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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Fragments for the End of Time

...sin tac piqueme, daz er touuan scal

Tthe ‚Muspilli-Fragment’, probably Fulda (early 9th century)
Source: München, Bayr. Staatsb. Clm 14098 / Reconstruction: B. Bagby

Among the most enigmatic texts in Old High German, this anonymous meditation on the Last Judgement has survived only in fragmentary form. It was named by a 19th-century scholar who was intrigued by the word ‚Muspilli’ (the mysterious Germanic word ‚Muspell’ is generally believed to refer to the end of the world by fire), a pagan image surviving in a Christian context. The sermon-like narrative streams freely through a series of images: armies of angels and demons fighting over the recently-dead soul; the security and sweetness of paradise; the fight of Elijah with the Anti-Christ; the burning of the earth and heavens (Muspilli) as a sign of the approaching judgement; the blowing of the horn which raises the dead to face their judge; the impossibility of bribery or of hiding past crimes...


 ...then comes the day, when the man must die. When the soul leaves the husk of the body and starts on its path, a heavenly host arrives from the stars, and another host from the fires of hell: they will fight over the soul. In terror the soul must wait, until the decision is reached, by which side he will be taken. Because if Satan’s servants get their hands on him, he will be led immediately to a place where suffering awaits him, in fire and in darkness: that is truly a horrible judgement!

However, if those who came from above take the soul and hand him over to the angels, then these will accompany him to the realms of heaven: there he will find life without death, light without darkness, a place to live without cares; there is no longer any sickness.

But woe to him who must pay for his sins in darkness and burn in eternal flames: that is truly a horrible fate! Then the soul cries out to God but receives no help or answer. The unhappy soul hopes for mercy, but he is no longer in the loving thoughts of the heavenly God, because in his lifetime he showed by his deeds that he was unworthy.

This is what I heard the wise men in the law of this world relate: that Antichrist shall fight with Elijah. The evil one is armed, and then a battle will take place between them. The warriors are so powerful, the stakes are so high. Elijah fights for eternal life, and wishes to ensure the kingdom for those who seek righteousness, for this reason he will be helped by the One who rules over heaven. Antichrist stands side by side with the Old Enemy, stands at the side of Satan (who will destroy him). For he will fall down wounded on the battleground, and will be the loser in that place.

But many men of God believe that Elijah will also be wounded in that battle, so that his blood will drip down to earth; then the mountains will catch fire, no tree at all will be left standing on earth, the waters will dry up, the marshland will swallow itself up, the sky will be aflame with fire, the moon will fall, and the earth will burn, no stone will be left standing; then the day of judgement will drive through the land, traveling with fire as a visitation on the people. Then can no relative help another in the face of the ‚Muspilli’. For the widespread rain of fire will burn up everything, both fire and air will purge it all: what then of the petty disputes one fought constantly with one’s kin? The countryside will be burned up and the soul will stand there full of sadness, not knowing how to turn towards the good: and so he goes to hell.

The insecure man never knows who is shadowing him when he tries to get around the law by means of bribery; the devil is always there watching, in disguise, and he silently remembers everything wicked the man has done, before and after, so that he can bring it all as evidence when he appears at the final judgement. For this reason, no one should allow himself to be bribed!

When the heavenly horn sounds, then the Judge arises, He who will sit over the dead and the living, surrounded by the largest army ever seen, so powerful that no one will be able to resist Him. Then He moves to the place of Judgement, as has been made known to us. Angels move over the land, waking the dead, summoning all to the court. Then each one will stand up from the dust, shake off the burden of the grave; his body will be returned to him so that he can more easily answer the charges against him and so that he can be punished or rewarded according to his deeds.

There, no man can hide his thoughts. And if he has committed murder, his hands will speak for him, his nodding head will admit to everything, each limb will answer the truth, down to his little finger. In this court it is useless to try even the most sophisticated tricks, to deny a crime, to cover up any past deeds; they will be known to the King. Unless of course the sinner can repent during his lifetime, by giving alms and fasting, He will be consoled, who repents. Then the noble Cross will be brought forth, on which Holy Christ was nailed. The soul will see the wounds which Christ received while living as a man, the wounds he received for his love of mankind...

Translation: B. Bagby (based on Hans J. Koch)

Upcoming Concerts

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

See full concert schedule




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


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