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Future uncertain for Hermann’s Jazz Club

Misha Piatigorsky plays the piano during a recent performance at Hermann
Misha Piatigorsky plays the piano during a recent performance at Hermann's Jazz Club.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Maria Manna can feel music inside the walls of Hermann’s Jazz Club even when there’s no music playing.

The history of the club, which has hosted some big names in jazz, is not something that can easily be created, she noted, making it a magical place for not only musicians, but also the audience.

But after 37 years of operation, the club’s future is now in jeopardy. The building its housed in has been put up for sale, leaving many in the community worried about what will become of one of the oldest jazz venues in Canada.

“Initially I thought ‘oh my god my jazz home is gone, Victoria’s jazz home is gone’,” said Manna, who first performed at the club 17 years ago when she moved from Edmonton.

“It’s the funky, rumpus room kind of look. It feels like the ‘70s in Edmonton in my basement. There’s no other place for jazz in Victoria. This is where it belongs.”

The building and club’s owner, Hermann Nieweler passed away in June 2015, leaving the estate family and a committee of volunteers to operate and manage the facility. But according to the Jazz on View Society, the operation as a stand-alone business is not sustainable without more rental income from other tenants in the building located on View and Blanshard streets.

The society now plans to create a charitable organization that can assume the financial responsibilities of the club, and purchase the building for $3 million through a public fundraising campaign.

It’s a task Nichola Walkden feels is a race against time. The society doesn’t have a sale agreement, so anyone can walk in and make an offer on the building at any time.

Walkden figures it’ll take six months to build awareness about the campaign that emphasizes the importance of the venue, what it means for the community and how it can be sustained through a foundation.

A benefit concert was held on Monday, bringing in approximately $100,000, including a $20,000 donation. A telethon is also being planned for May, along with the launch of a GoFundMe campaign.

“The sooner we get this done, the easier it is for the family....They’re not the businessman that Hermann was. They are the family that’s inherited this building and this problem,” said Walkden, who noting arts groups as tenants in the building would make things easier for the family.

“We’re all very conscious of each other. They (the family) do understand and they do know what this is for the community and what it’s meant to have a club for 37 years. It’s an institution, so they are sensitive to the significance of that.”

Manna is among a number of people in the jazz community who’s left hoping and praying everything will work out for the club. If someone were to come and purchase the building in the meantime, she hopes it wouldn’t be gutted and the club would be able to stay in its current location. The thought of moving to another place is hard to grasp.

“It would not be the same if we took it to another place. A lot of places are concrete and steel, they want to do this modern look, but jazz is old. I’ll do everything that I possibly can to help save it,” said Manna. “I think everybody is worried about its future. Three million is a lot of money to raise.”

For more information about the campaign visit jazzonview.com.

 


 

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