Forty-six members of the Madison Central High School choir took part in a 37-year tradition over the holiday break.

The choir members spent 16 hours on a bus to Orlando, Fla., after being selected to participate in the Disney Christmas Candlelight Processional at Epcot Center at Disney World.

The processional, which is performed three times daily from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, celebrates the biblical story of Christmas through liturgical readings from the Bible interspersed with Christmas carols.

“It was so amazing,” Katie Haendel, a junior ar Central, said about performing at the event. “Nothing else will be able to top that.”

Each performance has more than 400 participants, including the 50-piece Disney Orchestra, the world renowned Voices of Liberty, a 50-member choir of Disney employees, a celebrity narrator and the massed choir made up of high school choirs from all over the world.

Madison Central performed in two shows lasting about an hour each with celebrity Rita Moreno as the narrator.

Through videotaped auditions, about 100 high school choirs are chosen to participate with Madison Central being the only Kentucky school chosen this year, said Lisa Jury, the school’s choral director.

“The students were very excited,” she said. “They were impressed with the orchestra being their accompaniment. They never get that opportunity.”

“They probably had about 2,000 people listening to them that night,” Jury said. “So, they were overwhelmed, but very glad to be there after working so long.”

Once selected, the choir must learn 15 pieces of music arranged by Disney musicians, make their way to Epcot Center, rehearse with the Disney staff and be prepared to go on stage the same day as their rehearsal.

“I honestly came into this trip thinking the Candlelight Processional was a chore we would have to do in order to go to Disney World,” said senior Steven Hogue. “It ended up being one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

The choir also had to raise nearly $20,000 to underwrite their opportunity to sing at Disney World.

Since August, the students prepared and participated in a variety of fundraisers, including lawn cleanup, pie auctions, chili suppers and adopt-a-choir-member campaigns to raise enough money to fund their way.

The choir members, who next will be competing in several choral competitions and preparing for “Bye Bye Birdie” in May, worked the hardest she has ever seen them work, Jury said.

“It’s a big deal,” Jury said about being chosen to participate. “It’s so much work, especially the first year that you go because all the music is so new. It’s a very big honor that we were chosen to go this year. We’ll do it again sometime, but not anytime soon.”

Bryan Marshall can be reached at bmarshall@richmondregister.com or 624-6691.

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