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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Voices from the Island Sanctuary:
Ecclesiastical Singers in Paris (1180-1230)
Premiere in Paris on 20 November 2009

Benjamin Bagby voice, harp
Justin Bonnet voice
Josep Cabre voice
Vincent Pislar voice
Wolodymyr Smishkewych voice, organistrum
Michael Loughlin Smith voice

Photos from a performance in Cleveland, Ohio (USA) | Press echoes


For centuries, Parisians and visitors to Paris have been thrilled by the imposing Cathedral of Notre Dame, whose massive towers and elegant flying buttresses dominate the Ile de la Cité. We perceive the cathedral as a large church, a single building surrounded by city streets, kitschy souvenir shops, overpriced cafés, a park with romantic benches for lovers, and the long lines of tourists waiting to climb the towers. But in the 12th century, the cathedral of Notre Dame was situated within its own ‘campus’, a vast complex of interconnected buildings (including several smaller churches) surrounding the cathedral itself, all encircled by a wall and enclosing almost one full third of the island. Within these walls (the ‘close’ of the cathedral precinct) there existed an autonomous mini-state, with its own laws and enforcement, free from the secular power wielded by the French king residing nearby; with housing and meals for the hundreds of clerics who worked and lived there; with an army of servants to keep the whole place operating smoothly; with students from many countries following lectures in theology and philosophy; with aristocratic churchmen called canons, managing their vast estates and political intrigues from comfortable dwellings within the close. There was a school for the choirboys, a private port on the Seine, and the palace of the archbishop himself, where important guests were entertained and where the brightest, most ambitious spirits of learning and the arts were able to demonstrate their virtuosity. Latin – spoken and sung in a variety of accents and with varying degrees of elegance – was the official language of the community, but courtly French could also be heard, and the rude dialect of the city was heard among servants and workmen. Construction on the new cathedral continued throughout this period (the present structure was begun in the 1160’s and the towers were not finished until at least 1250) and the dust and noise of the masons was omnipresent. The cathedral itself was at the heart of this city within a city, and deep within the cathedral was yet another walled precint: the choir before the high altar, where the singing of the mass and offices was carried out night and day by a large number of canons and lesser clergy who were rewarded in return for this service. It was also in this enclosed space that the best young male vocalists in Europe were to be heard on important feast-days; it was here that the most innovative musical minds gave expression to new ideas in thrilling sonic structures which echoed the dynamic new architecture taking shape around them.

Duration: 75 minutes with or without intermission.
Translations of the sung texts can be video-projected during the performance (English, French and Dutch available).


Ave gloriosa virginum regina (1v sequentia)

Philippe le Chancelier (d. 1236)

Passionate young urban males

  • Aurelianis civitas (1v conductus)
  • O varium fortune lubricum (2v conductus)
  • Initium sancti evangelii secundum marcas argenti
    (Gospel parody)
  • Curritur ad vocem nummi (3v conductus)
  • Anglia planctus itera (1v conductus/planctus)
  • Bulla fulminante (3v conductus trope)

New sounds in Parisian churches

  • Descendit de celis (2v organum on responsory chant)
    Paris, Notre-Dame, (ca.1200)
  • Minor natu filius (1v conductus)
    Philippe le Chancelier
  • Zima vetus expurgetur (1v sequence)
    Paris, St.Victor, (mid-12th century)

Eros and ambition

  • Sic mea fata (1v latin song)
  • Veneris prosperis (2v conductus)
  • Vitam duxi (1v conductus)
  • Procurans odium (3v conductus)
  • Olim sudor Herculis (1v sequence, with refrain)
    Pierre de Blois (d. 1212)

New Year’s Day

  • Festa ianuaria (3v conductus)
  • Annus renascitur (1v conductus)
  • Novus annus hodie (3v conductus)

Sources: With a few exceptions, the music for this programme is taken from the most important source of medieval Parisian vocal music: Florence, Bibl. Mediceo-Laurenziana, pluteo 29,1 (copied in Paris sometime after 1255). The responsory chant Descendit de celis is from a late 13th-century Parisian chant book (source: Paris BN lat. 15181). The text to Curritur ad vocem nummi is taken from Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Hs. clm 4660 (‘Carmina Burana’). The performers are singing from facsimiles of this mss. or from transcriptions prepared by Benjamin Bagby. The Victorine sequence Zima vetus expurgatur (source: Paris, BN lat. 14819) is performed from a transcription by Margot Fassler.

Upcoming Concerts

17 March 2017
Basel (CH) Predigerkirche, Freunde Alte Musik
Monks Singing Pagans

25 March – 2 April 2017
Lafayette College, Vassar College, Princeton University, Yale University
Benjamin Bagby Beowulf tour USA

1 April 2017
New York City, Symphony Space
Book release event for ‘The Inquisitor’s Tale’

11 May 2017
Paris, Université de Paris – Sorbonne, Amphithéâtre Richelieu

See full concert schedule




Benjamin Bagby has recorded the only surviving Old High German epic fragment, the Hildebrandslied (The Song of Hildebrand), for inclusion in an audiobook version of Adam Gidwitz’s new book for children and young adults, The Inquisitor’s Tale, just released by Penguin/Random House. He also recorded harp accompaniments to go with portions of the reading of the story. A release event is being schedule for New York City in early April, 2017.


New program given birth at Cambridge University

Following working sessions in 2014-15 with University of Cambridge musicologist Sam Barrett in the USA (Harvard University and Ohio State University) and in Cambridge (Pembroke College), Sequentia was in residence at Cambridge in April for the final rehearsals of the new program 'Monks Singing Pagans'.  An informal video of a rehearsal made by the university became a YouTube sensation, with over 500,000 views. In addition to their rehearsals and working sessions on the songs of Boethius, Sequentia gave a masterclass and the premiere performance of 'Monks Singing Pagans', immediately followed by the US premiere during a residency at Dartmouth College (USA). The week spent at Dartmouth included teaching activities in music history, performance practice, Latin poetry and manuscript studies. Sequentia returned to Cambridge in late June to prepare a special program of the Boethian songs, which was given as part of a symposium on medieval Latin song, with a special concert on 2 July in Pembroke College Chapel.


Teaching in Basel and Milano

Benjamin Bagby will be teaching performance courses on medieval song at two music academies this year:

Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel, Switzerland): 31 October to 1 November 2016 and 13-14 March 2017

Scuola Civica di Musica Claudio Abbado (Milano, Italy): 2-3 December 2016 and 16-18 February 2017


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