Songwriter Converts Historic Church into Concert Venue ‘Ragamuffin Hall’
Who wouldn’t want their own recording studio, concert venue, historic building, and rural church house if they could? That’s the dream that has become a reality for singer and songwriter Conrad Fisher, who is the new owner and proprietor of Ragamuffin Hall in tiny McCoysville, Pennsylvania—an unincorporated community in rural Appalachia.
When Fisher first announced the purchase and his plan to put national touring acts in the venue, it was hard to not be skeptical. Harrisburg is the nearest big town, and it’s about an hour away, and the surrounding area has a population of about 800 at best. But when Fisher put tickets on sale for the first public performance headlined by The Malpass Brothers on July 28th, he sold out the 180-capacity venue in less than 48 hours. Folks are coming from eight different states, and as far away as Florida for the first major Ragamuffin Hall show.
“This church had been up for sale for about two months, and nobody was biting. It’s about 10 minutes from my house, built in 1871, and the congregation started it in the late 1773 with a circuit-riding preacher,” Conrad Fisher explains. “It’s on 1.4 acres and it’s all flat so I can park people. There was only eight people left meeting here, and so they just couldn’t bear the weight of the building. Just the heating and maintenance was getting too much.”
Soon after acquiring the building, Fisher started hosting hymn sings. The first time, 70 people showed up. Then next time, there was 100. It’s not just Fisher’s vision for Ragamuffin Hall, it’s how the surrounding community—however small—shares the vision of making it a thriving space for the local community. It probably also helps that Ragamuffin Hall is the only game in town when it comes to local entertainment, but without buy-in from the local residents, it would only go so far. “The people trust me in this community,” Fisher says.
The basement of the building is also of good use, with 10 foots ceilings, a common area, and a full kitchen. Fisher put in a shower and is installing a bedroom for folks to stay in as well. Ragamuffin Hall is not just a concert venue. Whether someone is looking for the acoustics or the ambience of a church, Ragamuffin fits the bill as a recording space as well. In fact for Fisher, that’s the primary function at the moment.
Songwriter Dickey Lee wanted to record a demo of a song he co-wrote with Keith Whitley before he died. So he traveled to Ragamuffin Hall to record it. “Whoever wants to work with me, I just do my thing. I’m not like Sound Emporium or whatever. The studio is what pays the bills, and the venue is my hobbyhorse, and a way to bring culture and life back into my community. My goal is to be able to book Marty Stuart here, book Dailey & Vincent for a Sunday morning Gospel hour, or Alison Krauss, and have a YouTube channel to do interviews, livestreams and videos, and make it work.”
It’s Conrad’s role as a country music songwriter that has allowed him access to artists who may otherwise not call him back. Fisher wrote “That’ll Be The Day” with Dickey Lee for the new Malpass Brothers album Lonely Street, which gave him a connection with the brothers and arranged the July 28th show.
“I’m making a living. I have a 25-acre farm, and and 1871 church house. So I’m happy.”
May 25, 2023 @ 9:17 am
Oh man, that’s so awesome! Learned about Conrad because of this blog, and I’ve been following his YouTube channel ever since. Really great stuff.
I think you forgot to mention that he’s got several videos up that were filmed there so you can get a sense of the place.
May 25, 2023 @ 9:35 am
I added some videos.
May 25, 2023 @ 9:32 am
Sounds like a dream come true. (Spellcheck: coverts=converts😋)
May 25, 2023 @ 12:26 pm
It is, man. I’ve wanted to do this with an old country church for years, and I never thought I’d get to do it ten minutes from my house, or at the ripe old age of 29 lol.
May 25, 2023 @ 8:12 pm
Judging by the video the sound and vibes are superb. Definitely worth a road trip, to hear and possibly make a joyful noise!
May 25, 2023 @ 10:47 am
Thanks Trigger! Y’all come see me!
May 25, 2023 @ 11:23 am
So Happy for you, Conrad.
Thank You so much Trigger, for writing this article.
May 25, 2023 @ 11:19 am
Awesome story! Conrad, beautiful ( sad ) song!
May 25, 2023 @ 11:35 am
Hey Trigger – Sorry to hijack this section with an off-topic question, but: Any plans to review the latest from Parker McCollum? You’re keeping us in suspense…
May 25, 2023 @ 11:40 am
Thanks for the interest. The Parker McCollum album is being considered for review.
May 25, 2023 @ 2:49 pm
Trig, can we expect an article regarding the recent developments in the Mark Capps case anytime soon?
May 25, 2023 @ 4:24 pm
I am actively working on a story about this, but don’t want to carry the TBI’s water by putting another story on the internet about how Officer Coon has been cleared of all charges without any details of how that determination was made, and how the family of Mark Capps feels about it, and what they plan to do next to pursue justice. As soon as I have that information I will be publishing it.
May 25, 2023 @ 4:27 pm
Looking forward to it. Thanks.
May 25, 2023 @ 5:07 pm
It’s unrelated to this article, but are there any good country artists at Summerfest this year? I haven’t seen any I recognize except for Lyle Lovett.
May 26, 2023 @ 10:33 am
Mitchell, it is a weak year at Summerfest for country music. Probably I am missing a few but outside of Lyle Lovett, the country, country-adjacent and Americana performers at Summerfest include Eric Church, Morgan Wade, Deer Tick (sound a bit like Lucero), Greensky Bluegrass, Scotty McCreery, Hailey Whitters, Shinyribs, the Avett Brothers, Willy Porter (more folky), On the rockier side there are Georgia Satellies (no Dan Baird as he retired) and .38 Special.
A bit outside of that is Reverend Horton Heat.
