Michael Siemon

My friend Michael Siemon died back on November 1st in Oakland CA, and now his California family have planned a memorial dance in his honor, on the afternoon of Sunday March 25th. The flyer:

(#1)

A man of great charm and very wide intellectual and artistic interests.

His obituary on the Oakland Chapel of the Chimes site:

(#2) Michael, flanked by David and Sharon Green

Sharon and David Green are sad to report the death of Michael Siemon in the early hours of Wednesday, November 1. He died peacefully in his sleep.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 11,1945, Michael moved with his family to Omaha later that year. After his graduation from high school in 1963, he studied math and dabbled in philosophy at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1967. He joined the Peace Corps in 1968 and taught math in Malaysia, where he fell in love with Southeast Asia. After leaving the Peace Corps, he entered UC Berkeley as a graduate student in math in 1971, receiving his MS in 1975.

While at UC, Michael fell in with a group that formed a choir at the  Renaissance Faire, and was introduced to the world of the Society for Creative Anachronism; in that context he joined our household as Johann Heinrich Simon of Wernigerode (the Siemon family’s ancestral home). He served as dancing master, wrote poems for the College of Bards, and played a variety of early instruments. During this time he began working as a systems programmer in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley.

Michael lived with our family in Oakland until 1982, when the three of us and our friend Jody Lee moved to General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. While there, Michael worked for Bell Labs in New Jersey and for the New York Stock Exchange.

In New York, we all soon became actively involved in the world of the Country Dance and Song Society, especially English country dance. Michael joined Christine Helwig’s Chelsea English Country Dancers demo team and New World Sword. He took up the concertina, learning how to play for dances from Leah Barkan, band leader of Country Dancers of Westchester, and played regularly for the North Jersey English Country Dancers.

When the household returned to Oakland in 2002, Michael joined two display dance teams – Goat Hill Morris and Ring of Cold Steel (longsword)–both dancing and playing concertina. He also played concertina at BACDS dances and helped organize Fall Frolick English Dance Weekend as well as two Mendocino English Weeks.

Michael loved mathematics, dance, and music, both listening and playing. He also loved archaeology and travel, bringing back wonderful photos – from China, from Turkey, from a return visit to Southeast Asia, and most recently from Oregon, for the total eclipse. He was an excellent cook, and prepared most of our household dinners, as well as feeding various groups at the house.

Michael is survived by his Nebraska family – his brother Karl Siemon, sister-in-law Kathy, and nephew Craig; his sister Chris Wallace, his brother-in-law Bill; niece Emily, her husband Pete, and sons Vince and Jordan; and niece Nancy and her husband Jerry–and by his California family – David and Sharon Green, their children Lexy and Philip Green, their children’s spouses John Seal and Monica Avila, and grandchildren Johnny Seal, Morgan Avila-Bouldin, and Santiago Avila-Green.

He was a member of our family for over forty years.

I will be shapenote singing in Palo Alto the afternoon of the 25th, and will lead a memorial song for him there. Michael was in fact a shapenote singer, and there will be some Sacred Harp singing as part of the Albany memorial.

A little history. I first met Michael electronically, in the late 1980s, on the Usenet newsgroup soc.motss (for lgbt people and their friends), now the closed Facebook group soc-motss. We met face-to-face at his place in Union Theological Seminary in, I think, 1994. Many electronic exchanges over the years; eventually he became a regular contributor of material — examples, cartoons, and the like — for this blog. The last of these, from 8/12/17 in “The war of the weeds”, beginning:

On Facebook on the 4th, from Michael Siemon in Oakland CA, photos of rampant golden bamboo and common ivy in his backyard jungle.

I countered with a tale of a war of the weeds across the street from my house in Palo Alto.

Bonus: Morris dance. It’s likely that many readers will be unfamiliar with this form of English folk dance. Some highlights from Wikipedia:

(#3) Adlington Morris Men from Adlington, Cheshire

Morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. In a small number of dances for one or two people, steps are near and across a pair of clay tobacco pipes laid one across the other on the floor.

The earliest known and surviving English written mention of Morris dance is dated to 1448, and records the payment of seven shillings to Morris dancers by the Goldsmiths’ Company in London. Further mentions of Morris dancing occur in the late 15th century, and there are also early records such as bishops’ “Visitation Articles” mention sword dancing, guising and other dancing activities, as well as mumming plays.

While the earliest records invariably mention “Morys” in a court setting, and a little later in the Lord Mayors’ Processions in London, it had assumed the nature of a folk dance performed in the parishes by the mid 17th century.

There are around 150 Morris sides (or teams) in the United States. English expatriates form a larger part of the Morris tradition in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong. There are isolated groups in other countries

Morris dancing was originally  for men only, but for some time there have been women’s and mixed teams as well as men’s.

 

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