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Pasco County couple hosts folk music concerts in shed in their yard

SAN ANTONIO — Once a month, Rochelle and Norman Morris open up the "GarageMahal" to the folk music community.

In a renovated shed outside their downtown San Antonio home, well known musicians strum acoustic guitars and pluck banjos. The house concerts are more a listening party than a traditional show.

The GarageMahal has no formal stage or speaker system. The audience, sitting cross legged on the floor or in a thrift store rocking chair, can experience the performer's music in a way a smoky dive bar wouldn't allow.

"The main thing that I like about house concerts is their intimacy," said Veronika Jackson, who is playing the GarageMahal tonight.

Jackson has performed in France and throughout the southeast, and was recently booked to appear at Pennsylvania's Poconos Blues Festival in July. She has played several house concerts in her hometown of Atlanta. She likes the gigs because of the close interaction between performer and audience.

"For the acoustic artist, I think that's what we desire, that's what we long for," she said.

The concerts were a dream of Rochelle Morris, 62, a teacher at Hillsborough Community College and singer for San Antonio's New Sand Mountain Wildcats. She attended her first house concert 10 years ago at a friend's barn called the Shack in the Back.

Morris and her husband, Norman, had their garage remodeled, "rather than condemned," and outfitted as a performance hall for acoustic musicians.

"Our dream was to create a gathering place in the community for peace, love and compassion," Morris said.

Here, among the Salvation Army furniture and butterfly shaped string lights, they can promote local musicians and their love of folk music, as well as honor Adam.

Their son was 23 and had just graduated from the University of Florida when he drowned in a lake near Gainesville in 2000.

The untimely death left a hole in the Florida folk music community.

Adam Morris was a fixture at the Coffee Talk Cafe, a mobile gourmet coffee shop his parents set up at music festivals in the mid 1990s.

A celebration of his life was held in 2001 at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa. About a half dozen musicians from across the state performed.

After his death, the Morrises sold their coffee business and moved to San Antonio. They painted their new home purple, Adam's favorite color.

"He's a motivating force in everything we do," said Norman Morris, 58, a social worker at HPH Hospice.

Though the Coffee Talk Cafe is no more, Norman still serves up his gourmet coffee and teas at the house concerts.

The shows kicked off last month. More than 50 people showed up to see Jubal's Kin, a roots music trio composed of three siblings, ages 11, 15 and 21.

At tonight's show, Jackson said she will perform a song she wrote for the Morrises' son, tentatively titled Adam's Song.

She has been working on it for a while now, trying to get the words just so. At the Morrises' home tonight, she will play it in front of an audience for the first time.

"Nobody should hear this live until they do," she said.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

If you go

GarageMahal

To find out more about the house concerts, which will continue through April, call (352) 588-4803 . Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10 to $15.

Pasco County couple hosts folk music concerts in shed in their yard 01/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 9:31pm]
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