Minuets Cotillons & Country Dances
Ignatius Sancho

This directory contains ABC transcriptions of some of the works of Ignatius Sancho (full name Thomas Gainsborough Ignatius Sancho), the 18th-century musician and dancer of African origin, who was born on a slave ship, and lived most of his life in England, in the household of the Montagu family. Here are subdirectories named for the publications:
MCCD Minuets Cotillons & Country Dances
CNS A Collection of New Songs

Here's the British Library summary of Ignatius Sancho's life and contributions to the music and dance tradition:

As well as his famous letters, Ignatius Sancho wrote four books of songs and lively dance music, including this collection of Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances. He was the first composer of African descent to publish music in the European tradition, and this book shows how he managed this cultural balancing act.

Where did Sancho learn to write music?

According to Joseph Jekyll's 1782 biography, Sancho was born around 1729 on a slave ship bound from Africa to the West Indies. When he was about two, he was brought to England and presented by his master to three sisters in Greenwich, London. Yet he managed to escape and secure himself an education and employment in the noble Montagu household, where he gained an extensive knowledge of British literature and music. His music was probably performed at the Montagus' private parties, and perhaps also at gatherings of black servants in Georgian London.

European music 'composed by an African'

Although most of his letters were not published in his lifetime, Sancho paid for this volume to be printed around 1767. Like many amateur musicians, he published it anonymously, but stated on the title page that it was 'Composed by an African'. He might have hoped to increase sales by making it sound exotic. Yet, at the same time, he made it clear that he had noble English connections. The work is dedicated to Henry, Duke of Buccleuch, who had married into the Montagu family.

Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances

Sancho's 24 dance tunes, with their French and English titles, use the musical styles most fashionable in polite Georgian society. The minuet, in triple time, was the most important couple dance of the 18th century. Cotillons were French dances with varying figurations, while country dances were performed in line-dance formation. Alongside the score, Sancho offers step-by-step dance instructions. In 'Les Contes des Fees', the gentleman should 'turn his Partner, Balance' and perform a 'Rigadoon Step' - a tricky hopping manœuvre.

List files with: Session lister - Collection lister - Tune lister
Transcription Notes