On eight Sundays during the year, there’s a little bit of magic in Montgomery, Minnesota.
Early in the afternoon, a two-story brick building with “1892” inscribed near the peak of its roof opens its doors, and the aroma of fresh buttered popcorn beckons from the second story. Music and laughter echo throughout the vintage concert hall as musicians rehearse and patrons begin to stroll in and claim seats.
Promptly at 4 pm, the fun begins. Led by proprietor John Grimm, a troupe of performers gathers on stage to join in a lively theme song during which members are introduced. For the next two hours, guests enjoy a diverse mix of music and entertainment ranging from popular standards to concert hall classics; from goofy comedy and colorful costumes to inspirational gospel and harmonic collaborations.
At intermission, fresh piping-hot pizza from Pizzeria 201 is available for two bucks a slice, served with friendly smiles at “Shannon’s Snack Bar” (the kitchenette at the back of the hall). The ten regular troupe members hail from Green Isle, Le Sueur, Montgomery, New Prague, Northfield, and Rosemount; guest performers occasionally appear as well. The audience, which generally numbers between 75 and 150, consists mainly of selfproclaimed “groupies” that have made this event a regular ritual. Buses often arrive from distant locations, and since the series began in March of 2012, faithful guests have become acquainted and enjoy mingling at intermission.
First-time visitors are generally mesmerized by the warm splendor of the hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Host John Grimm purchased the building in the early 1990’s “to save a significantly historic building” and “to create a place where local folks could perform.” (Occasionally he’ll treat the crowd to an a cappella vocal solo, sans microphone, to demonstrate the hall’s superior acoustics.)