Sequentia

Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

English | Français
Sequentia celebrates its 40th anniversary in March 2017
 
 

Contact

E-mail: info@sequentia.org

Representation
(Europe)

Katja Zimmermann
VCzimmermann@gmx.net

Representation
(exclusive of Europe)

Seth Cooper
Seth Cooper Arts Inc.
4592 Hampton Ave.
Montréal, QC, Canada
www.sethcooperarts.com
sethcooper.arts@gmail.com
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
jon@aaronconcert.com

 

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Programs

Voices from the Island Sanctuary:
Ecclesiastical Singers in Paris (1180-1230)

New sounds in Parisian churches

Beginning in the early 12th century, the city of Paris was the European center for new trends in philosophy and the arts, especially music and Latin poetry. And the intellectual centre of Paris was on the Île de la Cité, in and around Notre Dame, at the royal court just a stone’s throw away, in the schools which were rapidly expanding on the Left Bank, and in nearby monastic churches where the best and brightest gathered. We present here some of the most remarkable ‘new music’ of the Parisian scene.

Grounded in the extemporised oral tradition of the Magister Leoninus and the organistae of Notre Dame in the period around 1200 (a tradition which gave birth to the romantic myth of an ‘École de Notre-Dame’), this notated organum duplum of the responsory Descendit de celis attests to the powerful new hybrid genre heard in late 12th-century Paris : 2-voice organum purum, copula and clausula build upon the venerable chant, revealing a metamorphosis in both time and vertical sonority. In keeping with the improvisational roots of this music, the singers of Sequentia draw on a 12th-century French organum treatise (Vatican, Ottob. lat. 3025) to make their own versions of some of the organum purum sections, while singing the rhythmic clausulae from the manuscript source. The chant sections are sung from a 13th century Parisian chant book.

Another dynamic aspect of intellectual life in Paris was the art of rhetoric, during a time which saw the rise of virtuoso sermons (Philippe le Chancelier!) and the power of the word in political and spiritual life. In Minor natu filius we hear a concise re-telling of the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), a completely new manner of ‘vocalizing’ a well-known Gospel story, in which musical language and rhetoric shape the simple tale with an intensity that no mere reading could ever approach.

During a particularly turbulent period of ecclesiastical politics and intrigue at Notre Dame in the early 12th century, William of Champeaux (himself an archdeacon at the cathedral) founded an Augustinian monastery on the Left Bank, naming it St. Victor. It was to serve as a calm place of refuge, meditation, spiritual study and teaching for the clergy of Notre Dame, far from the urbanity and distraction of the busy cathedral on the island (if you search the Left Bank today, looking for a trace of St. Victor, you will only find 19th century buildings and the unfortunate modern constructions at Jussieu). Many of the most illustrious men in Notre Dame’s history chose to live within the wealthy and comfortable walls of St. Victor, including a venerable 12th century Cantor of Notre Dame named Adam (often referred to as Adam of St. Victor) who died in 1146. To him are ascribed a large number of astonishing new compositions in sequence form (Latin: sequentia), daring in their texts and melodies, which were sung on important feasts in both churches. This sequence for Easter, Zima vetus expurgetur, with its elaborate mosaic of images drawing upon the Old Testament, would have delighted the sensibilities of the erudite Victorine brothers, within their own church or in the choir of the nearby cathedral.

Texts

Descendit de celis

He came down from heaven, sent from the Father’s citadel; through the maiden’s ear he entered our region, putting on a stole of purple, and he went out through the golden gate, light and glory of the whole structure of the world.

V/ The Lord coming forth like a bridegroom from his pavillion;
And he went out through the golden gate, light and glory of the whole world.

V/ Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…
And he went out through the golden gate, light and glory of the whole world.

He came down from heaven, sent from the Father’s citadel; through the maiden’s ear he entered our region, putting on a stole of purple, and he went out through the golden gate, light and glory of the whole world.

Minor natu filius

The younger son is the Gentile people, blind and without faith, like the prodigal son, who became destitute, fled to the desert, and fed swine. Penitent, he returns, and the father rejoices because the young boy is back; See how the lost one, considered perished, has returned! The calf is killed and a ring is placed on his finger. The envious brother is afflicted and filled with hate because his little brother is received with love by the father. (Luke 15:11-32).

Zima vetus expurgetur

Let the old leaven be purged so that the new resurrection may be celebrated. This is the day of our hope: the power of this day is marvellous by the testimony of the law. This day despoiled Egypt and freed the Hebrews from the cruel kiln, established in the labour of their servitude. Now the praise of divine virtue, now of triumph, now of salvation, an unimpeded voice breaks out: this is the day which the Lord has made, this is the end of our pain, the healing day….the serpent devours the serpents of Pharaoh…Christ pierces the serpent in its jaw. … David is inspired…Samson levels a thousand with a jawbone….the whale restores the fugitive Jonah….thus from Judah the strong lion, with the gates of dire death broken, rising on the third day, as the voice of the father roared, carried back so many spoils to the bosom of the celestial mother. Life and death have fought, Christ has risen truly, and with Christ many witnesses to the glory have risen. Let the new morning, the joyful morning, wipe away the evening weeping: because life conquered death, it is time for joy. O Jesus victor, Jesus life, Jesus, common way of life, by whose death, death is put to sleep, invite us to the Paschal table with confidence; O living bread, living water, vine true and fertile, feed us, cleanse us, so that your grace may save us from a second death. Amen.

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

 

News

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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