Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

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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


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Monks Singing Pagans
New program for 2016–2017 directed by Benjamin Bagby

Benjamin Bagby voice, harp
Norbert Rodenkirchen flutes
Hanna Marti voice, harp


When we think of medieval monks and their musical lives, the first thing to come to mind is Gregorian chant, the solemn and ritual song which accompanied the monk's liturgical day, week, season and year. But a closer look at medieval monastic manuscripts from the 9th to 12th centuries shows that many monks were singing other songs as well, with texts which were sometimes anything but Christian. The medieval monastic and cathedral schools of medieval Europe were great centers of learning and focal points of intellectual life. For all monks and clerics, who were native speakers of European vernacular languages, it was essential to become bilingual, to speak, think, perhaps even to read and write in Latin, the language of their faith, the liturgy, the sciences, philosophy and literature. And this crucial link to Latin could best be enhanced by studying 'ancient' texts which had survived: Roman authors, poets, dramatists, teachers, philosophers and historians were studied and memorized, and many of these were also sung. The survival of these songs, sometimes very fragmentary, provide us with a rich treasure-house of European vocal art, and witnesses to a vibrant culture where the Christian monk gave voice to his pagan ancestors, passing on stories and ideas which resonate to this day.

For this new program in The Lost Songs Project, Sequentia's director Benjamin Bagby collaborates with noted scholar Sam Barrett (Cambridge University) to reconstruct classical texts which were sung in European monastic centers and cathedral schools between the 9th and 12th centuries. This Boethian project, which fits perfectly into the larger performance focus of Sequentia, The Lost Songs Project, has been widened to include other musically notated classical texts from the 9th-12th centuries, as well as pagan texts in Old High German and Old English, and forms the basis for the new program, Monks Singing Pagans.

There are songs about Fortuna, Dido and Cleopatra, Hercules and the old gods, as they would have been enjoyed by monastic intellectuals around the turn of the first millennium. Charms and incantations by unknown pagan authors are also performed. The deeply moving poems from Boethius's 'Consolation of Philosophy' (early 6th century, set to music in the 11th century) will be featured, in reconstructions by Benjamin Bagby and Hanna Marti, made together with Sam Barrett.

This new program is performed by the Sequentia trio pictured above: Norbert Rodenkirchen (flutes), Hanna Marti (voice, harp) and Benjamin Bagby (voice, harps).

Background information on the preparation of this program

In 2014, the distinguished musicologist Dr. Sam Barrett (Cambridge University) proposed that Benjamin Bagby and Sequentia collaborate with him on a new scholarly and performance-based project involving one of his special areas of expertise: the notated poems (metra) found in medieval manuscripts of the medieval classic, the Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius. The work was based on Barrett's two-volume study and transcription of the Boethian metra published in 2013. A first working meeting took place at Harvard University in November 2014, followed by a residency and symposium at Ohio State University in Columbus in late April 2015. Vocalist/harpist Hanna Marti joined the project for another working session at Cambridge in September 2015. The final working sessions, with the Sequentia trio in residence, took place at Cambridge University in April 2016, including workshops, teaching, and the first public performances of the Boethian songs. Following this, the program Monks Singing Pagans had its world premiere at Dartmouth College on 28 April 2016.

Full information here

Upcoming Concerts

05 October 2017
Paris (FR), Musée de Cluny
Monks Singing Pagans

09 to 13 October 2017
Venice (IT), Fondazione Cini
Seminar Roman de Fauvel

20 April 2018
Konstanz, D
Oswald in Konstanz

See full concert schedule



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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