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

Gaude celestis sponsa

Instrumental piece based on Frankish sequence melodies (9th century)
Source: München, clm.10075 xiii in / Reconstruction: N. Rodenkirchen (with additonal materials from other Frankish sequences)

The sequence melodies dating from the time of Notker, monk of St. Gall (9th century), were sometimes written in the early manuscripts as textless sequelae. The exact pitches of these melodies can only be determined by consulting later sources, which are consistent over the centuries and give us a rather clear image of the tunes. It is highly likely that these sequelae were also performed instrumentally, as the melodies pre-date the texts of the sequences and they are not taken from Gregorian chant; they are perhaps survivors of a pre-Christian, indigenous melodic tradition. In the ex tempore interludes performed on the flute in this program, Norbert Rodenkirchen is principally interested in exploring the evident relationships amongst various early medieval sequences. These relationships, which often can be reduced to a handful of archtypical phrases, point to an orally-transmitted repertoire of archaic ‚ur-sequences’ which are reflected upon here in improvised instrumental practice. The central material is provided by the sequence Gaude coelestis sponsa, also known as Adducentur

Thaer waes swylcra fela

‚The Lay of the Last Survivor’ from the Beowulf-Epic (Anglo-Saxon, ca. 8th century)
Source: London, BL, Cotton Vitellius A. XV. / Reconstruction: B. Bagby

The end of a people, the bitter confrontation with the loss of all friends, family, possessions and memories, can be seen as a microcosm of the end of the world. In this fragment (extracted from the Beowulf epic, where it forms a sad prelude to the episode of the golden cup stolen from a dragon’s hoard), we learn that an entire unnamed northern tribe has been decimated by war, with only one man left alive. He carries the people’s treasure (gold, weapons, and even a harp) into a nearby cave as a final gesture of remembrance, uttering these elegiac words to the earth itself before he, too, is carried off by a lonely death. (The hidden treasure is later discovered and appropriated by a dragon, a supernatural beast which is often associated with the Apocalypse in Christian tradition).


…there were many treasures stored inside the earth-house, since long ago some nameless man had carefully hidden there the whole rich legacy of his noble people. Death had taken them all in earlier times and the only one who survived, the last of their race, the mourning guardian, expected the same fate for himself: he knew that his joy in the huge treasure would be brief.

A barrow stood waiting, on a wide headland by the sea-waves, its entrance well hidden. Into it the keeper of the treasure had carried all the gold and riches. His words were few:

„Now, earth, hold what earls once owned and can no more. Listen! it was taken from you at first, by good men. War has taken every one of my people; they all went down to death, their joys in the hall at an end.

I have none left to carry a sword or polish the golden cups. The company of men has gone. The hard helmet must be stripped of its gold plate; and the polisher sleeps who should make the metal war-mask gleam; the coat of mail that withstood all sword-bites when the shield collapsed, decays like its warrior. Nor may linked chain-mail travel far and wide on the chieftain’s back beside his warriors. No delight in the harp, the resounding wood; no excellent hawk flying through the hall; no swift horse stamping in the courtyard. Death has emptied the earth of many races.“

And so he mourned as he joylessly wandered through day and night, all alone, until death’s flood covered his heart.

Translation: B. Bagby (based on E.T. Donaldson)

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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