A 20th anniversary Disney diary

18 December 2012

In November singers from Inspiration Leeds and Newcastle travelled to Paris to take part in the 20th Anniversary Christmas Choral Celebrations at Disneyland Paris. Here is a diary of our exciting and mmmagical experience from one of the singers involved…

This was my first trip to Disneyland and Inspiration’s second visit to the annual Disneyland Christmas Choral Celebrations and what a celebration it was!

A few of us were flying from LBA on Friday and we gathered together in a small, but excited, group of red and black on a beautiful cold but very sunny day. By the time we touched down at CDG Paris it was raining. This, however, did not dampen the Inspiration spirit, Disney do not recognise rain.

After meeting Magic Dave (our guide for the weekend), finding our hotel rooms and joyously meeting up with other members of both Newcastle and Leeds choirs, my friend and I took the short walk into Disneyland to gaze at the shops, the Christmas lights and soak up some of the Magic. We decided to eat at the Rainforest Café, a truly mind-boggling experience for me, eating amongst gorillas whooping and moving, elephants trumpeting with ears flapping, birds calling and a mock thunderstorm interrupting our dinner!

Back to our hotel for a full choir meeting with an excited Gary Griffiths and a very early night because…

6.15am alarm call on Saturday morning!

This would be our first full day in the Disneyland park itself and it started with an 8 o’clock rehearsal and workshop with Robert – Disneyland Paris’s Musical Director. Because Inspiration are the first, and only, choir to have been given permission to learn and sing the Disney 20th Anniversary song, ‘Magic Everywhere’, we were a bit apprehensive, but needn’t have worried really. After a few runs through (adding in just a touch more ‘Disney’ and with Gary encouraging us on from behind him!) Robert was quite impressed with us. To the extent that he allowed we could sing ‘Magic Everywhere’ with just the accompaniment and without the Disney backing track – a great honour! Even Mickey Mouse was impressed with us – yes we had an extra person at our rehearsal!

So, now being officially part of Disney Performing Arts we formed up into the first of many red and black crocodiles (smiling and waving to any children) to walk through the Park to the dressing room. My friend and I just had time to grab a quick coffee, sandwich and a bun (well breakfast seemed so far back!) and take a trip on the railroad around the park. We got our first glimpse of the thrice daily parade, magnificent, but we did get a few amused looks from other visitors as it was impossible not to sing along to ‘Magic Everywhere’!

Time to get back to the dressing room, warm up and practise our stage line up (then reverse it, remember who is either side of you) and the red and black crocodile set off once again this time through a thronged Park to the first big sing at 2.30pm on the Castle Stage. Lights, cameras, action! This was the Disney sing so we were conducted by Robert himself – I just love watching Gary’s face when we get it right, and we did. It was my first experience of Disneyland, and my first experience singing on the Castle Stage and it was quite magical. As we were due back on the stage at 5.30pm the red and black army stayed around the stage and could therefore get in a good position to see the second Disney Christmas Parade go by. Once again, we couldn’t resist singing along to ‘Magic Everywhere’ and Alison got a hug from Eeyore when he saw we were singing along (I’m very jealous!). As the sun set behind the Castle Stage and the Christmas lights started to twinkle we went back on stage for our second big sing.  This time we sang from our own upcoming Christmas programme to great applause, even more magical!

Afterwards we all went across to watch the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Main Street, decided against going on a ride and went back to the hotel for a warm up, food (nice), chocolate tart (even nicer) and returned to the Park at 10pm to watch the nightly show of ‘Disney Dreams’ projected onto the Castle, with music and fireworks – an absolutely amazing spectacle.

The slightly later alarm call on Sunday – 7.30! – allowed for a more leisurely breakfast and then the red and black crocodile set off once more for backstage Disney dressing room. As we left the dressing room the sun came out and the wonderful red and black, smiling and waving, crocodile paraded across the Park to The Hub just inside the entrance to sing an acapella programme at 10.30am to welcome the day’s visitors. It seemed that everywhere we went people smiled and waved and we really felt we were part of the Disney Magic. Time for a cup of coffee and a ride on Pirates Of The Caribbean before heading back for our final concert – inside the massive Videopolis.

Our special moment came whilst we were outside the back practising lining up for the stage and having a bit of a warm up sing.  We had nearly finished singing ‘Winter Wonderland’ when, to his great surprise and joy, Gary was gently pushed out of the way by none other than Darth Vader! He took over the conducting (quite well actually). Who would have guessed Darth Vader was just such an old softie? Unfortunately because we were officially backstage no cameras were allowed so we didn’t get to capture the look on Gary’s face – we will all remember it though.

Back on stage for our final performance of this wonderful weekend on the Videopolis stage where we discovered we were also being relayed on the large video screens – I felt like a pop star! This was the best concert yet and Gary had changed the running order of the songs so that we ended on the biggest and best last chord of ‘Let It Snow’!

Just time for some lunch, a trip on the big showboat and a cracking good ride on ‘Thunder Mountain’ before grabbing a cup of mulled wine and gathering up our baggage to make the trip back to CGD to fly home which turned out to be the reverse of our arrival – we left Paris with clear skies, landed in Leeds in the rain!

A truly magical weekend with no less than four BIG SINGS in two days. I’m exhausted, my feet hurt, my throat hurts but I enjoyed it all!

Wendy Knowles
Tenor (Leeds)

Inspiration singing at Disneyland Paris 2012 Inspiration singers at Disneyland Paris 2012 Inspiration singers with Mickey!