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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Thornton Scholarship

Barbara Thornton, co-founder of Sequentia, died from a brain tumor on November 8, 1998, at the age of 48 in Cologne, Germany. Tributes to Barbara appeared in many publications at the time of her tragic death. A pioneer in the rediscovery and performance of the music of Hildegard von Bingen and other medieval repertories, and founding member of the ensemble Sequentia, Barbara Thornton will be forever remembered for her dedication and passion for medieval music.

Remembering Barbara Thornton


2017 Barbara Thornton Memorial Scholarship awarded by Early Music America to string-player Allison Monroe

The Scholarship

At the suggestion of Barbara's longtime partner and Sequentia co-founder Benjamin Bagby, Early Music America created a scholarship fund for young musicians, which is a living memorial to Barbara Thornton's work and dedication to her craft.

The $2,000 award will go 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. Applicants should be citizens of the Americas, and should submit 3 copies of the following to EMA: a letter describing the proposed use of the scholarship, a resume and description of their background in medieval music, a recording (mp3 preferred) of a recent performance of medieval music in which they are featured as a soloist, and a letter of recommendation from a principal teacher. For more information, contact the EMA office.


To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Early Music America, the recipients of the Barbara Thornton Scholarship were asked to write a short update of their activities and how the scholarship has impacted their careers. Below are their replies.

Moira Smiley (2001) and Emily Eagen (2008)
“Emily Eagen and I have been enjoying collaborating this season within my ensemble, VOCO. We speak often about the profound effect that Ben Bagby has had upon our delivery of text, our joy and technique in singing harmony and our endless pursuit of rarely-heard music. I have continued to sing with the Los Angeles-based early music groups, Concord Ensemble and Musica Angelica. As a full-time musician/composer, I find that the people I met in association with Ben Bagby and Indiana University's EMI are the people I continue to have exciting collaborations with--both in presenting historical performance and new music programs. Emily Eagen and I have toured in California, Maryland, Virginia, New York and Vermont as part of my ensemble, VOCO. In VOCO, we are premiering new pieces, sharing the mission of teaching ourselves and others to use their fullest force as Singer/Performers. In November 2010, I will be part of Joëlle Morton's Toronto-based Scaramella concert series, crafting a program of early music of the Americas with two Brazilian early music specialists.”—Moira Smiley

Mary Larew (2006)
“Almost exactly three years after Barbara Thornton passed away, she changed my life forever. In Music History 101 at Oberlin Conservatory, we were assigned to listen to a selection from Sequentia's Ordo Virtutum CD. The moment I heard the excerpt, I had an overwhelming urge to know more about the piece. Two and a half years later I directed my own production and, in so doing, realized that medieval music-drama was not just an interest or even a passion for me; it felt more like a calling.

In 2006 I started work on a PhD in medieval music-dramas at the University of York, supervised by John Potter. The Barbara Thornton Memorial Award significantly funded the first production submitted for this degree. We performed Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents from the Fleury Playbook in two wonderful venues – the National Centre for Early Music in York, and St. Chad's Church in Leeds as part of the International Medieval Congress. The large cast, drawn from talented students at the University of York and from Oberlin alumni, brought a wide range of experience to the production: for some, it was their first exposure to medieval music-drama; others had performed in previous productions under my direction. Most of the cast members also participated in the remaining music-dramas which I submitted for my PhD last October.

In August 2010 I relocated to New Haven, CT, where I am excited to continue developing, stateside, the ensemble Viriditas Opera which I started in York. Medieval music-drama will be at the heart of our programming, starting with a 2011 tour and the release of a surround-sound recording entitled Quem Queritis: Medieval Easter Dramas. I am extremely grateful for the support the Barbara Thornton Memorial Award offered me at a crucial juncture in what I hope will be a life-long career working with medieval music-drama. It was truly an honor to accept the award, given in memory of such an important role model to my generation of early musicians.”—Mary Larew

Wolodymyr Smishkewych (2004)
“Since receiving the Thornton scholarship in 2004, my path as a professional early music performer and scholar has had many interesting turns. With the original prize money, I was able to make an important trip to Europe in 2004 and strike out into the European medieval music scene. I was able to begin performing with two important ensembles dedicated to early music: Sequentia ensemble for medieval music, and Theatre of Voices. In addition, I undertook studies in the fields of ethnomusicology and organology, which culminated in a 2005-06 Fulbright Fellowship to Spain studying the history of the hurdy-gurdy in that country. Since my doctorate in Voice Performance at Indiana University remained in ABD status, I returned to Bloomington in fall 2006 to work on that project—an online, searchable, digital facsimile of the Lugo Codex, from Galicia—which will be defended in the coming months. Between 2006 and 2010 I recorded and performed internationally with EMA Medieval/Renaissance Competition finalist Ensemble Lipzodes, and continued my performing and recording with Sequentia and Theatre of Voices. In the summer of 2010, I finally made the (permanent?) move to Europe with my partner, harpsichordist Yonit Kosovske, and our family, to take a position singing with Ars Nova Copenhagen under the principal baton of Paul Hillier and to continue working on projects with Sequentia. The Thornton Scholarship was absolutely vital in jump-starting my career in early music. The strong seeds it planted in 2004 have continued to bear fruit through these past six years, as they will surely continue to do in the future.”—Wolodymyr Smishkewych

Remembering Barbara Thornton

An appreciation of Barbara Thornton by Robert Aubrey Davis, host of the Millennium of Music syndicated radio program (USA)

"Ms. Thornton, whose soprano voice had a mezzolike hue and texture that gave it a distinctive character, was a specialist in the music of the 12th-century abbess Hildegard von Bingen, and it was largely because of Ms. Thornton's performances and recordings with Sequentia that Hildegard and her works have lately become the focus of scholarly and popular interest."

New York Times, November 15, 1998

"Thornton was concerned both to establish the individuality of the music she was performing and also to bring it to her audiences not as some museum piece but as a living experience, to be witnessed as a performance might have been almost a thousand years ago ... Barbara Thornton's voice was an important element in Sequentia's sucess. Andrew Porter wrote in the New Yorker that she had 'one of the most beautiful sopranos -- strong and pure, and passionate -- that I have heard in a long time.' Other critics variously describer her as having 'a tone as focused and intense as a medieval reed instrument,' sounding 'like a divine messenger of absolute truth.'"

Martin Anderson, The Thursday Review, The Independent, November 19, 1998

"Barbara herself was a fanatic in her art; and there are too few fanatics of her sort. She passionately devoted herself to the single repertory of medieval music, choosing not to perform other repertories for the sake of that one. And she let that repertory be so challengingly and productively hard, for herself and for the artists she directed and the students she taught ... What I remember most vividly, and will miss most, is simply the sound of Barbara's voice as she sang. The sounds she made were not always pretty; they were, across her astonishingly wide emotional range, urgent, harsh, meditative, giddy, exultant, angelic ... It was an intense, exhilarating aesthetic experience to hear Barbara sing."

Lawrence Rosenwald, Early Music America, Winter 1998-1999


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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