Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

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Fragments for the End of Time

Scalam ad caelos

Instrumental piece based on a 9th century Frankish sequence melody
Source: Notker’s Scalam ad caelos (Transcription: R. Crocker) / Reconstruction: Bagby & Rodenkirchen

Here, we reconstruct what could have been an instrumental tradition of Frankish minstrels, using a melody which survived when it was adapted for a sequence by the poet-monk Notker of St. Gall. Although we will never learn the story behind the original melody, we do know of the the power that such tunes had over the centuries, both within the church and ouside it.

Summi regis archangele Michahel

Sequenz ‚quam Alcuinus composuit Karolo Imperatori’ [Sequence‚ which Alcuin composed for the emperor Charlemagne], (Einsiedeln, 10th c., but possibly created earlier: late 8th century)
Source: Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek Codex 121 (10th c.) / Transcription: N. Rodenkirchen

This is one of the most widely-known sequences of the Middle Ages. In the dedication to Charlemagne, attributed to the monk Alcuin, we learn that the emperor is compared to the archangel Michael, who defeated the dragon for the redemption of mankind. We might see the medieval fascination with Christian dragon-killers (also with snakes and dragon-like beasts, especially in connection with the End of Time) as a lingering, subconscious element of pagan culture and mythology. In the case of Summi regis we may have before us an original sequence by Alcuin (who was active among the literati at the court of Charlemagne from 782-789), making it also the earliest-known sequence by a known author to have survived.


Archangel of the Highest King, Michael, listen to our voices, we beseech.

We indeed proclaim you are the prince of the citizens on high. For our sake implore God that he send his help to the wretched.

A princely power has been given to you by the Lord, to save sinning souls. You also have, in perpetuity, pride of place in paradise:all the citizens on high honour you.

In the temple of God you were seen to holda golden censer in your hands. From this the smoke, arising with great fragrance, made its way up to the gaze of God.

When you finished your battle against the great dragon, out of his jaws you plucked many souls. Then a vast silence was brought about in heaven; thousands upon thousands said ‘Glory to the King our Lord!’

Hear us, Michael, highest of angels: come down a little from heaven’s throne, bringing us the strength of the Lord and the relief of his tenderness. Gabriel, lay low our enemies, Raphael, bring a remedy to the sick, purge our diseases, lighten our injuries, and let us take part in the joys of the blessed!

Emperor, your sage plays you these melodies.

Translation: Peter Dronke

Upcoming Concerts

30 September 2018
New York City (Music Before 1800)

17 October 2018
London (British Library)

7 December 2018
Amherst, MA / Amherst College
Monks singing pagans

14 December 2018
Gdansk, Poland / Actus Humanus Nativitas
Monks singing pagans

See full concert schedule



Benjamin Bagby's teaching activities in 2018

In addition to his teaching position at the University of Paris - Sorbonne, where he has taught since 2005 in the professional masters program, Benjamin Bagby travels widely in 2018 to teach other practical workshops for young professionals:

Milano, Scuola Civica di Musica (Milano, Italy) 29-31 January
The troubadours of the Milano manuscript R71 sup. (late 13th century)

Folkwang Universität der Künste (Essen-Werden, Germany) April-June
Benjamin will join the faculty of this renowned masters program for liturgical chant performance and medieval music, specializing this year in music from Notre Dame of Paris. The dates of his courses: 13-14 April, 18-20 May, 28-30 May and 15-17 June. More information

Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel, Switzerland) 25-26 May

7th International Course on Medieval Music Performance (Besalú, Spain) .
Music relating to the idea of the Crusades, especially in the 12th and early 13th centuries.

Amherst Early Music Festival (Connecticut College, New London CT) 15-21 July
An intensive course on the Roman de Fauvel (14th century)
July 21, 2018, 1 pm "Roman de Fauvel project" (student performance)

Burg Fürsteneck, Germany (31 August to 02 September
Fortbildung zur Musik des Mittelalters / Roman de Fauvel (guest instructor)

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