CLAREMONT — When he opened Remix in downtown Claremont more than five years ago, Jim Neilsen didn’t know what to expect from a nonprofit coffee bar and social club that relies on donations and volunteer staff.
Neilsen’s vision was to create a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life and all sorts of circumstances, whether they are working through recovery from substance abuse, celebrating a new job or relationship or just wanting to socialize over a cup of coffee.
The club, founded as “an expression of LIFE Fellowship Foursquare Church,” the Charlestown congregation where Neilsen and his wife, Kate, are assisting pastors, has a largely secular mission to build relationships in Claremont. So far, it has paid its bills and distributed $22,000 in proceeds to area nonprofits or people in need, Neilsen said.
On Friday, Remix will celebrate its success at Claremont Opera House with a reunion of three area musicians who played several times at the club but then moved away to pursue their careers.
The concert, titled “Who I Am,” will feature Ben Fuller, Jonathan Cyphers and onetime American Idol contestant Evelyn Cormier. As with Remix, the musicians are Christian and the concert will reflect on faith and togetherness, rather than doctrine.
“We had invited them to play at Remix, and they were instrumental to the founding and the fabric of Remix and what we do in this community of Claremont,” Neilsen said on a recent Friday night at Remix in the Union Block on Pleasant Street. “The idea for a concert was to bring back those local musicians for a one-night concert on one stage. We never had them play together, so we wanted to get them onstage here in Claremont to celebrate five years of Remix, the launch of National Recovery Month (September), the recently completed revitalization of downtown Claremont and the 125th anniversary of the Opera House.”
Since Remix opened, Neilsen said word has spread about the club and its mission well beyond Claremont and the area.
“We have supporters throughout the country,” Neilsen said. “They heard about us and occasionally we get financial support from people who have never set foot inside our doors, but they know what we are doing and they support us because they know we support the community.”
Each month, Remix makes a charitable donation to another area nonprofit or perhaps a family in need with someone undergoing costly medical treatments. Donations have supported several organizations, including Turning Points Network, TLC Recovery and the Claremont Soup Kitchen.
Though the church’s website calls Remix “a coffee bar & social ministry,” Neilsen said his Christian faith is not a focus of the coffee bar.
“We believe that faith is instrumental to a lot of people’s journey in recovery, for people who are looking for that,” Neilsen said. “But certainly there is no marketing of our church or any particular faith in our space.”
Friday’s concert, Neilsen said, is not billed as a Christian concert, but the performers often openly express their faith.
“I think it will be a mixture (of genres). They are all doing songs they wrote themselves,” Neilsen said. “A lot of their music isn’t overtly Christian per se, but I wouldn’t say there won’t be music that has a faith message or God reference. For Ben Fuller, if you listen to his stuff now, he definitely talks about faith in his recovery.”
Fuller grew up on a dairy farm in Weathersfield but now lives full-time in Nashville, Tenn. His Claremont visit is one of a few shows in New Hampshire, including dates in Dover and Rochester. Later in September, he’ll go on tour with Grammy Award-winning Christian rock musician Zach Williams.
Fuller released Spark, a song about Romaine Tenney, in 2019 as Weathersfield residents debated how to memorialize Tenney, an Ascutney farmer who died by suicide in 1964 as the state was about to seize his property to make way for Interstate 91.
On his website, Fuller recounts his personal journey through addiction and his subsequent sobriety several years ago. He and Cyphers, who is from New Hampshire, write from a Christian faith-based perspective that inspires much of their music.
Cormier, who grew up in Claremont, appeared on American Idol in 2019 and spent time in Los Angeles. Today she lives in Lempster, N.H., where she continues to develop her musical interests. Last year she formed a duo — Moxyblossom — with a friend, Jacob Snider, and they signed a record deal with a Los Angeles-based label for a couple of singles.
“We are looking to get a full album out independently in the next couple of months,” said Cormier, who also keeps busy writing historical fiction and has recently gotten back into performing solo.
She became acquainted with Neilsen through their church affiliations, and he invited her to perform at Remix.
“It is a really great place to play in a great setting and audience,” said Cormier, who will be performing with her father at the opera house and looks forward to reuniting with Cyphers and Fuller.
“Jonathan and Ben are good friends and awesome musicians, so it will be fun to hang out with them backstage and put on a great show for the community,” Cormier said. “This is my hometown.”
Remix is a term that describes changing the lyrics, beat and rhythm of a song to create something new — which Neilsen learned to do as a DJ in the Boston area. He saw it as an appropriate name for the coffee bar as people in recovery remix their lives.
“The demographic which we are passionate about reaching, the people that are looking for a sober community to help them in their recovery, we have it here every Friday night,” Neilsen said. “There are local recovery groups that meet on Friday night and when they get out about 8:30, a lot of them hang out with us. And they tell us it helps them in their recovery because it gives them social accountability and a social nightlife.”
General admission tickets for Friday’s 7 p.m. show are $10 and will be available at the door beginning at 6 p.m.
Neilsen said last week they have sold more than 300 tickets and have sold out the 75 VIP tickets that include a catered meal and meet and greet with the performers.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at email@example.com.