Folk pianist and instrumentalist George Winston has done a lot of charity work over the course of his 40-plus-year career.
His concert at St. Alban’s Episopal Church in Davidson on Wednesday will benefit the Davidson Cornelius Child Development Center, Our Town Habitat for Humanity, Interfaith Build and St. Alban’s Outreach, as well as serve as a food drive for the Ada Jenkins Center.
He’ll also donate proceeds from merchandise sales to the food bank, and his next album (“Spring Carousel”) is a benefit for City of Hope. Winston wrote the EP at the California cancer treatment center while recovering from a bone marrow transplant after his most recent diagnosis (he previously survived skin and thyroid cancer).
With so many charities and benefits, one might wonder how Winston makes a living.
“Well, not all shows are benefits,” he says. “At this one, the reverend at the church – David Buck – is an old friend of mine. This is the second time I’ve done it.”
Winston and Buck played basketball together in junior high and have stayed in touch over the past 20 years. But Winston’s work with local charities and service organizations started in 1986.
“CD sales always benefit the food bank at every show, even if it’s not a benefit,” says Winston, who has also done benefit albums for 9/11, hurricane relief and the Louisiana wetlands. “I’ve been working with food for 29 years.”
Back in 1986, he remembers thinking, “What can I do?”
“I did some research and came to the realization that food – that’s it,” he says. “You can always sleep in a car or a sleeping bag and get water from a fountain. Shelter is some place on planet Earth, whether it be under a bridge or in your car. But where are you going to get food legally? If you can get meals, you can pick yourself up. You can deal with it otherwise.”
The Montana-raised Winston – whose music reflects the weather and terrain that inspires him – will play his “Winter Show” Wednesday, which includes songs from his autumn and winter collections as well some of his renditions of R&B and Vince Guaraldi.
Winston may be classified as a “new age” musician because of the gentle, pastoral nature of his work, but his musical passions range from the Doors to “Peanuts” composer Guaraldi to Professor Longhair and Fats Waller. In fact, it’s Ray Manzerek’s part on the Doors’ “Break On Through” that eludes him.
“I love the tune, but still can’t figure it out,” says Winston, who released an entire album of Doors’ music in 2002. “Band tunes or vocal tunes don’t all work for solo instrumental. Some just don’t work out. Or they work out much later, or I put it on guitar. I may wake up and think, ‘Slow it down, put it in this key,’ and sometimes that daydream works. Sometimes it doesn’t at all.”
Author: COURTNEY DEVORES, www.charlotteobserver.com, www.msidallas.com