The local music community will gather in support of the less fortunate three times in the near future. Longtime area performers will kickstart the second annual Soup and a Song series at St. Susan Center on Friday.
Bill Ward, Amanda Barton, Tom Swanson, Paul Liuzzo and a full slate of open-mic performers will play a mix of blues, gospel, folk, bluegrass and country music in support of the city soup kitchen, which served a record 95,000 meals to Jamestown residents in 2011.
Jim Holler, owner of Trinity Guitars on West Third Street, spearheaded the jam-night series once again this year, booking performers and providing the sound system.
From left, Kathy Foster, Jim Holler and Bill Ward, all of Trinity Guitars, and St. Susan Center Executive Director Sue Colwell pose for a photo inside Trinity Guitars on West Third Street in Jamestown. The business organized the second annual Soup and a Song Series, which will begin Friday night and will benefit St. Susan Center.
P-J?photo by Scott Shelters
"We are a Christian organization," Holler said. "At Trinity Guitars, it's important for us to be involved in the local community and the world community."
Ward, a Trinity Guitars employee, teaches young musicians at Infinity Visual and Performing Arts Inc. and assists other charities. Holler has organized several trips to Haiti to assist the victims of the 2010 earthquake in addition to his support of the less fortunate locally.
"(Employee) Kathy Foster, myself and Jim feel like it's a blessing to be in this community," Ward said. "It's easy to want to get together and do stuff like this."
Holler thought of the Soup and a Song series after several musicians asked if he would host an open-mic night at Trinity Guitars. He thought that sounded fun, but chose to organize the open-mic nights in a way that would help the Jamestown community.
He called St. Susan Center Executive Director Sue Colwell, whom he had never met, and pitched his idea to her. After raising funds for the soup kitchen in 2011, Holler booked performers for three nights early this year. In addition to Friday night's performances, bluegrass band Wind River and contemporary praise band Kidder Alive will play at St. Susan Center as part of the series on Feb. 17 and March 16, respectively.
"Once I floated this idea out there, I didn't have to ask anybody to play," Holler said. "We've had more bands ask to volunteer and perform at this than I had room for. It's just a really great testament to the musicians in this town."
As its name implies, Soup and a Song features more than just music. For $10, attendees will receive two bowls of soup, a beverage, crackers or bread, dessert, and the live entertainment. Soup options include gumbo, Mexican chicken, chili, roasted red pepper and mushroom, and beef barley. St. Susan Center will receive 100 percent of Soup and a Song proceeds.
The soup kitchen served 10,000 more meals last year than in 2010, and Colwell doesn't know where the growth will stop.
"It's really important for the community to know what we're doing," she said, noting the importance of fundraising for the kitchen's operating expenses. "Last year, we were impressed with how many people came. Every month, we had more people. We want this to be fun. Certain people might be looking for something to do on a Friday night."
Soup and a Song provides St. Susan Center's only open-mic style events of the year. Colwell expects a good turnout Friday with Ward and Barton performing. For Ward, who helped with Soup and a Song logistics in 2011, performing at the soup kitchen will be a new experience with old friends.
He began playing with Swanson, of local band Grampa Snazzy, and Liuzzo 25 years ago in The Bill Ward Band. Ward and Barton have shared area stages plenty of times together as well.
"We've played together since she was probably 5 years old," Ward said. "Amanda's one of the most soulful blues players I've ever known. For many reasons, I think she's as talented and on top of her game as she has ever been. Anybody who hasn't heard Amanda in a year is really going to notice she's at the top of her game right now."
As for The Bill Ward Band, it never officially disbanded. Its members have taken on side projects, but Ward said he still plays with Liuzzo and Swanson regularly.
"Tom (Swanson) is probably one of my favorite guitar players in the world. We've recorded together; we've put out records together. He's a great player; he's straight ahead," Ward said. "We pressed Paul (Liuzzo) into playing bass many, many years ago. He was a guitar player and wanted a guitar-playing job, but we needed a bass player, so we made him play bass in the band. He has become one of the premier bass players in town. We all really enjoy playing together; it should be a good time."
Ward has played a fair number of benefit shows over the years, but he's particularly impressed with what St. Susan Center has accomplished, making him more than willing to perform Friday night. However, he and his old friends are just as excited to play in front of an audience as they are to raise funds for the soup kitchen.
"We get to play with great musicians, we get to eat some really good stuff and the side effect is we get to help people," Ward said.
Located at 31 Water St. in the Gateway Center, St. Susan Center will open to the public at 6 p.m. Friday. The open-mic segment will begin at 6:30 and featured entertainers will play at 7:40. The evening's festivities will conclude at 9.
As of press time, Trinity Guitars is still accepting open-mic performers, who will get approximately 10 minutes of stage time each on Friday. Interested musicians should visit Trinity Guitars at 800 W. Third St. or call Holler at 665-4490.
To learn more about St. Susan Center, contact Colwell at 664-2253, ext. 3.