Birth: Feb 20, 1951 in Evanston, IL
Benjamin Bagby has brought the music of the European Middle Ages to a worldwide audience for several decades. With degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Oberlin College, Bagby pursued his joint interests of vocal performance and German literature; he was the first Oberlin graduate ever to specialize in early music. Simultaneously, he was performing widely across two continents with the professional early music ensemble New York Pro Musica. A Thomas J. Watson Fellowship allowed Bagby a concentrated year of private study in the field of medieval song after graduation. His subsequent studies at the Schola Cantorum of Basel led to an advanced degree in medieval music (awarded in 1977), and the beginnings of a long collaboration with Barbara Thornton in the medieval ensemble Sequentia. Since Thornton's death in 1998, Bagby has been sole director of the ensemble. He has also continued a solo career with celebrated recitations of Anglo-Saxon poetry, including a self-accompanied vocal and harp performance of "Beowulf." Bagby founded a male vocal ensemble for medieval song and chant, the Sons of Thunder, and he has written extensively on issues in medieval performance practice and served guest professorships at Case Western Reserve University and Indiana University. Bagby and the other members of Sequentia share their insights and research, as well, in a series of intensive performance practice courses in both Europe and the United States.
The medieval music ensemble Sequentia, founded by Bagby and Barbara Thornton in 1977, has been his most visible contribution to the early music revival. The special mission of the group has been to craft novel programs of music and poetry, backed by careful research, and to attempt to re-create "living musical traditions" from past ages. Though based in Cologne, Germany, the ensemble has toured to all six continents and released a large number of recordings on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. They have featured music of medieval Spain, Italy, Aquitania, and Germany, and have recorded the complete works of Abbess Hildegard von Bingen. Their tours have featured fully staged theatrical renditions of Hildegard's morality play Ordo Vitutem, the Bordesholmer Marienklage, the "Cividale Planctus marie," and the Old Icelandic epic poem "The Edda." Recording awards to Bagby and Sequentia have included the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, the International CD Prize Frankfurt, the Edison Prize of the Netherlands, the Innsbruck Radio Prize, the French Disque d'Or and Diapason d'Or, and a Grammy nomination for the Hildegard recording Canticles of Ecstasy.
- Timothy Dickey (All Music Guide)