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MUSIC REVIEWS : Sequentia Offers Haunting Program of Medieval Sounds

November 08, 1994|JOSEF WOODARD

No doubt, the sound of the respected Medieval music group Sequentia, founded in 1977, has benefited from the fickle machinations of the music market. This year, Gregorian chant has received an almost surreal boost in popularity, thanks to best-selling chant albums. Things ancient are suddenly fashionable.

Age is always relative. Sequentia's two performances Sunday for the Da Camera Society's Chamber Music in Historic Sites series, sponsored by Mount St. Mary's College, were given in San Gabriel Mission, built in 1771. That made the venue four centuries younger than the most recent music heard on the program.

Led by Sequentia's co-founder Benjamin Bagby, the seven singers comprising the Sons of Thunder vocal ensemble projected a collective sound that was neatly articulated and hauntingly sonorous. The ensemble alone is reward enough to hear.

Significantly, however, the singers balanced an enchanting musicality with a cohesive thematic thread. Under the heading "Bible Voices," the program consisted of various Bible stories, i.e. Noah and the Ark and Samson and Delilah, relayed in Medieval songs spanning several centuries. A recording for Harmonia Mundi is planned.

On "Dolorum solatium," Bagby accompanied on Medieval harp. Baritone Sanford Sylvan achieved a rare moment of individual glory with his compelling solo on "Stirps Jesse florigeram." Blurring the line between secular and sacred, the fascinating program closed on a relatively lusty, even humorous, note with "Syon egredere nunc de cubilibus."

Cliche though it might seem, this music--when performed this correctly and under such pristine circumstances--has a luster that is both timeless and timely.

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