Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

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Sequentia celebrates its 40th anniversary in March 2017




Katja Zimmermann

(exclusive of Europe)

Seth Cooper
Seth Cooper Arts Inc.
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Tel: 514-467-5052

In association for
Season 2016-2017 with:

Jon Aaron
Aaron Concert Artists 
220 West 148th St. 4J
New York City 10039, NY / USA
Tel: 212-665-0313


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From the archives: excerpts from Sequentia's first demo recordings (1978-79)

By Benjamim Bagby

For the ensemble's 40th anniversary in 2017, my colleague Norbert Rodenkirchen encouraged me to rummage in the Sequentia tape archive in Cologne and see what old recordings were lying around. I found two of our oldest demos, on reel-to-reel tapes. Norbert took the fragile tapes to the renowned Topaz Studio in Cologne, where sound engineer Reinhard Kobialka was able to save most of the deteriorated sounds. Still, one hears the hand of time in these old recordings. Norbert had the idea to use the old label of the demo as an image. The list was written on our old mechanical typewriter, and the lettering done by hand, with Letraset (considered very hightech in pre-computer times).

Non e gran causa

This is from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, compiled by King Alfonso 'el Sabio' of Castile and Leon (1221-1284): 'This is how holy Mary decreed that the soul of the pilgrim, who killed himself on the way to Santiago because the devil tricked him, should return to the body, and he should do penance.' (CSM 26). Refrain text: 'It is not surprising that the mother of him who will judge the whole world should demonstrate good judgment.'

This is from a demo which we made in May 1978 in Cologne, with pieces from our 'Pilgrimage to Santiago' program (which was only ever performed once, in Limoges). The recording has all the hallmarks of a young ensemble almost losing control in a high-energy performance using men's and women's voices, with fiddle (Margriet Tindemans) and lute (the virtuosic Paul Shigihara Haltod). Barbara Thornton, singing here with Candace Smith, was interested in a wide-open, female chest-voice performance, something she later rarely tried. For the performance of this concert program, we all wore red monks' robes made especially by a tailor in Cologne, and wore coquilles Saint Jacques shells around our necks. Well, it was the 70's and seemed like a cool idea at the time. The robes are still in a box somewhere, never worn again since 1978.

Ja nus hons pris

The piece is a Trouvère chanson attributed to Richard I (Lionheart), King of England (1157-1199), who was imprisoned by Leopold V, Duke of Austria in 1192 on his way home from the Crusades, and held for an enormous ransom. He supposedly wrote this song, addressed to his sister Marie de Champagne, from captivity. He sings of the unfairness of his situation, and urges his many friends to pay the ransom to gain his release.

This is taken from a 1979 demo for a projected LP with music from the world of Richard the Lionheart. We submitted this privately-recorded project to Archiv Produktion (DGG), hoping for a recording contract, but they turned us down—the producer said they were looking for something which 'sounded more like David Munrow.' And so the recording was forgotten until today.

In this short excerpt, which includes the final strophes of the song, we hear one of my first attempts at self-accompaniment, on a harp which I had just acquired from the builder (Alan Crumpler). One can hear my tentative elaboration of harp-playing ideas which would later become much more convinced and natural. Still in my late twenties at that time, I worried that my voice would not have sufficient 'gravitas' to do justice to King Richard; I also hear today how I was not yet able to fully inhabit the text of this famous song.

Upcoming Concerts

05 October 2017
Paris (FR), Musée de Cluny
Monks Singing Pagans

09 to 13 October 2017
Venice (IT), Fondazione Cini
Seminar Roman de Fauvel

20 April 2018
Konstanz, D
Oswald in Konstanz

See full concert schedule



Benjamin Bagby's recent activities as teacher/lecturer, linked to his performances

At the invitation of the music department, Benjamin taught a performance workshop on the music of Hildegard von Bingen for students at Princeton University (29 March), where he also performed 'Beowulf' in a collaborative production with digital light designer Craig Winslow. Following this, at the invitation of the medieval studies program and the English department, he gave a lecture on his work with reconstructing the 'Beowulf' performance, at Yale University (3 April).

At the Université Paris – Sorbonne, where Benjamin is on the faculty, the yearly 'Entretiens de la musique ancienne' were held this year in honor of his life-long work with reconstructing 'lost songs'. The main event was his performance of 'Beowulf' (11 May), with French video titles, in the Amphithéâtre Richelieu of the Sorbonne, followed by two days of symposium at the university's Centre Clignancourt, sponsored by the historical music organization IREMUS and the musicology department of the university. During this symposium, Benjamin gave a lecture on his work with reconstructed harps and the kinds of clues they can provide ('Beowulf ': dans l'atelier d'un conteur d'histoires).


2017 Barbara Thornton Memorial Scholarship awarded by Early Music America to string-player Allison Monroe

This scholarship is given by EMA to “an outstanding and highly-motivated (and possibly unconventional) young performer of medieval music who seeks to widen his/her experience through more advanced study and/or auditions in Europe.”  The recipient is chosen by a jury of musicians who knew or worked with the great medieval music specialist and teacher, Barbara Thornton (1950-1998), who co-founded Sequentia together with Benjamin Bagby in 1977. Read more about Allison here.

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