A Portrait of Ignatius Sancho
Music and Letters of an Eighteenth-Century Black Englishman
Featuring New Compositions by Trevor Weston
Rebecca Cypess, English Square Piano and Director
The Raritan Players
Ignatius Sancho (c. 1729–1780) was a Black writer, musician, composer, butler, and shopkeeper whose writings and public presence helped ignite the British abolitionist movement. Reportedly born into slavery and orphaned as a toddler, Sancho was denied access to a formal education until he entered the household of the Duke of Montagu, where he gained an education in European literature, music, and other arts. Sancho’s correspondence, published posthumously as Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (1782), reflects his engagement with the sentimental literary style and covers topics from his everyday experiences and relationships to his fierce opposition to the international slave trade.
Although Sancho’s letters are known in some circles today, his musical compositions have largely evaded serious attention. The Raritan Players offer a new account of Sancho’s songs and instrumental music. And we have commissioned a new set of songs by Trevor Weston which will set excerpts from Sancho’s Letters to music. Sancho will thus appear on this recording as both composer and writer, and Weston’s compositions will respond to and reflect on the continued relevance of Sancho’s story today.
We need your help to complete this commission and recording. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to bring this portrait of Ignatius Sancho to life.
Read new work on Sancho’s music by Rebecca Cypess.
Read about new research on Sancho's life and world at the website of the research group Ignatius Sancho's London.