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.
4592 Hampton Ave.
Montréal, QC, Canada
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 Press

"Frankish Phantoms", Vancouver 2011

An event that always repays anticipation is Early Music Vancouver’s annual summer festival, particularly when it features Benjamin Bagby and Sequentia.

Antiquarian is too dry a word for an ensemble that re-creates the mysteries of the past with such vivid urgency. This time, as part of an ongoing series of explorations called the Lost Songs Project, the singer looked into the ninth-century court of the emperor Charlemagne in the world premiere of Frankish Phantoms: Echoes From the Carolingian Palaces.

There are good reasons why Charlemagne’s name continues to resonate today. This Frankish king was a hugely important figure politically and in terms of what he achieved in the arts, especially music. Among other things, he virtually invented the concept of Europe.

Personally, he is reported to have been a tall, sturdily built man with imposing white hair. He was kind and civilized but not one to be pushed around, as his doctors found out when they tried to advise him to eat boiled meat instead of the roasted kind that he preferred.

Bagby, Sequentia’s director, sang and played the Germanic harp; Wolodymyr Shmishkewych sang and played the gusli, or Slavic harp, and the organistrum, or hurdy-gurdy; and Norbert Rodenkirchen played flutes and the lyrelike cithara.

Ancient, furious, now–unheard-of battles were re-created, as were death laments and tributes in song to great, powerful, now-forgotten men.

One of Charlemagne’s biggest accomplishments in music was to unify various singing styles into the living collection we now call Gregorian chant. To hear the directness and power of the time’s early monody was incredible, its gravity often belied by the beauty of the words.

There isn’t room to detail the ways in which this amazing re-creation of history held a theatre full of people in thrall. It reminded us that music is an extremely powerful key that opens a great many doors, and in ways that we wouldn’t expect to see. The most moving thing about this concert is that it introduced us to a shared past that many of us didn’t even know we had. Together these magicians supplied an entertainment that was nothing less than bardic.

It effected the miracle of collapsing more than 10 centuries of time.

The Georgia Straight (Vancouver), 2 August 2011 (Lloyd Dykk)

Like any number of other Sequentia fans, I’m prepared to hear anything at all they turn their hand to. In “Frankish Phantoms,” their choices were as remarkable and their performances enthralling. Working with just flutes and harps (and, for their grand finale, the organistrum, a sort of hurdy gurdy) the music was entirely fleshed out, its seeming austerity at odds with the evocative, dramatic delivery of singers Benjamin Bagby and Wolodymyr Smishkewych. Texts were projected—an enormously valuable addition to the evening—and ranged from poignant (like Alcuin’s O mea cella) to epic (like the unexpected 12th century Russian Song of Igor’s Campaign negotiated with such aplomb by Smishkewych). Concert pacing was as good as I’ve ever heard, no matter what the repertoire. By the sweetCanticle of Eulalia and a concluding panegyric to Saint (no longer Emperor) Charlemagne, one left the concert hall transformed by both music and performance.

Vancouver Sun, 7 August 2011 (David Gordon Duke)


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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