Northwest Passage Dance Camp - 2018

Fine Companions

Betsy Branch

Mark Douglass

Bill Tomczak

Erik Weberg

Fine Companions from Portland, Oregon blends the musicianship of four experienced dance musicians to create an elegant sound with driving rhythmic intensity.  Start with four great talents, mix in some magic and get a musical feast better than the sum of its ingredients. This Portland favorite just keeps growing their reputation and it's all good! The band features Betsy Branch on fiddle, Mark Douglas on piano, Bill Tomczak on clarinet & saxophone, and Erik Weberg on flute. If you like lots of dreamy textures and rich harmonies, this is the band for you!

Betsy Branch has been a mainstay of the Portland, Oregon dance community for many years. Her exuberant dance fiddling has delighted dancers on both coasts and her warmth and engaging smile extend beyond the stage and draw in dancers and listeners alike. She is the Associate Music Director of Portland’s Revels theater company, and their house fiddler. Betsy plays for English and Irish dancing, and in several contra dance bands.  Her primary passion is teaching and mentoring fiddlers and dance musicians. Betsy teaches privately out of her home in SE Portland, and for workshops around the region. When not playing or teaching, she works as a music editor, arranger, and transcriber.

Mark Douglass imported a piano background in gospel, swing, jazz and blues pretty much wholesale into his contra-career. When not playing with Wild Hair, you can hear him backing up the fiddle-duo Night Owl or enjoying a little onstage alone-time with wife and music partner Betsy Branch. He works days as a Gambling Treatment Therapist.

Bill Tomczak started playing clarinet at the age of 9. After a typical round of high school bands and concerts, he entered Northwestern University as a music major and studied under several teachers from the Chicagow Symphony. In 1979, he discovered the world of International Folk Dancing and has been playing for folk dance of one kind or another ever since. The International repertoire provided a solid ground for all his subsequent work with Balkan, Klezmer, Greek, contra dance and jazz. He developed a reputation as a tasteful and innovative improviser who learned to blend seamlessly into a wide variety of fiddle styles, practically defining a whole new tradition for contra dance clarinet and saxophone playing. Bill now plays for contra dancing and English Country Dancing with The Latter Day Lizards, Campaign for Real Time and Fine Companions. He has recorded with The Latter Day Lizards, BLT, Wild Asparagus and Yankee Ingenuity and appears on the recordings Cascade of Tears and Gypsy Wine with Mary Lea and friends.

Erik Weberg plays flutes, harmonicas, and bombardes (yes, plural). He is a regular musician at English country dances in Portland, and he organizes and plays for a monthly contra dance with the band Joyride. He is also an English and contra dance caller, performing at festivals and weekends around the country, and was the caller for the 2015 Portland Ball. Erik is also co-producer of the Portland Megaband contra dance event and co-programmer of the Northwest Passage Dance and Music weekend.