STAFF

BANDS

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, can infuse 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. 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.   Night Heron loves to bring the dance floor alive.  You can expect sublime dance music, with a touch of feistiness and inventiveness.

Karen Axelrod’s piano playing combines expressiveness, energy, lyricism and power.  She is equally at home with styles ranging from traditional folk melodies to passionate tangos to old world French musette waltzes to 17th century English Country dance tunes and much more.   She left behind classical music over 40 years ago, and has happily settled into her musical home…somewhere between folk, classical and improvisation.   Her playing is soulful yet touched with humor and whimsy.

When she is not playing concerts, Karen is one of the busiest and most sought after traditional dance musicians.  Her elegant and rich piano playing and her colorful, gorgeous accordion playing are enlivened by her off-beat humor. 

Karen plays with a number of bands for traditional dance events as well as concerts.   Her bands include Alchemy, Peregrine Road, Night Heron and 3rd String Trio. 

Based in Brattleboro, VT, Karen tours extensively throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, playing at dances,  festivals, concerts, camps, private parties and other events.  

You know Audrey Leigh Jaber is performing if the room is buzzing at a higher level. Her fiddling, featured in bands including The Free Raisins, The Gaslight Tinkers, Audacious (with Larry Unger), and Wake Up Robin, has electrified dance and concert halls across the US and Europe. Hailing from Honolulu and now living in California, she cut her folk teeth in the Boston area, attending Berklee College of Music and spending years exploring the thriving New England folk scene. Audrey’s fiddle playing is rhythmically lively and spontaneous; she’s guaranteed to get you up and dancing. She specializes in English dance, New England, Celtic, and Old Time tunes (and did we mention she’s also an audio engineer?!). You might also have taken a workshop with Audrey, as she’s been on staff at various camps including various weeks at Pinewoods, Ashokan Northern Week, BACDS American week, New London Assembly and Halsway Manor. 

Multi-instrumentalist Shira Kammen has spent much of her life exploring the worlds of early and traditional music of all kinds. A member for many years of the early music Ensembles Alcatraz and Project Ars Nova, she has also worked with Sequentia, Hesperion XX, the Boston Camerata, storyteller/harpist Patrick Ball, singers Azam Ali, and Joanna Newsom, the Balkan group Kitka, Anonymous IV, the King’s Noyse, the Newberry and Folger Consorts, Roguery, the Oregon, California and San Francisco Shakespeare Festivals, and is the founder of Class V Music, an ensemble dedicated to providing music on river rafting trips. She has worked with students in many different settings, among them teaching summer music workshops in the woods, coaching students of early music in such schools as Yale University, Case Western, the University of Oregon at Eugene, and working at specialized seminars at the Fondazione Cini in Venice, Italy and the Scuola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland. She has played on a number of movie and television soundtracks, when weird medieval instruments are needed. 

Trio Con Brio is Elke Baker, Jonathan Jensen, and Paul Oorts. We play 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. Early collaborations playing for our local English country dance in Baltimore led us to make it more official, and more than twenty years later, our band is still at it, playing everything from grand costume balls to our local dance. Trio con Brio plays waltzes, tangos, and other couple dances, Vintage dance music, English country dance, contradances, concerts, and listening music for parties and weddings. Our 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.

Belgian-born Paul Oorts performs on harp guitar, 10-string cittern, mandolin, and musette accordion most often with his wife, hammered dulcimer player Karen Ashbrook.

He is very active in the world of English, Contra, and Vintage dances in the DC-Baltimore area. With the trio Goldcrest he has made two recordings and performed at dance events all over the US.

Paul plays first mandolin and directs the Rigatoni Trio (and Quartet) that specializes in old-time Italian-American music.

As a teacher or staff musician, he has been on faculty at many week-long camps like the Augusta Heritage Center (WV) the Swannanoa Gathering (NC), Common Ground on the Hill (MD), Kentucky Music Week, Pinewoods (MA), Timber Ridge (WV), Hill County Acoustic Music Camp (TX), Hey Days (CA) and the Volksmuziekstage in Gooik (Belgium). During the academic year Dr. Oorts teaches French and Italian at Loyola University in Baltimore.

Jonathan Jensen is an inspired pianist in a wealth of musical styles from contra to English Country to ragtime and jazz. A composer of brilliant English country dance tunes and waltzes, Jonathan performs at dance events and camps around the country and plays the double bass with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which has performed many of his orchestral arrangements. In recent years he has become increasingly active as a songwriter and lyricist. “Do It Now”, a musical he co-wrote with playwright Rich Espey was given a successful, sold-out production in the summer of 2022 by the Fells Point Corner Theater in Baltimore.

