Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

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Program Archive

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)

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Upcoming Concerts

29 October 2021, 7.30 pm
Friends of Chamber Music Kansas City, Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, USA
Benjamin Bagby's Beowulf

22 to 26 November 2021
Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, France
Workshop n°2 Roman de Fauvel – part III

8 December 2021
Actus humanus, Main town Hall, Gdansk, Poland
Benjamin Bagby's Beowulf (60 mins.)

18 to 26 march 2022
Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, France
Roman de Fauvel – part III, mise en scène: Peter Sellar

See full concert schedule



Benjamin Bagby's teaching activities in 2019

In March 2019, Benjamin will give two weekend courses on the solo songs of Philippe le Chancelier (d. 1236). The courses are being hosted by the Centre de Musique Médiévale de Paris. Dates: 9-10 and 30-31 March.
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After retiring from his teaching position at the University of Paris - Sorbonne, where he taught between 2005 and 2018 in the professional masters program, Benjamin Bagby continues to travel widely in 2019 to teach practical workshops for young professionals:

Folkwang Universität der Künste (Essen-Werden, Germany).
Benjamin has joined the faculty of this renowned masters program for liturgical chant performance and medieval music. The dates of his courses in 2019: 5-7 April; 26-28 April; 17-19 May; 30 May–01 June.
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For the second year in a row, Benjamin will teach an intensive course in the 8th International Course on Medieval Music Performance (Besalú, Spain): Songs of the troubadours (for singers and instrumentalists).
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Amherst Early Music Festival (Connecticut College, New London CT) 21-28 July:
An intensive course on the solo cansos of the Occitan troubadours, with a focus on songs from the great Milan songbook Bibl. Ambr. R71 sup. (for singers and instrumentalists).
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