SLOfolks pair history with music

Folk music is lyrical history of an era — the people’s music. The verse and rhythms are often a more accurate account of current events before the historians spin and compress each chronicle for future generations.

Since the 1970s, SLOfolks — the San Luis Obispo Folk Music Society — has produced intimate, affordable concerts. Accomplished yet lesser-known talent entertains monthly on the Central Coast.

SLOfolks’ original mission has remained constant, while it hosts worldwide performers. Elisabeth Demongeot and her husband, Tom Shearer, of Los Osos have been the stewards of SLOfolks for the past five seasons.

“We want to be diversified — bluegrass, sea shanties, Celtic, jazz, blues and Americana,” said Demongeot, who choreographs the annual programs. “The musicians in 2010 will come from Africa, Czech Republic, Canada, France, Iraq, Argentina, the U.K. and the United States.”

After traveling the world and hosting a musical radio program for NPR in Seattle, the couple moved to Los Osos in 2004 to be near family. Demongeot had developed so many musical friends over the airways, she was the perfect candidate to take over the leadership of SLOfolks when Jody Ramsland died.

“Folk music was something Ted and I shared. SLOfolks was something we could do together,” she said.

Each year, she questions why she spends so much time volunteering, but the answer is clearly that she loves it. It might be her contribution to world peace. The musicians she brings to the Central Coast broaden our worldwide understanding. But she’s quick to say she doesn’t do it alone. She credits a loyal volunteer board and supporters who help make it happen.

They have produced more than 300 concerts in five years. The intimate Friday evening concerts are at the Coalesce bookstore in Morro Bay. Saturday’s concerts at Templeton’s Castoro Cellars are larger but still guest-artist friendly.

The season begins Jan. 22 and 23 with the throaty, rich sounds of veteran folk singer Rosalie Sorrels. At 77, she is still as fresh as she was when she performed for SLOfolks during its early days. Her current CD, “Strangers in Another Country,” features the songs of Utah Bruce Phillips. She’s nominated for a 2010 Grammy. As a bonus, she’s bringing jazz guitarist Ben Burdock and bass player Bill Liles.

In February, Fishtank Ensemble will perform scat opera, jazz, gypsy violins and flamenco. And the year just keeps getting better.

“Look for a benefit concert sometime this year,” Demongeot said. The goal is to keep the concerts affordable, at $15 and $20.

World history can be musical. Find it in our own backyard at www.slofolks.org.