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

US Tour 2011

Benjamin Bagby’s superb medieval-music ensemble

The New Yorker (January 2011)

Mr. Bagby, who played the harp, and his five colleagues…sang with flair throughout the evening,

New York Times (25/01/11)

To listeners accustomed to the ethereal, disembodied sound heard in popular recordings of “Gregorian Chants to Soothe the Soule” (etc.), Sequentia’s sound — vigorous and virile — will come as a bit of a shock. … Harmonies, when used, were spare, diatonic, and often surprisingly dissonant.

…the lovely sequence Ave gloriosa virginum regina by Philippe le Chancelier, which opened the program, extolled the Virgin Mary in downright sensual poetry sung to the accompaniment of a hurdy-gurdy.

…throughout the program, careful attention was paid to the declamation and rhetoric of the texts. (26/01/2011)

Leave it to Benjamin Bagby, artistic director of the venerated Medieval music ensemble Sequentia, to devise spellbinding programs.

…the program's sacred and profane songs came across with hypnotic immediacy.

What the music revealed was the richness of expression and unusually energetic activity that emanated from the Parisian island during the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Plain Dealer / Cleveland (26/01/2011)

The impact of the music on this occasion was a testament to the refined urgency that has been a hallmark of Sequentia.

Bagby exudes flesh-and-blood intensity both as solo singer – his one-man Beowulf a decade ago was a dazzling achievement – and collaborator. He was the potent narrator Tuesday in the whimsical "Olim sudor Herculis," which finds Hercules and other hapless suitors at Venus' amorous beck and call.

Babgy's Sequentia colleagues – Josep Cabre, Vincent Pislar, Wolodymyr Smishkewych, Michael Loughlin Smith and Mathias Spoerry – were sophisticated and impassioned equals in vocal matters.

Director Benjamin Bagby has bet his life’s work that scholarship and musicianship can co-exist on a musical stage. On Friday night, The Friends of Chamber Music brought Bagby and Sequentia to a packed house at Grace and Holy Trinity Church. It was the perfect forum to showcase the ensemble’s signature ability to take listeners to surprising places. Sequentia’s work satisfies on every level: followers of the venerable ensemble know what to expect, and first-time patrons soon appreciate the depth to which Sequentia prepares a program. Bagby brings inventiveness and flair (yes, flair!) to medieval music, making it positively thrilling to sense the performers’ and listeners’ commitment to the music.

Much of the music resonated in a very human way, contextualized so that modern listeners might believe these “voices from Notre Dame” had similar weaknesses and shared familiar concerns.

An audience might expect that monophonic singing is simplistic and dull, but the clarity of this music refreshes and moves the imagination; it is humbling in its purity. Centuries fell away with the first utterances, as modern sensibility alongside some dramatic posturing brought this praise song to life. The rhythmic inflections imposed on the music were subtle and almost lilting at times…the audience seemed fixated.

Listeners appreciate a concert like this for all it represents: inquiry, exploration, and adventure—all in service to music that deserves to be heard. Ancient social and musical myths will undoubtedly continue to reverberate in the minds of this modern audience. In such a clever reconstruction, where scholarship and speculation merge, no one seems to mind the questions left unanswered. After all, who would want all of these mysteries to be definitively solved? We would rather keep enjoying how alive this ancient music still feels, open to hearing again and again the learned interpretations of the who, when, and why of it all.


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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