Bass-baritone Eric Owens, one of Philadelphia's great performing arts success stories, sets such a high standard in opera you have to respect the kinds of recital risks heard on Sunday at the Kimmel Center. As risks will, they had varying degrees of success.
Eighth Blackbird has so decisively changed the new-music landscape that the least listeners can do is meet the group more than halfway at each Philadelphia reappearance. That attitude was needed at its Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert on Friday at the Kimmel Center.
Individual charisma can be regarded suspiciously in chamber music, because the medium is so much about cooperation. Thus, the Orion Quartet concert Sunday with Philadelphia Orchestra oboist Richard Woodhams packed the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater with promises that the excitement would arise from integrity rather than superficialities.
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.
David Patrick Stearns is a classical music critic and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.