DECATUR – Now that August is here and 10 days away, Michael Scherer was ready to hit the stage and make music for a good cause.
The professional Decatur musician, along with fellow musician and business partner Zach Garrett, were among the performers on Sunday at “A Salvation Army Christmas” concert organized at the Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Scherer, a pianist, was a regular at the event, now in its seventh year, but was dropped from the program this year because he didn’t expect to be there.
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“My wife was having a baby and I had a three-week window where the doctors didn’t know what was going to happen,” Scherer, 37, said.
“But today we have a 10-day-old baby girl, August, and that’s why I said, ‘OK, we can go ahead and make this gig happen. “”
Scherer planned to serve up “smooth jazz” with the opening songs of an anthem album he’s been working on with Garrett for 10 years.
“He’s going to sing and I’m going to sing and play,” Scherer said. “This album has been a long time coming and so we’re excited to let people get a taste of what’s to come today.”
Scherer said helping the Salvation Army with a free concert hit all the right notes for him and his business partner. “Because The Salvation Army is constantly doing good for the community and there is always such a need here in town for everything they do,” he added.
“We love being able to use our talents and gifts to help them.”
They were far from alone. Sunday’s concert lineup also included the Salvation Army Youth Band and performers Chris Gregg and Julie McClarey-Smith, the undefeated winner of the National Ragtime Piano Playing Award who helped kick off the Christmas concert seven years ago.
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Kyle Karsten, director of development for the Salvation Army Decatur, said the concert has since turned into a major fundraiser for the holiday season. Audience members can listen for free, but generally feel the spirit of being generous with a free will offer that has totaled between $8,000 and $10,000 in previous years.
An additional Christmas gift this year was anonymous benefactors who pledged to match whatever is given up to $75,000.
Decatur Macon County Salvation Army commander Lt. Kenesa Debela said the youth group playing Sunday was among many children’s programs her organization supports and nurtures. Others do everything from teaching young people how to be good citizens to resolving disputes, and they’re all free at the point of delivery.
“So any street kid can come in and learn to play music, for example,” he said. “This event today helps support all of that.”
For some in the audience, the concert became part of the kickoff heralding the start of the holiday season. “The Salvation Army concert and Vespers at Millikin University are my two go-to Christmas events now,” said Leta Irons, a member of the Tabernacle congregation who has never missed a concert since her debut.
“And I love listening to Julie McClarey and it’s also good this year the concert is dedicated to Marilyn Dechert.”
Dechert was one of the people who helped found the concert series, and his family gained a reputation for generosity to the Decatur community. She died on July 7 at the age of 89.
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Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid