The all-important coffee break is respected by much of mankind. Even Johann Sebastian Bach had something to say about it.
It is nearly impossible to believe now, but during the several years I worked (read: played) in the very beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal, I never had the means to make coffee at home nor felt that something was lacking. My habitual café, or café regular, was only several steps from where I was living, and somehow it always seemed perfectly natural to partake of my urgently-required brew at that counter just around the corner. Whoever was serving knew enough to start preparing um duplo (a “double”) as soon as I was spotted heading through the doorway. If I was practicing at home and needed a coffee break, I was off to the Café Colmeia (translates as the “beehive café). At the finish of a dinner party hosted in my apartment, my guests and I would inevitably put in an appearance at the Colmeia.
May there always be a café on the corner
The orchestra to which I belonged in Lisbon was a city-based ensemble and, as such, did not go out of town very often to perform. Of the rare occasions that we did have a small tour or run-out, my fondest memories are related to the necessity of the life-saving coffee break. We would not have been under way more than fifteen or twenty minutes when one of my colleagues would call out, “Café!” The bus would immediately screech to a halt, on the spot, as there was always a café wherever we found ourselves. After a refreshing interval, we were off again, until someone else could no longer survive without coffee and said so. It did take rather a long time to progress with our journey, but of course that was hardly the point. As I wrote in an earlier post, we would get there when we got there.
Bach knew the meaning of a coffee break
In all my years of orchestra playing, I have not been fortunate enough to find the part for J. S. Bach’s Coffee Cantata on my music stand. Though one can hope, I begin to despair of ever experiencing the piece as a violinist and must thrill to its wonderful good humor (and “Bach-ness”) as a listener. When we hear the opening admonishment to “be quiet and not chatter”, it is immediately obvious that, for all his solemn and sacred genius, Bach was completely aware of — and sympathetic to — the mere mortal’s recurring need for a blessed coffee break.