Sequentia: The Queen and the Troubadour

Friday August 7, 2015 | 7:30pm
Roy Barnett Recital Hall | Map

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Sequentia ensemble for mediæval music; Benjamin Bagby, voice & harp; Sequentia: The Queen and the Troubadour, flutes; Wolodymyr Smishkewych, voice & organistrum


Pre-concert chat at 6:45 PM with Benjamin Bagby and Matthew White

With students from the Vancouver Early Music Summer Programme

Inspired by the stories of ‘courts of love’ presided over by twelfth-century noblewomen such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, this programme presents songs, stories and dances from the love-drenched world of the troubadours and minstrels of medieval Europe. Sequentia is joined on stage by a group of dynamic young professional singers and instrumentalists, participants in the legendary Vancouver summer course in medieval music.

Due to the unique nature of this venture, the exact programme will not be available until a few days before the performance.  As soon as the final programme is determined it will be available here and as a programme insert at the concert itself.  Translations of the sung texts will be provided in video projections.

Generously sponsored by Elaine Adair


Artist Bios

Sequentia ensemble for mediæval music

Sequentia is one of the world’s most respected and innovative ensembles for medieval music. It is an international group of singers and instrumentalists – united in Paris under the direction of the legendary performer and teacher Benjamin Bagby – dedicated to the performance and recording of Western European music from the period before 1300. The size and disposition of the ensemble is determined by the repertoire being performed, and ranges between an instrumental/vocal duo to a large vocal ensemble. Based on meticulous and original research, intensive rehearsal and long gestation, Sequentia’s virtuosic performances are compelling, surprising in their immediacy, and strike the listener with a timeless emotional connection to our own past musical cultures.



Founded by Benjamin Bagby and the late Barbara Thornton, Sequentia can look back on 35 years of international concert tours, performing throughout Europe, North and South America, India, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australia. Sequentia has brought to life over seventy innovative concert programmes that encompass the entire spectrum of medieval music, in addition to the creation of music-theater projects such as Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum, the Cividale Planctus Marie, the Bordesholmer Marienklage, and Heinrich von Meissen’s Frauenleich (several of which were filmed for television). The work of the ensemble is divided between a small touring ensemble of vocal and instrumental soloists, and a larger ensemble of voices for the performance of Latin liturgical chant and polyphony. After 25 years based in Cologne, Germany, Sequentia’s home has been in Paris since 2002.

Sequentia’s comprehensive discography of more than thirty recordings spans the entire Middle Ages. In 1981, the ensemble began to release the first of many LP’s and CD’s which encompass the entire spectrum of medieval musical practice. Many of these recordings – including the complete works of Hildegard von Bingen (7 CDs) have received awards: the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (for Vox Iberica, 1993), two Netherlands Edison Awards (for Hildegard von Bingen recordings, 1987 and 1998), a French Disque d’Or (1996), the CHOC of Le Monde de la Musique (2002) and Diapason d’Or (1995 and 1999). Sequentia’s best-selling CD, Canticles of Ecstasy, has sold more than 500.000 copies worldwide and was nominated for a Grammy Award as best choral recording. Recordings made by Sequentia have been integrated into the soundtracks of several major films.

Sequentia has inspired new generations of young performers, trained in professional courses given by Benjamin Bagby and other members of the ensemble. As an extension of this work, Bagby teaches in the masters degree programme for medieval music performance practice, which he helped create in 2005 at the Université de Paris – Sorbonne.

The past years have seen a growing corpus of Sequentia performances and recordings centered on the importance of oral tradition, story-telling, and the earliest musical documents of medieval Europe. These programmes are all grouped under the banner of ‘The Lost Songs Project’ and have their roots in the ground-breaking work which Bagby has done with his reconstrction of the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf epic (www.BagbyBeowulf.com). In 2002, Sequentia released an acclaimed 2-CD set of sung tales from medieval Iceland: The Rheingold Curse: A Germanic Saga of Greed and Vengeance from the Medieval Icelandic Edda, on the Marc Aurel Edition label. Other recent programs, such as Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper (released on the BMG Classics/DHM label in 2004), and Chant Wars, (SONY-BMG / 2005, a co-production with the Parisian ensemble Dialogos) have received wide international critical acclaim. The most recent recording, Fragments for the End of Time, featuring apocalyptic songs from early medieval Germany, Saxony and Aquitaine, was released on the Raumklang label in 2008.

Benjamin Bagby, voice & harp

Vocalist, harper and scholar Benjamin Bagby has been an important figure in the field of medieval musical performance for more than 30 years. After musical studies in the USA (Oberlin Conservatory and Oberlin College) and Switzerland (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis), he and the late Barbara Thornton formed Sequentia in 1977 in Cologne, Germany, where the ensemble was based until Mr. Bagby moved to Paris in 2002.

The years since 1977 have been almost uniquely devoted to the work of Sequentia. Mr. Bagby created more than 70 innovative concert programs of medieval music and music drama, giving performances in Western and Eastern Europe, North & South America, North and West Africa, the Middle East, Japan, Korea, and Australia.

In 1981, the ensemble began to release the first of many LP’s and CD’s which encompass the entire spectrum of medieval musical practice. Many of these recordings – including the complete works of Hildegard von Bingen (7 CDs) have received awards: the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (for Vox Iberica, 1993), two Netherlands Edison Awards (for Hildegard von Bingen recordings, 1987 and 1998), a French Disque d’Or (1996), the CHOC of Le Monde de la Musique (2002) and Diapason d’Or (1995 and 1999). Sequentia’s best-selling CD, Canticles of Ecstasy, has sold more than 500.000 copies worldwide and was nominated for a Grammy Award as best choral recording.

