Like a chord that took an entire year to resolve, the Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball returned Saturday night.
A bright, major chord it was. And accompanying it was not a single flake of snow.
Last year, instead of digging out the white tie and tails from some remote corner of the wardrobe, many Philadelphians found themselves digging out from beneath a storm that eventually left nearly two feet of snow and one terribly bereft fan base for the city's big society bash.
Last year's anniversary concert and ball -- the 159th -- was scrapped for the first time ever. Not even the sunny superpowers of Philadelphia Orchestra music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin could save the day.
But absence did seem to make the heart grow fonder. The 160th was merry, and made merrier by a very merry prankster.
Academy leaders were talking to Alec Baldwin about being this year's big guest talent, and the actor's current repertoire as character-actor-in-chief would surely have sent a buzz through this crowd. But in the end, Martin Short, who had been booked for the 159th, came for the 160th.
He danced, he sang, he joked.
"I can't tell you how humble your applause makes a big star like me feel," said Short, apparently underwhelmed by the response. "It's more than a thrill -- it's an obligation."
"How are we on time? I'm a little apprehensive, because as you can see I have no act."
But he did. Alter ego Ed Grimley played the triangle and made passes at cute stringed players in the orchestra. Jiminy Glick sat down to interview Nézet-Séguin -- "a name no human being on this planet can pronounce," Glick told the audience.
He made the conductor blush at one point by attributing a quote to him that somehow involved martinis and breasts. "I'm pretty sure that quote is not from me," said Nézet-Séguin, barely able to hold it together.
Short at one point said he felt a kinship with Nézet-Séguin since they are both Canadian. "We're the aliens you don't deport," he said.
The orchestra played a few short, straight classical pieces, Short sang a few songs, including "Too Marvelous for Words," and the audience was off.
The event grossed $2 million, a spokeswoman said, with 1,980 people attending the concert, including 350 students and family members who received free tickets. After the concert, about 1,400 took the promenade up Broad Street to the Bellevue for dinner and dancing.
Mood and perceptions of success are subjective, of course, but there was a distinct sense of emotional release at the chairman's reception earlier in the evening. Maybe in its inscrutable wisdom, the universe held the Academy concert and ball in abeyance for a very good reason. It was suddenly and strangely gone, and now we're doubly happy to have it back. And, given the intervening year, we needed the jollity now more than ever.