SHERBROOKE – Any night, in the dead of winter when the mercury is dropping, you might find a dozen or more people curled up in Meinhard Pfanner’s modest digs in downtown Sherbrooke listening to a live jazz ensemble or a reading by a local author.
Welcome to Culture Club Sherbrooke, the most recent artistic offering in the community. 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 in touch and in tune with the local culture.
“I bought an old coffee shop that was empty, I restored and renovated it and I said to myself, okay, nothing is happening here in Sherbrooke, really, apart from the farmer’s market”, jokes he does. “At least nothing in terms of music, theater, literature or performance.”
Pfanner, who is retired but has extensive experience in graphic design and artistic and cultural businesses, spoke to friends about what they thought 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 the 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 huge success (it doesn’t cost a thing to belong, because Pfanner covers the costs). A recent event featured the jazz combo of Paul Tynan (trumpet) and Jake Hanlon (guitarist), professors in the music department at StFX. Anne Simpson, award-winning writer and assistant professor of literature at StFX, also 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, be heard and appreciated,” he says. “Here they arrive 45 minutes from Antigonish to talk and play music and they take advantage of that because of the receptive audience and the lack of distractions.”
Later this month, Covid conditions permitting, Pfanner plans to continue with a makeup workshop offered by a local practitioner.
“We will definitely have a lot more events over the year,” he says.