this. Everything turned out amazing,” said sophomore Carly Caraza. “Each person came to understand that they’re not just one voice, but a whole choir.”
The turnout this year was much larger than the previous years. There were over 80 students who auditioned to participate in the club with only 50 spots available. The students were tested on their knowledge of sight-reading and their performance of “O Holy Night”.
“I’m always looking for two elements: musicianship and vocal technique,” Díaz said. “Musicianship is when the students can demonstrate that they can sight-read the music and understand the vocal parts. Vocal technique is when the kids can sing in pitch, breathe accordingly, and balance the sound in their section.”
Since this is the fourth consecutive year of the club’s attendance, the last remaining members of the original choir said goodbye to the program. Many senior members acquired leadership positions in order to train the next generation of singers.
“It was a bittersweet moment to be able to help the new singers get more confidence in learning the music,” said senior Kaleb Hobson-Garcia. “It’s been really great being able to teach some of the younger kids that they can do this and see the reward that came out of it. It’s cool to be able to leave behind that legacy and to leave behind future leaders.”
For others, this was their first Candlelight performance, with many looking forward to next year’s audition processes. Although the club will be losing their most experienced members when the seniors graduate, they are still hoping to make it to the 2019 Candlelight Processional.
“This was my first year doing Candlelight, and I have learned so much from it,” Caraza said. “I’m so excited for next year and making more amazing memories.”
Even with the years of experience that some of the members have, practice was still key in the choir’s preparation for the event. The choir had to learn 14 songs in less than two months, including classics such as “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Stille Nacht,” and “Joy to the World.” Under the leadership of Díaz, the choir worked hard to master the songs just in time for the performances. Even with all their hard work, there are always things that can be improved in order to prepare for their submission next school year.
“This club is strong when we come together as one; when Diaz puts us all together in the same room, all of us are equals,” said junior Xavier Salazar. “But we do have things that definitely can be improved like connection, dedication, and commitment.”
Candlelight has become a loved and anticipated tradition for the club and the chorus program. Students who participated this year for the first time are hoping for more future opportunities, while seniors had a trip filled with many emotions and much gratitude as they said goodbye to Candlelight.
“I think it’s a great tradition for the program. I have seen that Candlelight has motivated many students to make music their career,” Díaz said. “It brings kids one of the most beautiful memories of high school. Every single kid that has gone to Candlelight always say ‘This is one of the most beautiful and incredible memories that I’ll never forget.’”