Sunday, January 19, 2020, 4 p.m.
Corpus Christi Church
Benjamin Bagby, director, voice and Anglo-Saxon harp
Hanna Marti, voice and harps; Stef Conner, voice
Norbert Rodenkirchen, wooden and bone flutes, harp
Words of Power: Charms, Riddles and Elegies of the Medieval Northlands, 8th-11th Centuries
Once again Sequentia awakens long-silent, ancient voices. The Old English Beowulf epic, the Icelandic Edda, and poems from the 10th-century Exeter Book give us a glimpse into a time far from ours yet near in spirit—a world of singing poets, warriors, seers, and philosophers. Under Bagby’s direction, the musicians sing and play harps and flutes for this witty and pungent program of chants, songs, and spoken riddles.
Post-concert Q and A
“Sequentia’s powerful rhetoric made the texts essential to the musical experience. The distant languages of medieval north Europe—Old High German, Anglo-Saxon, and especially Latin—inflected every rhythm and every pitch, startlingly different and yet intensely personal.” —San Francisco Classical Voice
Estimated run time: 85 minutes, no intermission.
Please note: lecture by Benjamin Bagby at 92nd Street Y on January 21 is CANCELED.
Artist Bios and Program
Sequentia is among world’s most respected and innovative ensembles for medieval music. Under the direction of Benjamin Bagby, Sequentia can look back on more than forty years of international concert tours, a comprehensive discography of more than recordings recordings spanning the entire Middle Ages (including the complete works of Hildegard von Bingen), film and television productions of medieval music drama, and a new generation of young performers trained in professional courses given by members of the ensemble.
Sequentia, co-founded by Bagby and the late Barbara Thornton, has performed throughout Western and Eastern Europe, the Americas, India, the Middle East, East Asia, Africa and Australia, and has received numerous prizes (including a Disque d’Or, several Diapasons d’Or, two Edison Prizes, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis and a Grammy nomination) for many of its thirty recordings on the BMG/Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (SONY), Raumklang, Glossa and Marc Aurel Edition labels. The most recent CD releases include reconstructions of music from lost oral traditions of the Middle Ages (The Lost Songs Project), including 9th-and 10th-century Germanic songs for the Apocalypse (Fragments for the End of Time), the ensemble’s acclaimed program of music from the Icelandic Edda: The Rheingold Curse, as well as the earliest known European songs (Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper), medieval liturgical chant (Chant Wars, a co-production with the Paris-based ensemble Dialogos), and most recently, Boethius: Songs of Consolation. Sequentia has created over eighty innovative concert programs which encompass the entire spectrum of medieval music, giving performances all over the world, in addition to their creation of music-theater projects such as Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum and the medieval Icelandic Edda. In 2017, Sequentia’s thirty-year project to record the complete works of Hildegard von Bingen was released by SONY as a nine-CD box set. The work of the ensemble is divided between a small touring ensemble of vocal and instrumental soloists, and a larger ensemble of voices for special performance projects. Upcoming projects include a version of the 14th –century Roman de Fauvel, staged by Peter Sellars. After many years based in Cologne, Germany, Sequentia’s home was re-established in Paris in 2001.
Sequentia is represented by Seth Cooper, www.sethcooperarts.com
Vocalist, harper and medievalist Benjamin Bagby, who was captivated by medieval music as a boy, has been an important figure in the field of medieval musical performance for over thirty-five years. Since 1977, when he and the late Barbara Thornton co-founded Sequentia, his time has been almost entirely devoted to the research, performance and recording work of the ensemble. Apart from this, Mr. Bagby is deeply involved with the solo performance of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic oral poetry: an acclaimed performance Beowulf has been heard worldwide and was released as a DVD in 2007. In 2010 he received the Howard Mayer Brown Lifetime Achievement Award from Early Music America. In 2017, he was awarded the Artist of the Year Award by REMA, the European Early Music Network. In addition to researching and creating over seventy-five programs for Sequentia, Mr. Bagby has published widely, writing about medieval performance practice; as a guest lecturer and professor, he has taught courses and workshops all over Europe and North America. Between 2005 and 2018 he taught medieval music performance practice at the Sorbonne, University of Paris. He currently teaches medieval music performance at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany.
