Over the past decade, The Three Sisters Pub in Placentia has become somewhat of a community hub where locals and visitors alike can gather together and enjoy good food, great music and fine company. And while this past season has been a challenging one for local businesses (with some operating at reduced capacity, if at all, and a major decrease in tourists due to travel restrictions), places like The Three Sisters embraced the arts to help put a bright spark in what could’ve been a dismal summer.
The pub has often employed the talents of local musicians to entertain their patrons inside the establishment. This past summer, when live music wasn’t possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, the owners decided to take a different approach to help keep the music alive.
“In the middle of COVID it was pretty bleak. The restaurant/pub basically shut down, and it used to be a pretty fun spot. There’s always a bit of music going on…I thought we had to try to make something of this summer for this staff, number one. And number two, we need to try to put a little bit of life back in the town,” says Anne Whelan (President and CEO of Seafair Capital), who co-owns the pub.
To help with that end, the pub introduced The Three Sisters Sessions, a series of videos with Newfoundland and Labrador musicians performing around different locations in the scenic and historic town. The videos feature an array of diverse musical talent, including some who are from the Placentia area like Peter Willie Youngtree (of Youngtree and The Blooms) and Colleen Power. Other musicians include Matthew Hornell, Valmy, The Dandelion Few, Sherry Ryan and Darren Browne, Rube & Rake, Jenina MacGillivray, Rum Ragged and Ryan Laite. Each session was beautifully shot on location (with video by Riley Harnett and sound by Michelle LaCour) in places such as Castle Hill National Historic Site, the O’Reilly House Museum, the Fleur de Sel House, and at the pub itself (a historic saltbox built around 1880).
The goal of The Three Sisters Sessions, Whelan says, was three-fold: to give musicians performance opportunities and put some money in their pocket, to help showcase the beauty of the area and entice people to visit, and to help promote the business.
“I’m really pleased with it. The caliber of the performers is fantastic, the production quality is really good, and hopefully it’ll be something that we can use in subsequent years – we have enough now that we’re going to start playing them on the TV inside,” she says.
“I’ve always been a big believer in the arts…it adds value in ways that improve quality of life for people…I’d be out at the grocery store in Placentia and people would comment how much they missed the social connection, how much they miss the performances.”
But the video series isn’t the only way in which The Three Sisters has embraced the arts. Over the summer, the pub also repainted the exterior of the building, and hired visual artist Jordan Burton to paint a lively and colourful mural on the facade, incorporating elements of the town’s history as the old French capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, including the fleur-de-lis and cannons.
“I think right now especially, we all need to have something beautiful in our lives, because there’s lots of scary stuff. And so performances and visual art and beautiful videos and landscapes and that kind of thing, it’s just a nice mental break,” Whelan says.
“If there’s a silver lining in all this COVID stuff, it’s that we probably all developed a deeper appreciation for what we have, both in terms of the physical geography and the arts and the culture. We wanted to really symbolize to those working artists that they matter… there’s going to be people who will really struggle over the next year and being able to, in a small way even, show a gesture of support was one of the motivating factors for sure.”
Click here to watch The Three Sisters Sessions.