(exclusive of Europe)
In association for
Season 2016-2017 with:
Aaron Concert Artists
220 West 148th St. 4J
New York City 10039, NY / USA
Follow us on Facebook
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)
17 March 2017
Basel (CH) Predigerkirche, Freunde Alte Musik
Monks Singing Pagans
25 March – 2 April 2017
Lafayette College, Vassar College, Princeton University, Yale University
Benjamin Bagby Beowulf tour USA
1 April 2017
New York City, Symphony Space
Book release event for ‘The Inquisitor’s Tale’
11 May 2017
Paris, Université de Paris – Sorbonne, Amphithéâtre Richelieu
Benjamin Bagby has recorded the only surviving Old High German epic fragment, the Hildebrandslied (The Song of Hildebrand), for inclusion in an audiobook version of Adam Gidwitz’s new book for children and young adults, The Inquisitor’s Tale, just released by Penguin/Random House. He also recorded harp accompaniments to go with portions of the reading of the story. A release event is being schedule for New York City in early April, 2017.
New program given birth at Cambridge University
Following working sessions in 2014-15 with University of Cambridge musicologist Sam Barrett in the USA (Harvard University and Ohio State University) and in Cambridge (Pembroke College), Sequentia was in residence at Cambridge in April for the final rehearsals of the new program 'Monks Singing Pagans'. An informal video of a rehearsal made by the university became a YouTube sensation, with over 500,000 views. In addition to their rehearsals and working sessions on the songs of Boethius, Sequentia gave a masterclass and the premiere performance of 'Monks Singing Pagans', immediately followed by the US premiere during a residency at Dartmouth College (USA). The week spent at Dartmouth included teaching activities in music history, performance practice, Latin poetry and manuscript studies. Sequentia returned to Cambridge in late June to prepare a special program of the Boethian songs, which was given as part of a symposium on medieval Latin song, with a special concert on 2 July in Pembroke College Chapel.
Teaching in Basel and Milano
Benjamin Bagby will be teaching performance courses on medieval song at two music academies this year:
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel, Switzerland): 31 October to 1 November 2016 and 13-14 March 2017
Scuola Civica di Musica Claudio Abbado (Milano, Italy): 2-3 December 2016 and 16-18 February 2017