Each year, First Baptist Church Decatur has a special Christmas gift for the community, and this year’s lavish holiday concert is expected to again show grand style. The church’s sixth annual Christmas on Clairemont concert will feature “high production values” and skilled amateur musicians with guest appearances by professional musicians.
“It’s a truly spectacular event and it’s absolutely free to the community,” said Daniel Solberg, the church’s organist, who produces, directs, and hosts the annual concert.
Christmas on Clairemont features a full orchestra with an approximately 60-voice choir. “Singers come from not just our church, but from across the area,” Solberg explained, adding that staging, lighting, acoustics, and other details are at a professional level. The production is livestreamed and can be viewed on YouTube.
This year’s event will feature the Decatur Avondale Children’s Choir, Grammy award-winning tenor Victor Robertson, WABE’s Chris Chandler, operatic soprano Tiffany Uzoije, and a surprise performance by one of the stars from a CW network’s hit TV series.
“Each year we try to do something different and exciting,” Solberg said, noting that the concert was not held in 2020 or 2021 because of the COVID epidemic. However, it returned last year with Christmas on Clairemont: Keyboards and Choir, which featured four grand pianos, a departure from the traditional orchestra and choir.
Although there are no tickets and no admission fee, an offering is taken—100 percent of which is donated for humanitarian work. Since Christmas on Clairemont originated in 2016, the event has raised almost $100,000, according to Solberg. “We have generous people in our congregation who cover our production costs, so every dollar we raise goes to a humanitarian project,” he said.
The idea for the concerts came when Solberg was volunteering in Kenya with a project to bring clean water to people who had difficulty accessing it. “We were placing portable water filters in people’s homes and bringing clean water to an entire region, but we needed more money to help more people. My background is music, so I had the idea of giving a concert to raise money to expand the project.”
Each year the church chooses a humanitarian effort to support. This year, the funds raised will go to Macedonia. “North Macedonia is the sixth-poorest country in Europe; nearly one-third of Macedonian citizens live below the poverty line,” Solberg explained.
“The post-pandemic recovery has been cut short there, as the war in Ukraine still sends shockwaves across the region. Jeff and Alicia Lee have been serving in Macedonia as missionaries since 2012. They partner with many Macedonian organizations to support the most vulnerable in the community around them,” Solberg said.
Continuing projects to be funded in Macedonia include sustaining a chicken farm, employing and generating income for developmentally disabled adults, expansion of a food pantry operation to serve more people, and an addiction rehabilitation center for men. “The culture there can be hostile to the LGBTQ community, so we provide a LGBTQ support center,” Solberg continued.
Through the nonprofit Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the church’s denominational headquarters, First Baptist Decatur is able to securely fund all of these projects happening on the ground in Macedonia under the supervision of Jeff and Alicia Lee, according to Solberg.
“Although fundraising is an important part of Christmas on Clairemont, offering it as a gift to the community is more important. We want people to come whether or not they are able to give an offering,” Solberg said. “We make a special effort to accommodate those living in the senior communities in the area.”
This year’s Christmas on Clairemont will be held at First Baptist Church Decatur, 308 Clairemont Avenue, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.fbcdecatur.com/.