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 (1729-1780).
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, 1 air and a few assorted jigs, reels and a hornpipe. The first movement of this adaptation strings together five minuets, and there is a tiny snatch of Sancho’s original Minuet no 5 in G major - just a melody and a bass line - at one point. 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. The duration is 12 minutes.