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Paragon Ragtime Orchestra to take Philipsburg theatergoers back in time

by on April 19, 2017 1:07 PM

PHILIPSBURG — On June 4, the Rowland Theatre in downtown Philipsburg will roll out a big birthday cake and celebrate its centennial, complete with a brick plaza to welcome visitors and a new marquee, prominently displaying its iconic moniker.

But before the fanfare, board members must feverishly work to raise the funds for the project, which is estimated to cost between $40,000 and $75,000.

“We’re getting there,” said Rebecca Inlow, a board member who is helping to spearhead the centennial project. “There are still several events planned and opportunities to help us raise the funds we need. When it’s finished, it’s going to look tremendous, and we’re hoping the Rowland once again becomes a focal point of downtown Philipsburg and brings more people in.”

On Saturday, April 29, the Rowland welcomes back the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra as part of its Centennial Concert Celebration series. Last month, Hotlanta, an Allman Brother’s Band tribute group, performed as a fundraiser.

“We’re very excited about this performance and we feel so lucky to have them back,” said Inlow. She said the Rowland was able to secure grant funding to pay for Paragon’s appearance last year. That funding was not available this year, but she noted the founder of the orchestra, Rick Benjamin, enjoyed performing in the theater so much that “he worked with them” to perform in Philipsburg this spring.

“He said it was one of his most favorite venues to perform in, and it fit perfectly with his orchestra’s performance,” Inlow said. “He loved it, and we loved what he did. We’re all excited about the show coming up.”

Paragon Ragtime Orchestra is a 10- to 12-piece orchestra ensemble specializing in performing to silent films.


 “One hundred years ago, people didn’t really get to hear much music unless they attended a social event or had family members that played instruments. People didn’t have radio, so they couldn’t listen to music any time they wanted,” said Inlow. “Instead, they attended these silent films in theaters that offered a pit orchestra.”

She said Benjamin’s show parallels the shows of the early 1900s. She said he has an extensive library of silent film scores and chooses a handful to perform at each event.

“He has so many different ones, none of the shows are the same,” said Inlow.

She said the orchestra, including a sound effects person, will perform with three silent films, presenting music and sounds during each 15- to 20-minute film. She said ragtime and other orchestra music will be played between movies, as well as before and after. Benjamin and orchestra members will also spend time answering questions following the event.

Reserved seating for the show is available through credit card purchase at and via cash or check at the box office. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students through grade 12.


 The continued fundraising will help the board in the capital projects, which include restoring the marquee to look like the original glass marquee in 1917. Also on tap is the construction of an engraved brick plaza, which would extend the length of the Rowland building, as well as extend out onto Front Street.

Inlow said in 1917 the original marquee extended past the curbside and 2 feet over the roadway, which is a goal for the new marquee project. She said in conjunction with the new glass canopy, the plaza will be designed in front of the theater to protect the new marquee.

“In keeping with the original design of the 1917 marquee, the movie and event advertising will not be done on the glass canopy,” Inlow said. “Instead, a digital standing marquee will be placed on the plaza.”

Inlow said there is room for 15 characters to be engraved on the fundraising bricks in two or three rows. The cost of each brick is $100. More information about the fundraising project can be found by calling (814) 342-0477.

In addition to the April 29 performance of Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, Inlow said Who Loves You, a musical tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is scheduled for Saturday, May 20, and the Centennial Celebration Bash will be held on the exact 100-year anniversary, Sunday, June 4.




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