Sequentia

Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

English | Français
Sequentia celebrates its 40th anniversary in March 2017
 
 

Contact

E-mail: info@sequentia.org

Representation
(Europe)

Katja Zimmermann
VCzimmermann@gmx.net

Representation
(exclusive of Europe)

Seth Cooper
Seth Cooper Arts Inc.
4592 Hampton Ave.
Montréal, QC, Canada
www.sethcooperarts.com
sethcooper.arts@gmail.com
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
jon@aaronconcert.com

 

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Program Archive

Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper

Agnethe Christensen voice
Eric Mentzel voice
Benjamin Bagby voice, lyre, harp
Norbert Rodenkirchen flute, lyre

Introduction

What did secular European song sound like one thousand years ago? Who were its singers and what instruments did they play? Where, and under what circumstances, have their songs survived? Can we ever hope to reconstruct music from such a distant age? These are the questions which led to my initial search for the lost songs of a performing musician whose name remains unknown to us, a search which now culminates - or at least pauses for reflection - in this program: Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper.

Almost one thousand years ago a collection Latin and German song was copied into a manuscript by Anglo-Saxon monks in the Abbey of St. Augustine in Canterbury. The original source - or sources - has long since disappeared, but the manuscript copy has survived to this day, and is now found in the library of Cambridge University. Although we will never know what its exact origin was, one thing is clear: many of the songs copied by the monks come from the milieu of learned, aristocratic churchmen in the Rhineland, where cities such as Cologne, Mainz, Worms and Speyer were centers of culture and power in Germany at the turn of the first millennium. In addition, it is striking that many of the song texts from this collection display an intimate working knowledge of music, the voice, and instruments, especially the harp (cithara, lira) and even the flute (tibia). When considering possible sources of the Canterbury collection, the evidence points strongly to the performance repertoire of a learned "citharista", a bi-lingual harper/singer from the Rhineland, whose songs delighted not only aristocratic bishops and their courts, but also powerful abbots, secular nobility (inlcuding the Kaiser’s court), and the young clerical intelligentsia of those bustling river towns with their imposing cathedrals. Here we have the songs of a professional entertainer whose audience was expected to pay for his services (and he might easily have been joined on occasion by another minstrel from the ranks of the itinerant players, or even a poetically-inclined clerical cantor). Our program combines some of the earliest-known musical manuscripts of European song with reconstructions from the Canterbury manuscript, to give a glimpse into the deliciously subtle, long-lost world of an unknown Rhineland harper and his sophisticated audience.

Benjamin Bagby

Repertoire

I. An Ode to Cosmic Harmony

Quod mundus stabili fide, Rhineland, early 11c

II. The Image of Dawn

Cigni; Frankish, 10c
Foebus abierat; Northern Italy, late 10c
Clangam, filii; Winchester, 10c
Phebi claro; Provence, late 10c
Aurea personet lira; Rhineland, early 11c

III. Songs of the Harp

Caute cane, cantor care; Rheinland, early 11c
Magnus Cesar Otto; Rhineland, ca. 996-1002
Rota modos arte; Rhineland, early 11c
David Reges inclita proles; Rhineland, early 11c

IV. The Harper in the Underworld

Felix qui potuit boni; Rhineland, early 11c

V. The Harper in the Snakepit

Atli sendi ar til Gunnars; Iceland, 10c

VI. Desire and Seduction

Iam, dulcis amica, venito; Aquitaine, late 10c
Advertite, omnes populi; Rhineland, 11c
O admirabile Veneris idolum; Northern Italy, 10c
Puella turbata; Frankish, 10c
Suavissima nunna; Rhineland, 11c
Veni, dilectissime; Rhineland, 11c

Upcoming Concerts

9 June 2017
Essen-Werden (DE), St. Lucius Kirche
Beowulf

25 August 2017
Basel (CH), Festtage Alte Musik
Endzeitfragmente

See full concert schedule

 

News

Benjamin Bagby's recent activities as teacher/lecturer, linked to his performances

At the invitation of the music department, Benjamin taught a performance workshop on the music of Hildegard von Bingen for students at Princeton University (29 March), where he also performed 'Beowulf' in a collaborative production with digital light designer Craig Winslow. Following this, at the invitation of the medieval studies program and the English department, he gave a lecture on his work with reconstructing the 'Beowulf' performance, at Yale University (3 April).

At the Université Paris – Sorbonne, where Benjamin is on the faculty, the yearly 'Entretiens de la musique ancienne' were held this year in honor of his life-long work with reconstructing 'lost songs'. The main event was his performance of 'Beowulf' (11 May), with French video titles, in the Amphithéâtre Richelieu of the Sorbonne, followed by two days of symposium at the university's Centre Clignancourt, sponsored by the historical music organization IREMUS and the musicology department of the university. During this symposium, Benjamin gave a lecture on his work with reconstructed harps and the kinds of clues they can provide ('Beowulf ': dans l'atelier d'un conteur d'histoires).

 

2017 Barbara Thornton Memorial Scholarship awarded by Early Music America to string-player Allison Monroe

This scholarship is given by EMA to “an outstanding and highly-motivated (and possibly unconventional) young performer of medieval music who seeks to widen his/her experience through more advanced study and/or auditions in Europe.”  The recipient is chosen by a jury of musicians who knew or worked with the great medieval music specialist and teacher, Barbara Thornton (1950-1998), who co-founded Sequentia together with Benjamin Bagby in 1977. Read more about Allison here.

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