At fifteen, Hanna Marti of Switzerland was a rock guitarist writing for her band. She studied voice with Dorothea Galli and after getting interested in early music, studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel. During those years she studied lute with Peter Croton and discovered the medieval harp. In 2015 she completed a masters diploma (voice) at the Schola Cantorum as a student of Evelyn Tubb. She has focused most of her artistic work on medieval song. She has taken part in numerous concerts and recordings in Europe and in the US. With her ensemble Moirai, she is currently performing reconstructions of the Icelandic Edda. Her most recent solo project is a reconstruction of stories in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Royal Philharmonic Society Prize-winning composer Stef Conner draws on ancient poetry and song to create contemporary music shot through with imagined sounds of the distant past. She studied music at the University of York, completing a PhD in composition. In 2008, she joined the folk band the Unthanks, whose approach to musical storytelling delved into the relationship between words and music. Her compositions and performances have been released on Naxos, Delphian, and Discovery Records. The first Composer in Residence with the charity Streetwise Opera, her music helps homeless people. She holds the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at University of Huddersfield.
Norbert Rodenkirchen studied flute and baroque flute at the Musikhochschule Köln and has been with Sequentia since 1996. He also works with Dialogos. He has performed at numerous festivals in Vancouver, London, Melbourne, Paris, Boston, and Moscow. He also composes for theater and film and produces CD projects. He founded Candens Lilium, which bridges medieval music and modern avant-garde, and, with the acclaimed singer Sabine Lutzenberger, created the CD In forgotten tones: Sangsprueche of Meister Frauenlob. From 2003 to 2011 he was artistic director of the series Schnütgen Konzerte—Musik des Mittelalters in Cologne’s Schnütgen Museum and is on the board at Zentrum für alte Musik Köln, ZAMUS. He has given many workshops—at the Mozarteum Salzburg, the Schola Cantorum, and elsewhere.
In the mid-1980’s, Benjamin Bagby began his work on the reconstruction of the Beowulf epic, and since then he has been deeply involved with those European musical repertoires which have literally ‘vanished’, for which the surviving manuscripts do not provide enough information for a reliable transcription. Aided by musicologists and philologists (such as Sam Barrett and Peter Dronke of Cambridge University, Jan Ziolkowski of Harvard University, and Heimir Pálsson of Uppsala University), Bagby has built on his work with Beowulf to reconstruct the music of other early sources: Anglo-Saxon texts (such as Deor and the Wanderer); the deep reservoir of stories found in the Icelandic Poetic Edda; the Old Saxon Heliand; the Old High German Muspilli, the Hildebrandslied and Otfrid von Weissenburg’s Evangelienbuch; the Latin and German lyrics found in the 11th century manuscript known as the Cambridge Songs. Many of these have been recorded:
Charms, Riddles and Elegies of the Medieval Northlands (9th-12th centuries)
Sequentia concert program 2019
Boethius : Songs of Consolation (Metra from 11th-century Canterbury)
Sequentia concert program 2017-present ; CD released in 2018.
Monks Singing Pagans: medieval songs of gods, heroes and strong women (10-13th centuries)
Sequentia concert program 2016-present
Frankish Phantoms: Echoes from Carolingian Palaces (8th-10th centuries)
Sequentia concert program 2011-present
Fragments for the End of Time / Endzeitfragmente (10th-11th centuries)
Sequentia concert program 2005-present; CD released in 2008
Beowulf (8th century)
Benjamin Bagby solo concert 1990-present; DVD released in 2007
Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper (9th and 10th centuries)
Sequentia concert program 2000-2007; CD released in 2004
The Rheingold Curse: A Germanic Saga of Greed and Revenge from the Medieval Icelandic Edda (8th century).
Sequentia music-theater & concert program 2001-2013; CD released in 2001
Edda: Myths from Medieval Iceland (8th century)
Sequentia music-theatre project 1995-1997; CD released in 1999
El Sabio: Songs for King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon (1221-1284) [Andalusian kharjas]
Sequentia concert program 1990-92; CD released in 1992