The Phoenix Symphony closed its 2013-2014 season with a pops concert of songs from Disney movies. It is not a concert for which I would have purchased a ticket but I was happy to volunteer to work the event as an usher.
This was my first experience ushering at Symphony Hall. It was an interesting night for my maiden voyage for a couple of reasons. The concert was sold out which is not often the case with the Symphony. Symphony Hall seats more than 2300. There were a large number of children in the audience which presents some challenges. Many of the children came dressed as their favorite Disney Princess. That did not create any particular challenges for the usher crew but it boosted the ‘cute index’ considerably. What did present a significant challenge, however was Phoenix Comicon.
After the 2005 remodeling, Symphony Hall is connected to the Phoenix Convention Center which, this weekend, hosted Phoenix Comicon. I understand it is a much smaller affair then the San Diego Comicon but this is the Phoenix event’s 14th year and they were expecting more then 50,ooo visitors over four days.
I’ve never attended Comicon. I like the idea of it but it seems like something I probably should have explored a generation ago. I love the costumes and the obvious enthusiasm participants bring to the event. Last night, however, the challenges were more logistical.
There is never a surfeit of parking in downtown for evening events but last night was the ‘perfect storm’ for the parking. Comicon, a sold-out Symphony concert and an Arizona Diamondbacks game were all happening at the same time within a 4-5 block radius. We’d been warned so I parked a few miles away and took the Light Rail to Symphony Hall. The trains are not used here as they are in cities like New York or Chicago where there is a functioning mass transit system but they were popular last night.
What I found most amusing was how difficult it was, by observation, to guess where any given passenger might be going. It was such an eclectic mix of humanity. I’d styled the required dress code for ushers; long-sleeved white shirt, black pants and black tie. (We get snazzy vests when we arrive.). To an observer I might have looked like a Mormon missionary had I a similarly dressed fellow traveler. Since I was alone, I am guessing my attire read “waiter”. There were a lot of people in costumes but I quickly learned there is not a lot of visible difference between a Disney Princess and some of the Comicon characters. Those dressed as zombies were probably not going to the Symphony (though, in a couple of cases I was wrong) but a lot of Diamondbacks fans are in touch with their inner zombie so, unless they were splashed with a quart of dried stage blood or wearing cat’s-eye contacts, it was hard to hazard a guess.
As interesting as the visual diversity was, the challenge was getting all those people to where they needed to go. Even once the Symphony patrons got downtown and found a place to park, usually at some distance, they had to walk to Symphony Hall. Those with kids must have struggled shepherding youngsters through such a stimulus-rich environment. The net effect is the larger than normal crowd arrived later than normal to the event but still needed to be seated by curtain time. It was a great learning experience for a newbie usher. The learning curve was pretty steep but the seasoned volunteers were wonderfully supportive, helpful, and patient with the rookie in their midst. It helped that I was familiar with Symphony Hall from my visits there as an audience member.
While tiring, it was a pleasant evening. It was nice to hear the Disney songs. They had a large screen show clips or still images from the movies and, on a couple of occasions, the lyrics for the sing-a-longs. I would have preferred to sing along with the Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid songs rather than the Mary Poppins medley but it was all in good fun. The only cloud on the otherwise clear horizon was the finale. “Earworm” does not begin to describe what it is like to drive home, go to bed, and try to get to sleep when the last thing you heard was “It’s a Small Word After All”.