Early-music scholar Benjamin Bagby and his one-man song/harp “Beowulf”

Posted on: October 29, 2021

“The Friends of Chamber Music [in Kansas City] will present ‘Beowulf’ as it might originally have been heard in an Anglo-Saxon mead hall from around the year 700 to 1000,” writes Patrick Neas in Saturday’s (10/23) Kansas City Star (MO). “Early music scholar Benjamin Bagby, accompanying himself on a five-string harp, will sing the ancient lay in Old English Oct. 29 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Bagby was … introduced to ‘Beowulf’ … ‘in seventh grade [in] a modern English translation,’ he says. ‘It had a monster, it had a dragon, it had a hero, it had a long-suffering king. All those things we love.’ … Bagby [is founder of] the renowned early music ensemble Sequentia, [which has recorded] the complete works of the medieval mystic and composer Hildegard von Bingen…. By closely studying the text and consulting storytelling traditions from other parts of the world, Bagby realized ‘Beowulf’ was meant to be performed, sung while accompanied by a harp, not read as a poem…. ‘Beowulf was driven by his need for praise but also for his need to be remembered,’ Bagby says. ‘And I think we all want to be remembered.’ ”