Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

English | Français
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


Follow us on Facebook


Fragments for the End of Time

Gaude celestis sponsa

Instrumental piece based on Frankish sequence melodies (9th century)
Source: München, clm.10075 xiii in / Reconstruction: N. Rodenkirchen (with additonal materials from other Frankish sequences)

The sequence melodies dating from the time of Notker, monk of St. Gall (9th century), were sometimes written in the early manuscripts as textless sequelae. The exact pitches of these melodies can only be determined by consulting later sources, which are consistent over the centuries and give us a rather clear image of the tunes. It is highly likely that these sequelae were also performed instrumentally, as the melodies pre-date the texts of the sequences and they are not taken from Gregorian chant; they are perhaps survivors of a pre-Christian, indigenous melodic tradition. In the ex tempore interludes performed on the flute in this program, Norbert Rodenkirchen is principally interested in exploring the evident relationships amongst various early medieval sequences. These relationships, which often can be reduced to a handful of archtypical phrases, point to an orally-transmitted repertoire of archaic ‚ur-sequences’ which are reflected upon here in improvised instrumental practice. The central material is provided by the sequence Gaude coelestis sponsa, also known as Adducentur

Thaer waes swylcra fela

‚The Lay of the Last Survivor’ from the Beowulf-Epic (Anglo-Saxon, ca. 8th century)
Source: London, BL, Cotton Vitellius A. XV. / Reconstruction: B. Bagby

The end of a people, the bitter confrontation with the loss of all friends, family, possessions and memories, can be seen as a microcosm of the end of the world. In this fragment (extracted from the Beowulf epic, where it forms a sad prelude to the episode of the golden cup stolen from a dragon’s hoard), we learn that an entire unnamed northern tribe has been decimated by war, with only one man left alive. He carries the people’s treasure (gold, weapons, and even a harp) into a nearby cave as a final gesture of remembrance, uttering these elegiac words to the earth itself before he, too, is carried off by a lonely death. (The hidden treasure is later discovered and appropriated by a dragon, a supernatural beast which is often associated with the Apocalypse in Christian tradition).


…there were many treasures stored inside the earth-house, since long ago some nameless man had carefully hidden there the whole rich legacy of his noble people. Death had taken them all in earlier times and the only one who survived, the last of their race, the mourning guardian, expected the same fate for himself: he knew that his joy in the huge treasure would be brief.

A barrow stood waiting, on a wide headland by the sea-waves, its entrance well hidden. Into it the keeper of the treasure had carried all the gold and riches. His words were few:

„Now, earth, hold what earls once owned and can no more. Listen! it was taken from you at first, by good men. War has taken every one of my people; they all went down to death, their joys in the hall at an end.

I have none left to carry a sword or polish the golden cups. The company of men has gone. The hard helmet must be stripped of its gold plate; and the polisher sleeps who should make the metal war-mask gleam; the coat of mail that withstood all sword-bites when the shield collapsed, decays like its warrior. Nor may linked chain-mail travel far and wide on the chieftain’s back beside his warriors. No delight in the harp, the resounding wood; no excellent hawk flying through the hall; no swift horse stamping in the courtyard. Death has emptied the earth of many races.“

And so he mourned as he joylessly wandered through day and night, all alone, until death’s flood covered his heart.

Translation: B. Bagby (based on E.T. Donaldson)

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


More news