Handel and Haydn Society commissions work based on music by Charles Ignatius Sancho, formerly enslaved Black man

Posted on: April 13, 2021

“When the Handel and Haydn Society began in 1815, America was still four decades away from abolishing slavery,” writes Jed Gottlieb in Sunday’s (4/11) Boston Herald. “H+H’s upcoming world premiere of a newly commissioned work by composer Jonathan Woody marks a profound milestone. ‘The source material (for the commission) came from a formerly enslaved Black man, and I have a personal connection to that as a descendant of enslaved people in the United States,’ Woody [said]…. ‘Handel and Haydn was founded in 1815 in a United States that was still in the practice of enslaving Black bodies,’ he added ahead of the April 18 and April 20 streaming concert…. Woody … composed his commission, Suite for String Orchestra, based on works by Charles Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780). Born on a ship carrying enslaved people, Sancho was sold into slavery in a Spanish colony in South America. As an adult, Sancho lived in England as a free man, becoming an abolitionist, composer and business owner, and is considered the first Black man to vote in a British election and the first person of African descent to publish classical music.”