Writers In The Round

This is a benefit concert that I put on in conjunction with The Granite County Historical Society as a fund raiser. As of 2010 we have had 13 of them and to date we have raised over $100,000. Yes, wow! Now let me explain. I know that sounds fantastic and it surely is, but I must tell you the story.

helen darling, writers in the round

Initially, I was hoping to bring some very unique music to Philipsburg, Montana, a town of 900 people that my husband and I had grown to love, by doing a concert with some of my extremely talented friends/co-writers from the Nashville music scene. Now, Philipsburg has a lovely old theater called The Opera House Theatre. It’s kept in amazing shape by owner’s, Claudette Dringle, ¬†faith and hope that it will finally one day “make it”. She and her husband pretty much spend every dime they get patching whatever issues come up with the place. It holds about 350 people. Sounds great, right? However, in such a small town, a town that can be expensive to get to, I knew I would have to bring in not only the talent, but also a talented sound man that would know how to put on a “professional show”, sound wise. Jay Straw answered the call. But after calculating what the bare expenses would be not even counting any advertising and assuming we sold every ticket available, it still wasn’t doable unless it was a benefit. Well, that was fine with us, so we looked around this historical town and benefitting the Historical Society seemed the right, albeit obvious, choice. In theory people might then perform for less money or even for free, and I knew Jay would reduce his cost as well which he kindly did. But it felt like we lacked an inspirational project to get people not only willing to be involved but almost anxious to be. We looked around town for a project that would benefit the city, the merchants and all the people who loved this spot of heaven in western Montana. Many people had been fixing up the historic area of this town and millions of private dollars had been spent to make those historical buildings beautiful once more. What else was right smack dab in the center of it all was the Town Hall, little more than an old converted gas station that sat kitty corner to the main intersection of town where the only light in the the whole county blinked red. This 50’s brick building did not match the period of the surrounding buildings. It had boarded up window openings with smaller efficient windows mortised into the plywood. The city surely would never have the money to improve the building or the broken concrete triangle that sat glaringly in front of it. In stepped The Granite County Historical Society, all 5 of us at the time, but that’s another long story…

Anyway, with a “noble” project to run with , we began doing concerts in 1998. Here are some of the magnificent names who have a graced the stage of The Opera House Theatre compliments of The Granite County Historical Society:

Helen Darling (me)

Mark Selby

Billy Montana


Sunny Russ

Tim Johnson

John Arthur Martinez

Jim Rushing

Stephanie Davis

Steve Nelson

Rob Crosby

Chad Hudson

Tim Ryan

Philip Coleman

Craig Carothers

Don Poythress

Shannon Lawson

I really thought I’d quit doing them after 10 years, but you can see that I’m addicted. We did completely renovate the Town Hall around 2005. We raised money enough to retire that debt by selling plaques that we placed on the front of the Town Hall building. People opened up their hearts and wallets in ways we had not dreamed and the loan was paid off. I wish the show could raise more money each year, but with only 350 seats at $20 each, we are limited in revenue. Sure we could raise the price, and we have. Our first ticket sold for $6. The next year they were $8 and $10. After a few years all seats were at $20. Truthfully we don’t want them to be more expensive than that or we feel like it puts the show out of reach for the very folks who kept the town alive for years when no one was around, the ranchers and all those folks who have been there all their lives. To us the show itself is more than a benefit, it’s a gift. And I want to thank each guest of the show for blessing us with their talent, and I say thank you to all those ticket buyers who have kept me and my buddies coming back. This is for you.

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