24 June 2022, 14:08
A world-class pianist, a world-famous setting, and Walt Disney’s favourite melody.
Lang Lang has become the world’s first classical pianist to perform at Disneyland Park in California.
Sat at a Steinway grand piano on the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, at Disneyland Park in California, the star pianist places his hands on the keyboard and delicately spells out the opening chords of an instantly recognisable Disney tune.
Co-written by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman for the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins (starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke), ‘Feed the Birds’ is sung by an elderly woman asking passersby for change so that she can feed the pigeons on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Forming a centrepiece of the film’s soundtrack, the theme reoccurs in various poignant places throughout the film, serving as a reminder of the importance of kindness, generosity, and charity.
Walt Disney himself declared it his favourite of the Disney melodies, frequently asking the Sherman brothers to visit his office on a Friday afternoon to play it for him – a tradition they continued even after Disney’s death in 1966.
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Lang Lang is the first classical pianist ever to perform at the park, and as castle and pianist bathe in the purple glow of the pre-dawn twilight hours, the arrangement progresses into a beautifully rhapsodic performance.
The arrangement reaches a dramatic climax as dawn breaks over the California castle and Lang Lang’s virtuosic exploration of the Sherman brothers’ harmonies leads into a reprise of the beginning theme.
The performance has been filmed ahead of the release of Lang Lang’s new album, The Disney Book. Having been inspired by music from cartoon animations from a young age, and even crediting the popular cartoon Tom & Jerry with igniting his urge to learn piano, Lang Lang said: “Animation sparked my imagination and transported me to other worlds. The music was a big part of this experience – and led to my life-long love of classical music”.
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The music of Walt Disney’s films in particular had an impact on the young Lang Lang, as he recounts: “When I was 13, I visited Disneyland in Tokyo; it was the first time I had heard ‘It’s a Small World’ and the melody stayed with me all day – and long afterwards”.
His new album features music from some of Disney’s greatest films and animations, from well-loved classics including Pinocchio and The Jungle Book to new audience favourites Frozen and Encanto.
Lang Lang is joined on the album by star collaborators, including tenor Andrea Bocelli, singer-songwriter and pianist Jon Batiste, guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, and Lang Lang’s wife Gina Alice Redlinger, with whom he shares an 18-month-old son. According to Lang Lang, “Gina played ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ and danced a tango with him – he was so happy!”
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He has also enlisted the help of some of the world’s greatest musicians to arrange these Disney classics into new versions, with contributions from Stephen Hough, Natalie Tenenbaum and Randy Kerber.
The album will be released on 16 September 2022 on Deutsche Grammophon, in collaboration with Disney Music Group.