Did a tour bus suddenly let out in front of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul around the same time as its Friday Christmas concert? No, the line stretching down the windswept block was leading to the first joint concert by Tempesta di Mare, Piffaro, and Choral Arts Philadelphia. No doubt their combined mailing lists helped bring together a large crowd for three weekend concerts, plus an ambitious program titled "Advent Vespers, Dresden 1619."
The following news may be greeted with rejoicing or horror: The Tallis Scholars, the British chamber choir that made an international reputation based on music written before 1600, has been joining the 21st century - and brought its updated self to the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on Friday.
'How about one more movement?" Philadelphia Orchestra music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin couldn't resist making that faux-casual suggestion when the Friday audience erupted into full applause after three out of four movements in Henri Vieuxtemps' Violin Concerto No. 4.
When last at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater, mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter had such a blue-chip opera career that hearing her in a smallish theater such as that was a coup. Now, at 60, having sung nearly everything suitable to her mid-weight mezzo voice, she has arrived here with the kind of program singers assemble when they have nothing to lose.
David Patrick Stearns is a classical music critic and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.