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A 16-year-old organized an incredible 50-person virtual ensemble to play the score from Soarin’ Over California

by Brooke Geiger McDonald

Sixteen-year-old Declan Messner has grown up a Disney fan and a music lover, so when he decided to organize a virtual ensemble comprising more than 50 musicians from all over the world, the song choice was clear.

Soarin’ Over California was one of my favorite rides as a kid,” says Messner, whose parents are Disney Vacation Club members and bring the family to Walt Disney World regularly from their home in Ohio. “I loved everything about it. The smells, the sights and the immersion. I am a huge Disney fan and when the idea of hosting a virtual ensemble came up, this music immediately came to mind.”

Messner’s idea began to take shape with a post in late March to a Facebook group called “Music But Everyone Is Quarantined.” Many of the musicians who participated were from part of this group and Messner found the rest online and through school.

Messner, who typically plays bassoon but sat this one out to direct, gave every participant their musical part to play with a track that helped ensure every participant’s video would be in sync. Once all of the videos were submitted, he edited them together — first the audio, then video to create the final product, which was completed in early July.

Messner says the ride was special to many of the musicians who participated, so the song choice made them even more excited to be a part of the ensemble. The process helped Messner and the other musicians to stay positive during quarantine, helping give them a sense of purpose, and he’s floored by the end product.

“The fact that more than 50 musicians could come together in such a difficult time and create beautiful music with nothing but a track astounded me,” Messner says. “This whole idea of virtual ensembles has been helping musicians all across the world connect with each other and continue doing what they love. Making music.”

So what’s next for Messner? Disney fans will be happy to hear he has another virtual ensemble in the works — this time it’s the music from Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure.

And he plans to keep them coming. “Doing these virtual ensembles is a ton of fun,” he says. “And doing Disney scores brings back so many memories from when I was a kid.”

Watch the full virtual ensemble performance of the score for Soarin’ Over California here:

Soarin' Over California Virtual Ensemble

What Disney score would you like to see Messner’s virtual ensemble play next? Let us know in the comments and we’ll share the most popular requests with him!

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7 comments

Loui B July 22, 2020 - 7:10 pm

Very well done, thank you. Would love to hear the music from Horizons.

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Reid Loveland July 22, 2020 - 10:23 pm

I so miss SOC. This is so cool. I would love to hear some (all may be too long) the entrance plaza music of Epcot; that compilation of the different attraction themes.

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Jackie July 23, 2020 - 8:27 am

Radiator Springs Racers, Submarine Voyage, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Monsters Inc., themes from Wall-E or Inside Out, Flight of Passage. Love this so much, thank you!

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catherine ann ruby July 23, 2020 - 9:38 am

Haven’t soared over California, but have over Orlando–love this journey into our memories. Some parts may need a little more volume–piano, harp, most of the percussion parts. But overall, a great listen!
Also would enjoy the Epcot entrance music.

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Alec Scribner July 23, 2020 - 2:36 pm

Beautiful. As the Creative Producer of the original Soarin’ Over California, I was fortunate to be on the soundstage an watch the late great Jerry Goldsmith conduct this wonderful piece. I admit it. After programming the ride to a temp music track for months (?), the minute we put in Jerry’s score, I had tears in my eyes. I’m so proud of this project over my 36+ years as an Imagineer and congratulate all of you for continuing it legacy with the amazing rendition of its sound track. Thank you.

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Robina Rutherford July 24, 2020 - 12:23 pm

Illuminations, please. I loved this as Soarin’ (over CA) was one of my favorites and my Dad’s favorite. Pirates of the Caribbean would be my 2nd choice.

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Bob K. July 29, 2020 - 8:53 am

Amazing! How about…

“Peter Pan” • John Williams • Flight To Neverland from Hook 

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