This quirky house was a hub for classical music in rural N.L. Now it's up for sale

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It might just be the most ornate house concert space in Newfoundland and Labrador — and it's now on the market.

Villa Fairwind, a hodgepodge of a house tucked behind trees on a dusty farm lane in Pasadena, is a classic case of not judging a book by its cover.

There are a few clues outside that something unusual is afoot — the brass Roman numerals above the door spelling out the year of its establishment, 1978, for a start — but nothing that prepares you for its interior.

We travelled to Europe, and we saw many concerts. And that's probably where the idea started. - Roberte Diemer

An Old World esthetic is apparent in its entranceway, with lush rugs, tapestries and antique-styled chairs. But the Versailles vibes explode down a short hallway into the home's centrepiece: an airy concert hall that can fit 70 people.

The room, with its soaring ceilings and good dose of gilding throughout, held classical music concerts for about 20 years, although it hasn't been open to such a public event since 2016, according to its owner Roberte Diemer.

It's a quiet space now, and with its baby grand piano long since sold, Diemer resorts to a Beethoven record to showcase the hall's acoustics and take a trip back in time. When she and her husband bought the bungalow in 1978, they had no real inkling they would spend their lives fostering the western Newfoundland classical music scene.

"When we bought the house ... we just wanted to improve it, and live here," Diemer said.

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Living like Louis XVI

At the time of Villa Fairwind's purchase, Diemer and her late husband Karl ran a photo studio based in Corner Brook, but were both avid classical music fans on the side.

The concert hall and series gradually came to be. "We travelled to Europe, and we saw many concerts. And that's probably where the idea started," she said.

"There was no classical music on the west coast at the time."

To carry out the idea, Karl Diemer designed the hall, and the couple contracted a local carpenter to carry out its unique construction, the largest room in what became a 5,300 square foot house.  

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"We wanted an antique look," to fit with their love of classical music, she said, and an antique look they got. Everything about the hall speaks to a bygone era, from its handcrafted Louis XVI-styled furniture to the replicas of Renoir and Rembrandt stacked salon-style up its walls.

Diemer recalled picking out the furniture — much of it sourced in Montreal — was fun, "but it was also expensive," she laughed.

Along with the antiques hide a few more personal touches, like tributes to the couple's beloved chow chows, Hansel and Gretel.

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Concert success

The couple held their first concert around 1997, said Diemer, with Corner Brook musician and teacher Gary Graham, himself a fellow incubator of the arts in Western Newfoundland. 

"I still have a card that I received from a lady who came to the very first official concert. And she said, 'when the music started, I couldn't hold back my tears.' So beautiful she found it," said Diemer.

The Diemers went on to create the Humber Valley Chamber Music Society, holding concerts on and off for years featuring both local, regional and international musicians. 

Concert alumni include David Maggs, the driving force behind Gros Morne Summer Music, and Heather Tuach, who runs the Wintertide Music Festival.

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The concerts always sold out, said Diemer, who has kept her memories meticulously filed in a large binder with event programs that tally the couple's efforts to expand classical music in the area.

"It's really nice. It's a real achievement," she said.

Karl Diemer died in 2006, and Roberte continued on with the concerts for years, but gradually ran out of steam.

"It is rewarding, to have a successful concert — but at the same time, it is a lot of work," she said.

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End of an era

The folding chairs for the audience are packed away, and the furniture is rearranged in the hall.

The space is now noticeably cooler than the adjacent rooms to it, and Diemer prefers spending time in a cozy library at the front of her home instead.

With the For Sale signs up, Diemer is ready to move on. And, she plans to take her furniture with her — although how to manage all its ornateness in any downsizing attempt seems difficult at best. 

The idea of leaving brings mixed emotions.

"There are good memories that I will always remember of course, but it is sad to leave a house where you have lived for such a long time," she said.

The house sits on a 13-acre lot, and with a price tag of $899,000, the house may not move quickly. But Diemer hopes the right buyer is out there, one who would hopefully revive its music once again.

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