Concerts by candlelight

The Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra this holiday season will again present candlelight concerts in churches around the valley. The concerts have been a tradition since 1987, which they were introduced by RVSO Conductor Arthur Shaw.

This year's edition will feature mainly Baroque and classical music for brass ensemble and chamber orchestra, with a little humor from an unlikely source. Soprano and soloist Susan White, tenor Andrew Brock and baritone Michael Flaherty will present J.S. Bach's light-hearted "Coffee Cantata" with the orchestra.

That's the piece of which Albert Schweitzer wrote, tongue firmly in cheek, "It aims only at refreshment."

Shows are set for 8 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 10th and Oakdale in Medford.

"The Coffee Cantata" is a comic mini-opera not at all typical of Bach. Its subject is a young women's habit of drinking "a bowl of coffee" three times a day.

In Bach's day, coffee was not quite socially acceptable in Germany, but Leipzig, being a college town, was nonetheless home to many lively coffeehouses.

It was in one of these that Bach directed a group young musicians known as the Collegium Musicum in informal concerts. In about 1732 he's thought to have written the "Coffee Cantata" for one of these events.

The cantata was a vehicle for telling stories, either secular or sacred. For this one, Bach adapted the lyrics from a story his chief librettist, Picander, had written in 1727.

It's the story of the stern Herr Schlendrian scolding his daughter, Lieschen, for her coffee habit. When he threatens the Baroque equivalent of a grounding, Lieschen complains, "If I can't drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat."

When he says she will not have a husband unless she abandons her beverage, she comes up with a clever solution.

Bach was not known for his wit.

"His serious temperament drew him by preference to music that was serious, elaborate, and profound," his son wrote in the great composer's obituary, "but he could also when the occasion demanded, adjust himself, especially in playing to a lighter and more humorous way of thought."

The Rogue Valley Symphony Brass will open the show with "Fanfare" from "La Peri," by Paul Dukas, representing the Romantic era. Also on the program is Haydn's 31st Symphony, "Horn Signal," which will feature the orchestras horns. Tickets are $25 and $10 for students. Call 552-6398.

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