Home Slavery Resources British Abolitionists Olaudah Equiano Ignatius Sancho Ottobah Cugoano Places Bookshop Contact About


Ignatius Sancho, Black British Composer


A Collection of New Songs Composed by An African Humbly Inscribed to the Honble. Mrs James Brudenell by her most humble Devoted & Obedient Servant, The Author. [Ignatius Sancho, c. 1769]

Ignatius Sancho was the first published Black British composer that we know about. He published four collections of music during his lifetime, mostly songs and dances to be performed in private homes. He is said to have written a treatise on the theory of music, although this has never been found.

This page includes downloadable copies of three of his pieces. Click on them for the full score (and please let me know if you plan a performance). Many of Sancho's other compositions are available as recordings or as sheet music, both in print and online. I have listed many of these at the bottom of this page.


Les Contes Des Fees (58k)
From: Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances (c.1767)


Sweetest Bard (208k)
From: A Collection of New Songs (1769)


Friendship Source of Joy (190k)
From: A Collection of New Songs (1769)

Listen to a recording of 'Friendship Source of Joy' on YouTube, performed on 20 November 2021 at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, Michigan, United States. James Biery, piano; Kenneth Shepherd, baritone.

 


Resources for Ignatius Sancho's Music and Further Reading and Listening


Original Versions of Sancho's Music

The original printed sheet music is now rare and held only in a few research libraries. Most are available in the British Library in London while the 1770 Cotillions exist only in a single copy at Harvard University. The titles are:

Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances for the Violin, Mandolin, German Flute, & Harpsichord Composed by an African Most Humbly Inscribed to his Grace Henry Duke of Buccleugh, &c, &c, &c. London. Printed for the Author. [c. 1767].

A Collection of New Songs Composed by An African Humbly Inscribed to the Honble. Mrs James Brudenell by her most humble Devoted & Obedient Servant, The Author. [c. 1769].

Minuets &c. &c. for the Violin Mandolin German-flute and Harpsichord. Compos'd by an African. Book 2d. Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honble. John Lord Montagu of Boughton. London. Printed for the Author and sold by Richd. Duke at his Music Shop near Opposite Great Turn stile Holburn, where may be had Book first. [c. 1770].

Cotillions &c. humbly dedicated (with permission) to the Princes's [sic] Royal, by Her Royal Highness's most obedient servant Ignatius Sancho. London: printed for C. & S. Thompson, no. 75, St. Pauls Church Yard [c. 1770]. Oblong 12mo (11 cm x 16 cm), engraved title followed by 44 pages of engraved music and dance instruction, original Dutch floral wrappers. Recently discovered and acquired in 2016 by the Harvard University Theatre Collection.

Twelve Country Dances for the Year 1779. Set for the Harpsichord By Permission Humbly Dedicated to the Right Honourable Miss North, by her most obedient Servant Ignatius Sancho. London Printed for S and A Thompson No 75 St Pauls Church Yard Price 6d.

Facsimile Editions

Wright, Josephine R.B., Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780) An Early African Composer in England - the Collected Editions of his Music in Facsimile (London and New York: Garland, 1981).

Dances for a Princess, humbly dedicated (with permission) to the Princess Royal by Her Royal Highnesses Most Obedient Servant Ignatius Sancho, edited with an introduction by S. Petchey. 22 dances & facs. of their music and two more pieces. Available from The Early Dance Circle

Ignatius Sancho, Twelve English Country Dances written by an erstwhile slave (1779). Facs. Set for the Harpsichord. (London: Thompson, 2014) Interpreted by V Webster, illus. D Durant, research S Petchey & P Cooper. Available from The Early Dance Circle

Recordings

A recording, Dances for a Princess, humbly dedicated (with permission) to the Princess Royal by Her Royal Highnesses Most Obedient Servant Ignatius Sancho, is available on the website of the band Green Ginger, along with a video of some of the dances being performed recorded on the 240th anniversary of his death on Monday 14 December 2020. Available from Green Ginger Band or on YouTube.

A recording, Minuets & Optional Dances is availble on the Aacms label, played by the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra conducted by Janise White. It can be downloaded from iTunes or purchased as either a CD or a download from: Amazon.com (USA) or Amazon.co.uk (UK and Ireland)

A recording of a selection of songs and dances by amateur performers and students was included as a CD in Ignatius Sancho: Life and Times, a teaching pack produced in 1998 by Greenwich Council and aimed at teachers of 10-16 year olds. The pack is no longer available.

A concert featuring a selection of Sancho's music was broadcast on the BBC Third Programme in 1958, but I have not been able to find any recording.

Online Copies of Sancho's Sheet Music

Many of Sancho's compositions are available as sheet music online. The links below are to external sites over which I have no control and the content may change or be removed. Links open in a new tab or window.

Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances by Ignatius Sancho. High-quality images of the 1767 dance collection on the British Library website.

Cotillions &c. humbly dedicated (with permission) to the Princess Royal. Very high-quality images of the 1770 dance collection on the website of the Houghton Library at Harvard University.

Minuets &c. &c. for the Violin Mandolin German-flute and Harpsichord. Compos'd by an African. This IMSLP page includes a scan of the complete original 1770 collection, and a modern arrangment of the 13 minuets arranged by Alonso del Arte.

Twelve Country Dances for the Year 1779. This IMSLP page includes a scan of the complete original 1779 collection, and a full modern edition prepared by Steven Naylor.

 


Ignatius Sancho Main Page logo Twitter link image Mail link image Home link image