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

13 and 14 March 2020
Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton NJ (USA)
Benjamin Bagby's Beowulf
– Postponed due to Coronavirus concerns

April 2020
Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, France
Workshop Roman de Fauvel – part III
– Postponed due to Coronavirus concerns

04 September 2021
Utrecht Early music festival, Utrecht (NL), Pieterskerk, 3 p.m.
Words of Power – Charms, Riddles and Elegies of the Medieval Northlands

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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