When people think “Walt Disney World” and “entertainment”, the first things that usually pops into mind are character-filled shows on the castle forecourt stage or parades racing through the park. In reality, there are a ton of live entertainment options available pretty regularly around all of the parks; most won’t even require securing a viewing spot several hours beforehand! My personal favorite of the live entertainment presentations in the parks stems from my past as a band geek. That’s right; I am in love with the Main Street Philharmonic.
Imagine strolling through the Magic Kingdom to all of a sudden be bombarded with the blasting brass sound of four trumpets, three trombones, and two sousaphones on top of three percussionists, one of them playing everyone’s favorite, the cowbell. It is an everyday occurrence, and often how most people are introduced to the Main Street Philharmonic. Depending on the weather, they play several different ten to fifteen minute long shows throughout the day, five days a week (generally Sunday through Thursday). Shows earlier in the day (typically the 11:20am and 12:20pm shows) take place in Liberty Square on the walkway in front of the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe and the Liberty Tree just across from Hall of Presidents. Their afternoon shows (1:35pm and 3:55pm) take place on Main Street, USA, bookending a quick sweep through the park shortly before the Celebrate A Dream Come True parade begins (listed on the Times Guide for 2:50pm). The last chance to catch the group for the day is at the Flag Retreat Ceremony in Town Square at 5pm.
The band’s standard repertoire includes a mixture of classic songs like “Hold That Tiger” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”, as well as great arrangements of Disney film classics like “Be Our Guest”, “Under the Sea”, and my favorite, “Ev’rybody Wants to Be A Cat” from “The Aristocats”. I have typically found the sets to be themed by location; classic standards are generally played back in Liberty Square, whereas the Disney-themed sets take place on Main Street, so keep that in mind if you are tied to the music more than the entertainment factor when planning a stop. During the holiday season, the band will also add a few seasonal songs to the mix for each performance. On other holidays throughout the year, like Independence Day and Valentine’s Day, the band is known for mixing things up and adding their own favorites or past classics.
Each Main Street Philharmonic show is a different experience, not only because the songs change nearly every show, or since it is live music with some pretty talented musicians who like to improvise on occasion, but because you never know how the crowd will interact with the band. When they are not improvising some pretty amazing solos and standout performances, you will often find band members playfully jibing each other (and sometimes audience members or passersby). They are a pretty hysterical bunch, occasionally using props or their own instruments to make the experience even more entertaining. It is not uncommon to see a guest pulled in to play a bicycle horn on cue during “Hold That Tiger”, or for a band member to round up kids watching the show to wave flags during “Stars and Stripes Forever”. The dance floor is always open and the band is never afraid to participate themselves, even with a giant sousaphone in tow. Occasionally guests even get the pleasure to take part in group sing alongs, particularly during the holiday season set.
It is pretty easy to miss live entertainment groups like the Main Street Philharmonic when they are only around a few times a day, especially if you are focused on touring. This group, though, is worth a couple minutes of your time. Your feet will get a rest from walking, you get to hear some pretty fantastic musicians play a few favorite songs, and you might even get a laugh or two in the process.
Do you typically stop to enjoy the musical hijinx of the Main Street Philharmonic? What are your favorite songs or memories of the band? Share your comments below!