Benjamin Bagby is descended from a Germanic clan which emigrated from Jutland to northern England in ca. 630, where they remained until his branch of the family emigrated to the colony of Virginia almost a millennium later. Following 321 years of subsequent family wanderings, he was born on the shores of Lake Michigan, and twelve years later was captivated by Beowulf. Several years after returning to Europe in 1974 he founded — together with the late Barbara Thornton — the Sequentia ensemble for medieval music, which was based in Cologne, Germany, for 25 years; both Mr. Bagby and Sequentia are now based in Paris. www.sequentia.org.
Mr. Bagby’s acclaimed bardic performance of Beowulf, with 10-20 performances yearly worldwide was created in 1990 and released as a DVD in 2007 (for details and press see www.BagbyBeowulf.com).
Beowulf has been presented at the Lincoln Center Festival ( 1997 & 2006 ), in Vancouver Island and the Faroe Islands; synagogues in Poland and the Lower East Side of New York; a warehouse in Los Angeles and a medieval art museum in Cologne; Perth, Pittsburgh and Perugia; the Cloisters and the Sydney Opera House; a high school in rural Texas and the Cité de la Musique in Paris, among many others.
In addition to his work with Beowulf, Mr. Bagby and Sequentia have produced several CDs of musical reconstructions from the early Middle Ages, all part of the ‘Lost Songs Project’: 2 CDs based on the medieval Icelandic Edda, ‘The Rheingold Curse’ (2002), which retells the story of Sigurd, Brynhild, the dragon Fafnir, and the cursed Rheingold; ‘Lost Songs of a Rheinland Harper’ (2004), which explores Latin and German song in the period around the year 1000, using as its source the famed ‘Cambridge Songs’ manuscript; ‘Fragments for the End of Time – 9-11th centuries’ (2008), featuring some of the earliest apocalyptic texts in Old German, Latin, and Old Saxon. Sequentia’s newest program in the series is ‘Frankish Phantoms’, presenting songs from the Carolingians and Ottonians. A DVD production of Mr. Bagby’s Beowulf performance, filmed by Stellan Olsson in Sweden, was released in 2007 and includes interviews with noted Anglo-Saxonists and with the performer. In addition to his activities as researcher, singer, harper and director of Sequentia, Benjamin Bagby writes about performance practice and teaches widely in Europe and North America. Since 2005 he has been on the faculty of the University of Paris – Sorbonne, where he teaches in the master’s program for medieval music performance practice.