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Season 2016-2017 with:
Aaron Concert Artists
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Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper
I. An Ode to Cosmic Harmony
In the neo-Platonic cosmos of many medieval thinkers (and certainly our harper belonged to this group), the visible world could provide tangible expression of the underlying order and harmony of the universe, whose elements vibrate in agreeable concord with their neighbors, symbolizing the unseen forces which keep our world intact.
Quod mundus stabili fide
Rhineland, early 11c)
This is one of the songs (metra) from the famous "Consolation of Philosophy", written by the Roman aristocrat, philosopher and learned musician, Boethius, as he sat in prison in ca. 524, awaiting execution on trumped-up charges of treason. The ‘Consolation’, arguably one of the most widely-read and important Western books of all time, is in the form of a long dialogue between the despairing Boethius and a numinous female personification of ‘Philosophia’ who visits him on death row. Their exchanges are interspersed with songs in verse, many of which have been found set to music in monastic manuscripts dated centuries later. Our harper’s songbook contains incipits to all of Boethius’s metra, attesting to their continued popularity in Germany, more than four centuries after Boethius was executed. In this song (from Book II / vii), the poet is reminded that our chaotic world is actually well-ordered, and that the source of this order is love.
Text: In regular harmony the world moves through its transformations; seeds in competition with each other are held in balance by eternal law;
[Refrain]: O happy race of men: if the love that rules the stars may also rule your hearts!
Phoebus brings rosy dawns in his golden chariot, that his sister Phoebe might rule the nights brought by Hesperus, [Refr.];
the waves of the greedy sea are kept within fixed bounds, nor may the land move out and extend its limits, [Refr.];
That which binds all things to order, governing earth, sea and sky, is love, [Refr.];
If love’s rein slackened, all things now held by mutual love would immediately fall to warring with each other, striving to wreck that engine of the world which they now drive, in mutual trust, with motion beautiful, [Refr.].
And love joins peoples too, by a sacred bond, and ties the knot of holy matrimony that binds lovers, and joins also with its law all faithful friends, [Refr.].
(Translation: S.J. Tester)
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
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