Since discovering contradance, English and Scottish country dance while in college, Elke Baker (fiddle, viola) has performed at dance and music events across North America and around the world, including Pinewoods, Asilomar, Berea Christmas Country Dance School, Halsway Manor, the International Branch Event in Italy, Tokyo Branch Weekend, Teachers Association Canada Summer School, and New Zealand Summer School.  1995 U.S. National Scottish fiddle Champion, Elke taught at the Washington Conservatory of Music, as Artist-in-Residence at Montgomery College, as a panelist at Harvard University, and has taught monthly workshops for the Potomac Valley Scottish Fiddle Club for more than 30 years.  She has played concerts at venues such as the Kennedy Center, the Birchmere, Honolulu Academy of Arts, and countless festivals.  Elke’s most recent recordings include Better Days, a waltz and couple dance album featuringTrio con Brio and other musicians; On a Cold Winter’s Day with Ken Kolodner and Robin Bullock; Wait ‘til You Hear This One! With her band Sugar Beat; and A Dancer’s Best Friend with band Terpsichore.  Playing music for dancers is one of her very favorite things…although dancing runs a close second.

CALLERS

Graham Christian attended Swarthmore College, and has advanced degrees from Harvard University, Simmons University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a stage director and music director for several performing arts organizations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, as well as a scholar and writer. He has taught English country dance all over North America, as well as in England, Belgium, and Germany. He is the author of Tell Me More, a popular occasional column in the CDSS News, as well as the historical dance anthology, The Playford Assembly. 

Jenna Simpson is a caller and choreographer based in Williamsburg, Virginia.  She regularly calls for both her local community English and Scottish Country Dances as well as for the student ECD club at the College of William & Mary, which she co-founded; she has also taught at Pinewoods English Week. Her ECD repertoire spans both the historical and modern canons – she has called for reenactors and for the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America – but she particularly delights in trying out and sharing new dance compositions.

As a choreographer, she is noted for her original and innovative dances, and her work often highlights tunes from modern composers.  She has authored two books of dances, “Under the Influence” and “Revelations.”  When not dancing, she works as an audiovisual archivist in Colonial Williamsburg’s Rockefeller Library.

additionaL PERFORMERS

Laura Kuhlman is an active performer for the English Country Dance community in Portland. She is a member of the rowdy horn section in the acclaimed Portland Megaband. Since 2021, Laura has been teaching online with Gayle and Phil Neuman. The trio teaches over 100 recorder, strings, and double reed players from all over the USA. In addition, Laura teaches flute, saxophone, recorder, renaissance double reeds and renaissance bagpipes both at workshops and in her home studio.

Laura is currently music director for the Portland Recorder Society and the Recorder Orchestra of Oregon and is past President of the national American Recorder Society. She has taught at many early music workshops around the US, Canada and in Steckborn, Switzerland.

Laura performs, leads and arranges music for the lively medieval band, Musica Universalis, whose purpose is to play early music in unusual places and in collaboration with other artistic disciplines.

She has performed for the Portland Revels and Portland Revels Children’s Show on recorders, flutes and bagpipes.

If there is not an instrument in her hands, Laura can be found roaming the hills and dales of Oregon on her beloved bicycle and creating glass art in her glass kiln.

Tamara Caulkins has danced with Seattle Early Dance, Musica Antigua at Central Washington University, the Musicking conference at the University of Oregon, and at the Amherst Early Music Festival – as well as with her home ECD community in Seattle. As part of her Master’s in Music, she reconstructed a Minuet for Hester Santlow. She plays in the Caulkins Guitar Duo with best friend and husband Neil. The duo specializes in historically-informed performances of early nineteenth-century music as well as new commissions.  They have performed throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southeastern U.S. as well as in Spain, Hong Kong, and Canada. In 2024, the duo received an Ellensburg Arts Commission award. Tamara presented on Regency dress at Hands Across the Water and, with Seattle Early Dance, performed in “Spanish meets Baroque” and “With a Good Leg and a Good Foot.” Caulkins also holds a PhD in the history of science from Oregon State University and is writing a book on diagrams for court dance and military drill in the age of Enlightenment.

SOUND

Highly regarded by dancers, musicians, and callers for his high-quality sound work, John Oorthuys has handled the board for many dances, balls, camps, and special events for PCDC and surrounding Pacific Northwest communities. He has been the camp sound engineer for years and years, where his wizardry makes the sound fantastic.

John spent his working career translating and disseminating sound from stadium rock concerts to very expensive headphones for fighter pilots. Always on task, he will make sure all that passionate, dynamic music gets full throated into your ears.

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