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Grammy-Award-winning musician to play for Natchez Stewpot fundraiser

Submitted photo — Grammy-Award-winning pianist George Winston, above,  will play at 3 p.m., Feb. 8 at First Presbyterian Church in Natchez.

Submitted photo — Grammy-Award-winning pianist George Winston, above, will play at 3 p.m., Feb. 8 at First Presbyterian Church in Natchez.

A blessing for the Natchez Stewpot is brewing in the form of music.

First Presbyterian Church will host George Winston, a Grammy-Award-winning pianist with multiple platinum albums, in a benefit concert to raise $10,000 for the Stewpot.

“All the money that comes to the Stewpot comes from contributions,” Stewpot Director Louis Gunning said. “It’s an organization that’s really run by individuals, churches and people who do things like this.”

The benefit concert will include some of Winston’s best-known piano pieces, which includes melodic folk piano, New Orleans R&B piano, stride piano, the Hawaiian Slack Key guitar and the solo harmonica, church member Bazile Lanneau Jr. said.

Winston, who was born in Michigan, spent some of his childhood in Mississippi.

“Part of his growing up was in Jackson,” Lanneau said. “Several years ago, he said he wanted to do a program in Natchez. We started working on it, but it didn’t come to pass.”

Winston’s friend in Jackson, Janet Shriver, contacted Lanneau last month to confirm Winston wanted to perform for a charitable organization in Natchez.

“(Winston) has done a lot of non-profit work for children and food banks in the past,” Lanneau said. “The need is great, particularly the money.”

Lanneau said he set a fundraising goal of $10,000 based on the available seating in the church and ticket prices. The church has close to 600 seats.

General admission tickets will be $25, and student tickets are $15.

Tickets for a preferred seating area, sold at $50 each, are already sold out.

Gunning said the Stewpot is in need of operating money so the program can run efficiently.

“We have the usual expenses,” Gunning said. “We have two salaries to pay, food cost and repairs need to be made.”

The Stewpot’s budget this year is $90,000.

“Last year we spent $89,000,” Gunning said. “We are serving about 350 to 400 meals every day. Some days it may be more than that.”

Gunning said most funds for the Stewpot are generated during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. But keeping those funds going has proven to be a tough task.

“Last year in October we had gotten down so low I began to wonder if we were going to make it or not,” Gunning said. “But we never reached where we couldn’t pay all the bills.”

A cash infusion of $10,000 early in 2015 will certainly get the organization off on the right track, Gunning said.

The benefit concert will be 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8, at First Presbyterian Church, 117 South Pearl St., in downtown Natchez.

Tickets can be purchased at the First Presbyterian Church office or Rolling River Bistro at 406 Main St.

For more information, call 601-442-2581.

For more information regarding Winston, visit georgewinston.com.