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Simon Spalding, Musical Historian

Press

Anchor & Thistle Review on allmusic.com

The Rambling Sailor Review on allmusic.com

Musical History at Tryon Palace, Raleigh, NC Examiner

Old Style Dance in New Bern, Raleigh, NC Examiner

Calling the Tune on Work, The Houston Chronicle, 1992

Life Story and Music Career

Simon grew up in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, to parents deeply involved in theater and the arts. Simon’s parents acted and directed in the “little theater” companies The Playhouse and Interplayers. Simon performed children’s roles in theatrical productions, provided music for stage productions in his teens (e.g. The Camp Meeker Players’ production of The Glass Menagerie, 1973), and formed a variety of music ensembles in high school and college.

Simon attended Lowell High School, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the University of California at Berkeley. While at Berkeley, he studied Ethnomusicology with Bonnie Wade; Harmony with Andrew Imbrie and Janice Giteck; Early Music with Alan Curtis and Lawrence Moe, and Anthropology with Alan Dundes and Tim White. He served on the organizing committee of the annual conference of the International Musicological Society in 1977, organizing and participating in performances of traditional Irish and Russian music. Simon studied Central Javanese Gamelan with Jody Diamond, Dan Smith, and Ki Wasitodipuro, continuing to play Javanese music after his graduation. He also assisted Winston Wu in teaching traditional Chinese music, taught a mini-course in Irish music, and participated in Los Gringos Allegres, a student mariachi band. He organized concerts of Medieval music and his own compositions.

Before, during, and after college, Simon played bass and contrabass balalaika with the Korowczenko Balalaika Orchestra and with the Massenkoff Russian Folk Festival. With the latter group, he performed on college campuses throughout the US, on the Dinah Shore Show, and at Carnegie Hall. With this group, he played in Pops Concerts with the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Baltimore, Honolulu, and London, Ontario. His performances with Massenkoff also included Chautaqua Institute, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, and the Concord Pavilion.

Concurrent with this, Simon organized and directed music groups and music-and-dance shows for the Dickens Christmas Festivals and Renaissance Pleasure Faires, directing shows and groups of street actors portraying sailors and visiting Irish and Scottish groups of the 16th and 19th centuries.

Simon co-founded the Dogwatch Nautical Band, a San Francisco-based group performing songs and music of the sea. While he performed only rarely with group after 1984, the group has continued up to the present day.

Simon performed with the folk-original group Golden Bough from 1980 though 1981, playing on the group’s first commercial recording and participating in tours of the Pacific Northwest and Europe. With this group, Simon performed at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, Dublin’s Project Arts Centre, the Rotterdam New Pop Festival, Nyon Folk Festival, and other events and venues.

From 1983 through 1984, Simon directed California Breezes, a group based in San Diego performing traditional and contemporary folk music from their home state. With this group, he performed in Stockholm’s Kungstraedgarden, Copenhagen’s Grabrodretorg, the Rattviksdansen International Festival, and festivals and concert venues throughout Europe.

In late 1984, Simon joined Celtic Stone, a folk-rock group on whose first album Simon had played early in 1983. With this group, Simon performed acoustic and electric fiddle and electric bass at the North Texas Irish Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, and made a European tour in 1986. He performed, composed, and arranged much of the material on the group’s third album, Natural Bridges.

Starting in the mid-1980’s, Simon began performing solo as well as sitting in with far-flung local groups. These performances include appearances at L’Orient’s Festival Interceltique, Krakow’s Shanties Festival (three times receiving the coveted “Audience Prize”, and a special prize from the Polish Yachting Association), Raleigh’s Artsplosure, and other events. Simon has performed lecture-concerts presenting history of a variety of times and places through song and music, for museums and other institutions throughout the United States and Europe. Simon has lectured at the prestigious St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music in Russia, at the national maritime museums of Sweden and Denmark, for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (on celestial navigation), and for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Simon has pursued a career in History concurrent with his music career. He worked as a USNPS park ranger in 1980-81; directed the startup of a small maritime museum in Washington, NC 1989-1990, consulted in the development of a maritime museum in Southport, NC in 1991; and worked as Living History Programs Manager at Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens in New Bern, NC 1998-2003. He has also developed programs and events for museums in Pennsylvania, New York, Scotland, Sweden, and Denmark. This work has often included music performances and lectures.

Simon has recorded music for use in museum films and interactive exhibits, as well as assisting as an historical consultant for commercial films.

While on staff at Tryon Palace, Simon directed a reconstruction of the 19th-century Afro-Caribbean festival Jonkonnu. This reconstruction has continued to the present, and has formed the basis for similar performances elsewhere in North Carolina.

Since 2003, Simon has been active in eastern North Carolina, while still travelling to perform at festivals in California, Louisiana, and Poland. He teaches and directs the teaching studio at Fuller’s Music in New Bern, and has taught at Gramercy Christian School in Newport, and at Montessori Children’s School in Jacksonville.

Simon recently played guitar in the New Bern Civic Theater’s production of Grease, and fiddle, banjo, and mandolin for the Rivertown Repertory’s production of Whiskey Flats – How the West Was Fun.

Simon directs the teaching studio of Fuller’s Music in New Bern, where he also gives private and workshop instruction on a variety of instruments. Simon teaches music three days a week at Montessori Children’s School in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

 
 

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