Obscure Music Monday: Sancho's Twelve Country Dances
Charles Ignatius Sancho (c. 1729 - Dec. 14, 1780) was a composer, writer, and actor born on a slave ship in the Middle Passage. Not long after he was born, his mother passed away, and his father took his own life rather than live as an enslaved person. Sancho's owner took him to England when he was two years old, and he lived in Greenwich until 1749. He then lived with the Duke and Duchess Montagu, where he enjoyed reading, writing, poetry, and music. It was there that he truly flourished. He was famous in his time, known as the "extraordinary Negro" and it was his education that helped lead him out of slavery.
Sancho was a gifted, self-taught composer, and in 1779 he wrote Twelve Country Dances for harpsichord. The movements are titled as follows:
1. Lady Mary Mantagus Reel
2. Culford Heath Camp
3. Ruffs and Rhees
4. Bushy Park
5. Lord Dalkeiths Reel
6. Lindrindod Lasses
7. Trip to Dillington
8. Strawberries and Cream
9. All of one Mind
10. The Royal Bishop
11. Dutchess of Devonshires Reel
12. Mungos Delight
These twelve movements are a collection of dances, all with their own distinctly upbeat mood. Sancho's grasp and mastery of melody, harmony, and counterpoint is astounding when you think that all of it was self taught! His writing is clean and crisp, and quintessentially Classical-era. It's a shame this brilliant man's work has been overlooked!
Sadly, we can't find a recording of this work. If you're interested in learning more about him, you can buy a collection of his letters here.