Irresistible songs with unforgettable lyrics have been essential to the magic of Disney for almost a hundred years. The King’s Singers have created a musical love letter to the company as it prepares to celebrate its centenary. When You Wish Upon a Star, set for release on 28 April 2023, comprises spellbinding arrangements of twenty-five songs from almost every decade of Disney’s history. The British male vocal sextet turn their incomparable artistry to tunes that have provided the soundtrack to countless childhoods and brought joy to billions. They are joined by a glittering array of guest artists, opera stars Joyce DiDonato, Amina Edris and Pene Pati, trumpeter Lucienne Renaudin Vary, cellist Edgar Moreau and classical guitarist Plínio Fernandes among them.
When You Wish Upon a Star incudes songs that speak to listeners of all ages. Old favourites from Disney’s Golden Age mingle with standout songs from the past thirty years, each treated with the trademark King’s Singers blend of technical virtuosity, heartfelt expression and life-affirming energy. The album opens with ‘When you wish upon a star’ from Pinocchio (1940), an enduring hit newly graced with a flowing cello countermelody and lush romantic harmonies by composer John Rutter. Its tracklist embraces everything from ‘Someday my prince will come’ from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the first of Walt Disney’s full-length musical fantasy films, to ‘Remember Me’ from Coco (2017). Other highlights include Jim Clement’s sultry arrangement of ‘Cruella De Vil’ from 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Jamey Ray’s affectionate a cappella makeover of ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’ from The Lion King (1994).
“Making this album was a true labour of love,” comments King’s Singers first countertenor Patrick Dunachie. “We’ve all grown up watching Disney animations and wanted to celebrate the company’s hundredth birthday. They’ve brought such beautiful stories, images and music to so many and have shaped today’s cultural and musical landscape. We’re delighted that Warner Classics and our wonderful guest artists were so supportive of this project. In these songs, the same things touch us time and time again: a perfect understanding of how to harness the power of harmony and instrumentation; a commitment to playfulness and humour; a gift for marrying words and music perfectly, and an exceptional instinct for catchiness. We hope When You Wish Upon a Star gives as much joy to listeners as it did to us while we made it.”
The Walt Disney Company, founded in October 1923, produced one of the first animated films to use the new technology of synchronized sound. Music has been central to its mission to entertain, inform and inspire ever since Mickey Mouse made his debut in Steamboat Willie (1928). Disney have employed some of Hollywood’s finest composers and songwriters, including Frank Churchill in the 1930s, the Sherman brothers, Robert and Richard, and Sammy Kahn in the 1950s, and Alan Menken, Elton John and Randy Newman in the 1990s.
The King’s Singers pay tribute to the timeless genius of the Shermans in the form of ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from Mary Poppins (1964), and to Alan Menken’s equally catchy compositions. The latter’s ‘The Bells of Notre Dame’ from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) comes to life in a sensational close-harmony arrangement by Toby Young. British composer Young, whose choral commissions include works for the choirs of Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral in London, contributes eight other arrangements to the album’s comprehensive repertoire mix. His take on ‘Colors Of The Wind’ from Pocahontas (1995) turns Alan Menken’s tender song into a showcase vehicle for Joyce DiDonato. The great American mezzo also joins The King’s Singers and the jazz trumpet of Lucienne Renaudin Vary for Young’s scintillating arrangement of ‘When We’re Human’ from The Princess and the Frog (2009).
When You Wish Upon a Star, recorded at The Church Studio in London’s Crouch End, also boasts songs specially arranged for the album by critically acclaimed composers Nico Muhly (a sublime version of ‘Let it go’ from Frozen ) and Alexander L’Estrange (‘Someday my prince will come’; ‘When We’re Human’; ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me from Toy Story ; and ‘Bella notte’ from Lady and the Tramp 1955]). King’s Singer baritone Christopher Bruerton adds to the album’s rich expressive range with his dashing arrangement of ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.
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