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


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From the Press

US Tour 2011

Benjamin Bagby’s superb medieval-music ensemble

The New Yorker (January 2011)

Mr. Bagby, who played the harp, and his five colleagues…sang with flair throughout the evening,

New York Times (25/01/11)

To listeners accustomed to the ethereal, disembodied sound heard in popular recordings of “Gregorian Chants to Soothe the Soule” (etc.), Sequentia’s sound — vigorous and virile — will come as a bit of a shock. … Harmonies, when used, were spare, diatonic, and often surprisingly dissonant.

…the lovely sequence Ave gloriosa virginum regina by Philippe le Chancelier, which opened the program, extolled the Virgin Mary in downright sensual poetry sung to the accompaniment of a hurdy-gurdy.

…throughout the program, careful attention was paid to the declamation and rhetoric of the texts. (26/01/2011)

Leave it to Benjamin Bagby, artistic director of the venerated Medieval music ensemble Sequentia, to devise spellbinding programs.

…the program's sacred and profane songs came across with hypnotic immediacy.

What the music revealed was the richness of expression and unusually energetic activity that emanated from the Parisian island during the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Plain Dealer / Cleveland (26/01/2011)

The impact of the music on this occasion was a testament to the refined urgency that has been a hallmark of Sequentia.

Bagby exudes flesh-and-blood intensity both as solo singer – his one-man Beowulf a decade ago was a dazzling achievement – and collaborator. He was the potent narrator Tuesday in the whimsical "Olim sudor Herculis," which finds Hercules and other hapless suitors at Venus' amorous beck and call.

Babgy's Sequentia colleagues – Josep Cabre, Vincent Pislar, Wolodymyr Smishkewych, Michael Loughlin Smith and Mathias Spoerry – were sophisticated and impassioned equals in vocal matters.

Director Benjamin Bagby has bet his life’s work that scholarship and musicianship can co-exist on a musical stage. On Friday night, The Friends of Chamber Music brought Bagby and Sequentia to a packed house at Grace and Holy Trinity Church. It was the perfect forum to showcase the ensemble’s signature ability to take listeners to surprising places. Sequentia’s work satisfies on every level: followers of the venerable ensemble know what to expect, and first-time patrons soon appreciate the depth to which Sequentia prepares a program. Bagby brings inventiveness and flair (yes, flair!) to medieval music, making it positively thrilling to sense the performers’ and listeners’ commitment to the music.

Much of the music resonated in a very human way, contextualized so that modern listeners might believe these “voices from Notre Dame” had similar weaknesses and shared familiar concerns.

An audience might expect that monophonic singing is simplistic and dull, but the clarity of this music refreshes and moves the imagination; it is humbling in its purity. Centuries fell away with the first utterances, as modern sensibility alongside some dramatic posturing brought this praise song to life. The rhythmic inflections imposed on the music were subtle and almost lilting at times…the audience seemed fixated.

Listeners appreciate a concert like this for all it represents: inquiry, exploration, and adventure—all in service to music that deserves to be heard. Ancient social and musical myths will undoubtedly continue to reverberate in the minds of this modern audience. In such a clever reconstruction, where scholarship and speculation merge, no one seems to mind the questions left unanswered. After all, who would want all of these mysteries to be definitively solved? We would rather keep enjoying how alive this ancient music still feels, open to hearing again and again the learned interpretations of the who, when, and why of it all.


Upcoming Concerts

14 October 2022
"Cerco de la ciudad", Zamora cathedral, Zamora, Spain
Hus in Himile

3 November 2022
Auditorium du Musée d'ethnographie de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland, 8 pm
Benjamin Bagby's Beowulf

10 November 2022
Tage Alter Musik Herne, Herne, Germany
Roman de Fauvel (music only)

4 Febuary 2023
Early Music Now, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Milwaukee, USA, 5 pm
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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