SHERBROOKE — On any night, in the dead of winter, when the mercury drops, you might find a dozen or more people huddled in Meinhard Pfanner’s modest digs in downtown Sherbrooke listening to a live jazz set or a reading by a local author.
Welcome to the Culture Club Sherbrooke, the community’s newest artistic offering. Pfanner, a German expat from Düsseldorf who moved from Port Hilford last year, came up with the idea in November as a way to keep people connected and in tune with the local culture.
“I bought an old cafe-restaurant that was empty and I restored and renewed it and I said to myself, ok, nothing is happening here in Sherbrooke, really, except the farmer’s market,” he jokes. . “At least nothing in the way of music or theater or literature or performance.”
Pfanner, who is retired but has a wealth of experience in graphic design and arts and culture ventures, spoke to friends about what they think the community could use, especially in these dark times of Covid, where social isolation can be at its worst.
“That’s when the concept of a cultural club was born,” he says. “It would be something that would be for the whole community and bring writers and musicians together and put them here.”
With 33 members and growing, the show appears to be a resounding success (it costs nothing to belong, as Pfanner covers the cost). A recent event featured the jazz combo of Paul Tynan (trumpet) and Jake Hanlon (guitarist), professors in the music department at StFX. Another event was Anne Simpson, award-winning writer and Assistant Professor of Literature at StFX, who read an excerpt from her recently published and acclaimed novel Speechless.
Sherbrooke resident Ian Cameron is a big fan.
“You have this wonderful little place where artists can talk and be heard and appreciated,” he says. “Here they come 45 minutes from Antigonish to talk and play music and they appreciate that because of the receptive audience and lack of distractions.”
Later this month, Covid conditions permitting, Pfanner plans to follow up with a makeup workshop offered by a local practitioner.
“We will definitely have many more events throughout the year,” he says.