Suite for string orchestra after dances by Ignatius Sancho (c.1729-80)
PROGRAMME NOTE by Paul Boucher, Curator, Montagu Music Collection, Boughton House
In creating this suite of dances for the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble to perform at Boughton House on July 13th 2014, the composer Julian Grant has also created a tribute to an inspiring British African, Ignatius Sancho (c.1729-80) It is based on Sancho’s " Minuets &c. &c. for the Violin, Mandolin, German-flute and Harpsichord. Compos'd by an African. Book 2nd.Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honble. John Lord Montagu of Boughton”.(London, c 1770)
Ignatius Sancho arrived in Britain from Africa as a very young child slave, and was rescued from a life of servitude by the enlightened John, second Duke of Montagu, who helped educate him. He became popular in fashionable London society and was painted by Gainsborough. Bequests from the Montagu family enabled Sancho to publish his music and to establish a grocery shop in Westminster, close to the Montagu mansion. He was the first British African to vote, to own a shop, to have his own music, letters and memoirs published, and the first African to have an obituary in the British press. Through his accomplished, witty and well-informed letters, which also highlighted the immorality of the slave trade, Sancho's life became a symbol of the humanity of Africans. He left a legacy of four volumes of music - a set of songs and three sets of dances.
"The latter part of my life has been - thro' God's blessing, truly fortunate, having spent it in the service of one of the best families in the kingdom"
The second book of 'Minuets &c. &c. by Ignatius Sancho consists of 11 minuets, an Air, and a few assorted jigs, reels and a hornpipe. The first movement of this suite strings together five minuets, and there is a tiny snatch of Sancho's original Minuet no. 5 in G major - just melody and bass line - close to the beginning. The central Air is an almost straight transcription, and the Finale weaves together Marianne's Reel, Richmond Hill (a jig) and Who'd a thought it (a reel) into a drunken and exuberant counterpoint.
1. Many Minuets
3. Who'd a thought it: Reeling on Richmond Hill with Marianne
First performed 13 July 2014 by Buskaid Soweto Strings c. Rosemary Nalden in Boughton House, Northants
Sancho's Dance-Mix on SoundCloud