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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Fragments for the End of Time

...sin tac piqueme, daz er touuan scal

Tthe ‚Muspilli-Fragment’, probably Fulda (early 9th century)
Source: München, Bayr. Staatsb. Clm 14098 / Reconstruction: B. Bagby

Among the most enigmatic texts in Old High German, this anonymous meditation on the Last Judgement has survived only in fragmentary form. It was named by a 19th-century scholar who was intrigued by the word ‚Muspilli’ (the mysterious Germanic word ‚Muspell’ is generally believed to refer to the end of the world by fire), a pagan image surviving in a Christian context. The sermon-like narrative streams freely through a series of images: armies of angels and demons fighting over the recently-dead soul; the security and sweetness of paradise; the fight of Elijah with the Anti-Christ; the burning of the earth and heavens (Muspilli) as a sign of the approaching judgement; the blowing of the horn which raises the dead to face their judge; the impossibility of bribery or of hiding past crimes...


 ...then comes the day, when the man must die. When the soul leaves the husk of the body and starts on its path, a heavenly host arrives from the stars, and another host from the fires of hell: they will fight over the soul. In terror the soul must wait, until the decision is reached, by which side he will be taken. Because if Satan’s servants get their hands on him, he will be led immediately to a place where suffering awaits him, in fire and in darkness: that is truly a horrible judgement!

However, if those who came from above take the soul and hand him over to the angels, then these will accompany him to the realms of heaven: there he will find life without death, light without darkness, a place to live without cares; there is no longer any sickness.

But woe to him who must pay for his sins in darkness and burn in eternal flames: that is truly a horrible fate! Then the soul cries out to God but receives no help or answer. The unhappy soul hopes for mercy, but he is no longer in the loving thoughts of the heavenly God, because in his lifetime he showed by his deeds that he was unworthy.

This is what I heard the wise men in the law of this world relate: that Antichrist shall fight with Elijah. The evil one is armed, and then a battle will take place between them. The warriors are so powerful, the stakes are so high. Elijah fights for eternal life, and wishes to ensure the kingdom for those who seek righteousness, for this reason he will be helped by the One who rules over heaven. Antichrist stands side by side with the Old Enemy, stands at the side of Satan (who will destroy him). For he will fall down wounded on the battleground, and will be the loser in that place.

But many men of God believe that Elijah will also be wounded in that battle, so that his blood will drip down to earth; then the mountains will catch fire, no tree at all will be left standing on earth, the waters will dry up, the marshland will swallow itself up, the sky will be aflame with fire, the moon will fall, and the earth will burn, no stone will be left standing; then the day of judgement will drive through the land, traveling with fire as a visitation on the people. Then can no relative help another in the face of the ‚Muspilli’. For the widespread rain of fire will burn up everything, both fire and air will purge it all: what then of the petty disputes one fought constantly with one’s kin? The countryside will be burned up and the soul will stand there full of sadness, not knowing how to turn towards the good: and so he goes to hell.

The insecure man never knows who is shadowing him when he tries to get around the law by means of bribery; the devil is always there watching, in disguise, and he silently remembers everything wicked the man has done, before and after, so that he can bring it all as evidence when he appears at the final judgement. For this reason, no one should allow himself to be bribed!

When the heavenly horn sounds, then the Judge arises, He who will sit over the dead and the living, surrounded by the largest army ever seen, so powerful that no one will be able to resist Him. Then He moves to the place of Judgement, as has been made known to us. Angels move over the land, waking the dead, summoning all to the court. Then each one will stand up from the dust, shake off the burden of the grave; his body will be returned to him so that he can more easily answer the charges against him and so that he can be punished or rewarded according to his deeds.

There, no man can hide his thoughts. And if he has committed murder, his hands will speak for him, his nodding head will admit to everything, each limb will answer the truth, down to his little finger. In this court it is useless to try even the most sophisticated tricks, to deny a crime, to cover up any past deeds; they will be known to the King. Unless of course the sinner can repent during his lifetime, by giving alms and fasting, He will be consoled, who repents. Then the noble Cross will be brought forth, on which Holy Christ was nailed. The soul will see the wounds which Christ received while living as a man, the wounds he received for his love of mankind...

Translation: B. Bagby (based on Hans J. Koch)

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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