Making magical music

Center Grove High School Singers perform in Walt Disney World Christmas show

By Amanda Stevenson-Holmes // Photography by Angela Jackson and submitted

The Center Grove Singers, better known as the CG Singers, is the high school’s varsity concert choir. The group had a recent opportunity to make magical memories in a Candlelight Processional performance at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
As part of the International Festival of the Holidays at EPCOT, the Candlelight Processional is a mass choir opportunity for groups from across the nation. Ensembles are selected through an audition process and are afforded the opportunity to sing in EPCOT alongside the professional Disney orchestra and the famed Voices of Liberty. For the CG Singers’ performance, celebrity Chrissy Metz, of “This Is Us” fame, was the narrator in the annual presentation of the Christmas story.
“Several of my choir-director friends had encouraged us to look into this opportunity pre-COVID, and this is the first year they have invited groups outside of Florida to perform,” explained Jennifer Dice, CG Singers choral director for 18 years.
Auditioning in early 2023, the CG Singers were selected for the first performance of the holiday season on November 24. The students were required to learn and memorize approximately 95 pages of music in about two months. That meant working on the set of songs in class and during their resource period. Participants also practiced with rehearsal tracks on their own.
The group elected to travel over Thanksgiving break to avoid missing school.
Dice said, “These students were also in the midst of preparing between five to ten pieces for their own Christmas show “Noel.” CG Singers is our top ensemble, and they are a highly skilled and extremely dedicated group of students. They handled the amount of repertoire like professionals.”

Memories for a lifetime
Any student in CG Singers could go, although it was not a required trip. Three students who participated were Jillian Ennis, Eli Emmons and Alex Werner.
“Throughout the months of October and November, we were practicing almost every day during rehearsals on top of our ‘Noel’ show practices,” said Ennis, who serves as one of the company managers and has been part of CG Singers for three years. “A lot of the songs that we sang for the Candlelight Processional were the same songs that we sing in our Christmas show, but they were slightly changed, and this made memorization very difficult.”
“Not many schools give the opportunities to do things like this where you’re not only able to enjoy yourself and have fun with your friends, but still continuing to do what you’re passionate about in a different environment,” added Emmons, who has been in Center Grove choirs for all four years of high school. This is his third year in CG Singers.
The group had the opportunity to practice with and meet other choirs from around the country, many of which were from Florida. During their Candlelight Processional performance, each student wore a gold robe and held a candle. They stood on stands flanking a professional Disney chorus while they sang their way through the Christmas story.
But the trip wasn’t all work and no play. After the performance, the students spent time exploring EPCOT and enjoyed a full day in Magic Kingdom.
“The highlight of this trip for me was the time I got to spend with the people in my senior class,” shared Werner, who has been part of the choir for four years and always wanted to join since first watching them on stage when he was nine. “I traveled with a group of ten, and we were all very close from the start. I’m glad I got to experience this my senior year in choir.”

Real world vantage point
Along with the preparation, fun and memories, students had the opportunity to gain a peek behind Mickey’s curtain and learn more about the hospitality and entertainment industries. Some parents and families were also able to attend and share in the magic.
“Disney is known for their outstanding live stage shows in their theme parks,” said Becky Lollar, whose daughter, Claire, is in the choir. “Our students were able to experience firsthand the level of preparation and behind-the-scenes ‘magic’ required to stage this fan-favorite holiday production at a high-profile venue.”
Students collaborated with a professional conductor, arranger, orchestra and singers. Additionally, they were able to see all the people that are required to manage the production aspect of a show.
“The benefit for our students was being able to perform at Disney and see the backstage life of these performers,” explained Jared Norman, choral director at Center Grove High School for 12 years and a 2008 Center Grove graduate.
Dice added, “This was a unique professional experience that allowed our students a backstage look at Disney Entertainment’s production process. Many of these jobs are within reach for the students and so it gives them a look at options for their future.”
Polly Bailer, whose son, Brock, is in CG Singers, said, “The Candlelight Processional at EPCOT was an incredible opportunity for the kids, their directors and their families. The highlight for our family was to share this special experience with Brock’s grandparents who live in Florida. Watching the faces of the choir students as they performed was a precious memory.”

Wait! There’s more
Center Grove maintains a long-standing tradition of excellence in its program that can be seen in its competitive choirs and concert ensembles.
“We had to audition and be selected to perform at Disney, and last year’s group was actually the ensemble that got us selected to perform this year,” Norman said. “We have several shows that happen at Center Grove throughout the year and would love for more community members to come and see the talent that our students display.”

To learn more and catch a CG Singers’ performance, visit the Center Grove Choirs website at