I am not counting the douche from Florida-Georgia Line, Brett Young, Mitchell Tenpenny or Brett Eldridge.
Todd J Peterson
May 25, 2023 @ 5:12 pm
Question for Conrad: Is Ragamuffin Hall named in recognition of Fr. Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel, Reflections for Ragamuffins)?
May 26, 2023 @ 4:55 am
I named the church “Ragamuffin Hall” because I wanted it to be a place everybody feels welcome. The patron saint of Ragamuffin Hall is a buddy of mine named Malachi Martin who grew up like I did but traveled the world in search of his “place.” He was killed on his motorcycle last summer close to my house. I didn’t know about Brennan Manning’s book ’til after I named it that, but I read it since and liked it, so I guess I kind of backed into it, and that’s fine by me.
When I was trying to become a full time musician, I didn’t have much of a support system where I live. It’s a very strange thing to pursue the arts as a career in towns like McCoysville. Living in TN for a while normalized that idea in my mind and helped me be weird and not care too much what the neighbors think of my career choice when I got back home. Ragamuffin Hall is a community where weird people are welcome not in spite of their quirks, but because of them.
May 26, 2023 @ 4:44 pm
And I was assuming it was related to Rich Mullins’s Ragamuffin Band, which of course is named for the books you mentioned.
Todd J Peterson
May 27, 2023 @ 7:09 am
Rich Mullins was a big Brennan Manning fan/reader and influenced Rich a great deal.
May 25, 2023 @ 6:09 pm
Conrad fisher fucking rules! I had listened to Trouble With a Hammer and dug it but that video of What Do I Tell Cecilia just floored me. Is that an original Conrad? You rock dude.
Another guy who rocks is jeremy pinnell. His last album goodbye LA “rips”
May 26, 2023 @ 4:45 am
Yeah, that’s an original. Thanks, Jim.
May 26, 2023 @ 11:37 pm
It’s really incredible dude. All the million people i sent it to love it. I sang it today when i was supposed to be working. Cant wait for a studio version of it one day, hopefully soon. Cheers man, you rule
jermy pinnellson ripperty
May 25, 2023 @ 8:04 pm
I’m so jealous! Who buys a church and makes it a centerpiece of their community? Conrad does!
You are living the dream brother. I’ll be following and making plans for a road trip to Pennsylvania this year.
Major hat tip from this guy…
May 26, 2023 @ 4:59 am
Haha, thanks. Don’t be jealous, do something in your town!
Come see me sometime. If you message me ahead of time you might be able to crash at the Hall. I have lodging there.
May 25, 2023 @ 8:17 pm
An aside, tangentially related to this article: there’s some really good folks here, doing good work in their communities.
Thanks for creating this community Trigger. It warms my heart seeing so much good being done.
A breath of fresh air in a world of clouds.
May 25, 2023 @ 10:23 pm
Thanks for being a part of the community, Tele & Tweed.
Bill from WI
May 26, 2023 @ 7:17 am
I’m thinking potlucks and picnics! With live music of course. That is a beautiful building.
May 26, 2023 @ 8:00 am
It’s every bit that pretty in real life, too!
May 26, 2023 @ 8:19 am
“…My goal is to be able to book Marty Stuart here, book Dailey & Vincent for a Sunday morning Gospel hour, or Alison Krauss, and have a YouTube channel to do interviews, livestreams and videos, and make it work.”’
: D Finally going to see Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives on Saturday June 3rd.
Wanted to see him at the Ryman on the 7th.
But currently watching pennies.
Love to stay at The Marriott Downtown Nashville (They have a Fabulous pool) but couldn’t justify the cost for the tickets and lodging.
Marty and the gang will be at the Brown County Music Center on the 3rd.
2000 seat venue, & not a bad seat in the house.
: D Could you possibly squeeze one more wildcat ragamuffin in for the Malpass Brothers concert? Even if she brought a lawn chair and was content to sit by an open window 🪟
May 26, 2023 @ 11:43 am
For you, Di, I’ll crack a window. haha. I really am completely sold out. You are more than welcome to hang around though, and if someone doesn’t claim their seat, I’ll let you in. 😀
May 26, 2023 @ 1:42 pm
Was just teasing. Will be watching for what events might be happening this Fall at the Hall.
Is that brand new, full on gemini baby here?
May 27, 2023 @ 6:17 pm
This is absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. I’ve always wanted to do something like this with an abandoned church.
May 28, 2023 @ 12:26 am
Conrad is the man, love his music and this is a dream! What country music is all about in my mind. Congrats.
May 28, 2023 @ 6:14 am
This is cool. It’s horrible when notable building in a community fall to disuse or disrepair. Congrats to him for finding a use for the building, and for providing his community a venue for their entertainment at the same time. Small rural towns need more of this.
May 28, 2023 @ 12:35 pm
Having lived in H-Bag and traveling extensively in the surrounding area for work, it’s not surprising that this type of purchase is possible. Real estate is dirt cheap out there, and they have some really cool old buildings. Playing in gospel bands I got to see a handful of historic churches in the area. I do have to say, the weed wasn’t that good out there then but maybe it’s gotten better!
May 28, 2023 @ 3:09 pm
One of the biggest reasons I think real estate is still cheap is that our internet is really bad. I’ve got lots of friends in Hershey and Harrisburg that would live here if they could work from home. I have a dish on my bell tower and I can only get 60 mbps download consistently. Prices are crawling up. They’ve just about doubled in the last 10 years, but then that’s the case almost everywhere.
And of course we sell all our bad weed to gospel bands. 😂
Jameson Road Band
June 2, 2023 @ 2:39 am
We love what you are doing with the church! It sounds incredibly interesting.