For all of these recordings, which were researched and assembled by Bagby and Thornton, the accompanying booklets are appreciated for their rigourous scholarly quality, with great attention to detail, to the sources, and to the work of philologists (such as Peter Dronke, Pierre Bec, Heimir Pálsson and Ulrich Mueller) who collaborated on the textual editions. In addition, Sequentia projects witnessed collaboration with musicologists such as Leo Treitler, Edward Roesner, Harmut Möller and Richard Crocker.

The most recent CD releases of Sequentia (Edda: Myths from Medieval Iceland; The Rheingold Curse; Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper and Fragments for the End of Time) are based solely on the research of Benjamin Bagby, reflecting his interest in oral poetry and the use of traditional music in reconstructing ancient modal vocabularies. They are grouped under the banner ‘The Lost Songs Project.’

Bagby also directs the Sequentia men’s vocal ensemble for the performance of medieval liturgical polyphony and chant, which traces it beginnings to the mid-1980’s. The major project for the men’s voices in 2003-4 was a collaboration – entitled Chant Wars – between Sequentia and the Parisian ensemble Dialogos (dir., Katarina Livljanic). The CD of this program was released by Sony-BMG (DHM label) in 2005. In 2009, he created a new men’s vocal ensemble in Paris, which has toured extensively.

Apart from the research and ensemble work of Sequentia, Mr. Bagby devotes his time to the solo performance of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic oral poetry; an acclaimed performance of the Beowulfepic is an ongoing project, with performances given yearly worldwide, and a DVD production released in 2007.

In addition to reseaching and writing more than 70 program books for festivals and concert series, and writing (or co-authoring, with Barbara Thornton) more than 25 CD booklets, Mr. Bagby has written about performance practice, with articles appearing in Early Music, Early Music America, in the Performer’s Guide to Medieval Music (IU Press) edited by Ross Duffin, in the Basler Jahrbuch für historische Musikpraxis, and in a recent collection of essays, Performing Medieval Narrative.

As a guest lecturer and professor, he has taught courses and workshops at – among others – the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Harvard University, the Autunno Musicale (Como, Italy), the Modus Centrum (Oslo), Amherst Early Music (Tufts University), Wellesley College, the University of Texas at Austin, Northwestern University, the New England Conservatory of Music (Boston), Sarah Lawrence College (NY), St. John’s College (Santa Fe), Duke University, Stanford University, the Studio Alte Musik (Berlin), the Royaumont Foundation (Paris) and the Stary Sacz Festival (Poland).

In 2000 Bagby was a guest speaker at New York University’s Medieval Studies Program, and he spent a semester as a visiting Krieger Fellow at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland); in 2001 he was invited as Patten Lecturer at Indiana University (Humanities and School of Music), as a humanities lecturer (together with Ping Chong) at the University of Michigan, and was a guest professor at Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, IL). In 2003 he was awarded a Fortieth Anniversary Fellowship by the Religion and the Arts Initiative (Center for the Study of World Religions, in conjunction with the Music Department) of Harvard University, where he and Katarina Livljanic spent 6 weeks in residence developing the program Chant Wars. In 2004 he was a Trotter Distinguished Visiting Professor (University of Oregon) and in 2007 – again together with Katarina Livljanic – he was a Cornille Distinguished Visiting Professor at Wellesley College. Bagby and Livljanic were visiting instructors at Harvard University in 2011. In 2011 Bagby was also awarded the Howard Mayer Brown Lifetime Achievement Award by Early Music America. Since 2005 Bagby has been on the music faculty of the Université de Paris – Sorbonne, teaching in the master’s programme for medieval music performance.

Mr. Bagby is married to the Croatian singer and musicologist Katarina Livljanic.

Sequentia: The Queen and the Troubadour, flutes

Wolodymyr Smishkewych, voice & organistrum

Spanish-Ukrainian tenor Wolodymyr Smishkewych is a native of New Jersey, USA. He has specialized in medieval song, chant, and new music since the 1990s. He received his training in voice performance from Rutgers University (BM ‘95, MM ‘98) and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music (DM ‘13), having studied with renowned tenors Frederick Urrey, Paul Elliott and Alan Bennett. A sought-after performer and vocal pedagogue in medieval, contemporary, and world music, he has lectured and taught masterclasses and performance programs at universities in the United States, South America, Canada, and Europe.

In 2011, he joined the faculty of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, Ireland, where he was director of the MA in Ritual Song and Chant until 2014.

He is a member of Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music and of Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices, and has performed with The Harp Consort and Ars Nova Copenhagen. His opera appearances in the USA and Europe have been under the baton of directors such as Peter Sellars, Gary Wedow, Benton Hess, and James Middleton. He has performed at major festivals including BBC Proms, Tanglewood, Regensberg Tage Alter Musik, Festival Cervantino, Edinburgh Festival, and the early music festivals of Boston, Barcelona, Utrecht, and Berkeley. He has recorded for Sony/BMG, Harmonia Mundi USA, ExCathedra, and IU Music-Focus records, and written for publications by Cambridge University Press and Taunton Press.

Upcoming performances include performances of Frankish Phantoms with Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music at the 2015 Boston Early Music Festival, and Händel’s Messiah in Lausanne, Switzerland with Resurgam and the Irish Baroque Orchestra in November 2015. Wolodymyr Smishkewych gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Music Network Music Capital Scheme, funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Arts Council Ireland).


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