Coffeehouse: How history is made

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By Kelly Dolejsi

The Los Alamos Coffeehouse was a tradition for years. When the concert series came to a close in 2008, music fans across the county collectively sighed in a minor key and when violinist Kay Newnam and the Los Alamos Arts Council announced the return of the Coffeehouse for a special, one-time event, it was like the moment when a favorite musical theme makes its comeback in a long, challenging composition.

But, despite how it felt, the Coffeehouse series was not always here. In fact, if it weren’t for an offhand comment from a student in Connecticut, it might never have started at all.

It all started in 1978 when Rosalie Heller’s daughter brought a friend home from Yale.

“Her friend had started a folk coffeehouse in Marblehead, Mass.,” Heller said. “I thought, ‘Wow – why couldn’t we do a classical coffeehouse?’”

There was a historical precedence for such a series. In the 18th century, Heller said, Bach and many other musicians and composers frequented Zimmerman’s Coffee House in Leipzig, Germany.

The popular weekly concerts featured coffee, pastries and beer in addition to brand new compositions by some of the finest artists of the day. It was for this series that Bach composed his “Coffee Cantata.”

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