May 2024 – Northwest Passage Brings “The Strongest Form of Magic” to Mount Hood


By Sharon Gavin 

It’s been said that “Music is the strongest form of magic.” And while that may sound like Shakespeare, it was actually said by Brian Hugh Warner, the person known professionally as rock musician Marilyn Manson.

While this heavy-metal heavy-hitter may be one of the most controversial figures in music, the power of music cannot be denied. The website Brainy Quote has more than 20 pages of quotes about music’s transcendence—from figures throughout history that include both Plato (“Music…gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life…”) and Taylor Swift (“People haven’t always been there for me, but music always has.”).

So it’s no wonder that music and musicians are central to the Northwest Passage experience every year. This extended English Country Dance weekend strives to bring a wide variety of the most talented musicians together to provide both lovely and lively dancing and learning experiences for all attendees. This year’s bands, Trio con Brio and Night Heron, are destined to delight.  

Trio con Brio is Elke Baker, Jonathan Jensen, and Paul Oorts. The group formed after early collaborations playing for their local English country dance in Baltimore, and more than twenty years later, they’re still at it, playing a diverse and unusual repertoire featuring vintage mandolin music, French musette music, Jonathan’s original compositions, classical arrangements, Paul’s transcriptions of music from around the world, and Elke’s finds from the archives. Instrumentation is primarily violin, mandolin, and piano, but extends to accordion, guitar, viola, recorders, whistles, and ocarinas. Their music is featured on Elke’s most recent recording, Better Days, and also on an upcoming second volume of waltzes and couple dances set for release in 2024 or 2025.

Night Heron brings together three accomplished musicians known for their contributions to the world of English country dance and traditional music. Karen Axelrod, on piano, infuses energy into the dance floor with her music. Audrey Knuth Jaber is a versatile and dynamic fiddler who has made a name for herself in the traditional music scene. And Shira Kammen has a rich background in medieval, Renaissance, and traditional music on the violin and vielle. The blend of their skills, musicality, and sensitivity contribute to the trio’s eclectic sound. 

Fun fact: While actual black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) are most active at night (surprise), our musical Night Herons love to bring the dance floor alive throughout the day and well into the evening, using sublime dance music with a touch of inventive feistiness.

To learn more about each of these marvelous musicians, visit our newly redesigned Northwest Passage website. While you’re there, you can also register and learn more about Northwest  Passage, PCDC’s all-English country dance and music camp, which will be held on Labor Day weekend 2024, from Friday, August 30, to Monday, September 2. The camp will again take place at the Kiwanis Camp on the beautiful slopes of Mount Hood. 

Our incomparable calling talent for 2024 includes dance callers/teachers Graham Christian and Jenna Simpson. Also of note—both literally and figuratively—the charming, talented, and oft-bedecked-in-tie-dye John Oorthuys will be handling sound.

We hope to dance with you there!