AAM News

AAM to premiere first commission in decades
23 May 2024

AAM will premiere a brand-new commissioned work for the first time in more than 20 years on Saturday 25 May, as part of Sons of England. Co-commissioned by AAM and countertenor Reginald Mobley, From Ignatius Sancho is by Roderick Williams, who sets to music text that is based on the writing of Ignatius Sancho, the first black person to vote in Britain and whose music also features in the programme.

On choosing the text to be set, Mobley, who will perform the work with AAM, writes:

‘I struggled to choose between the beautiful odes written about Sancho, reflecting on his passing, and the brilliant words of the man himself. However, recognising that so much of the Western world is in a ‘moment’ where we’re struggling to confront a troubled past to establish equity and make space for all people, I found comfort in how masterfully Sancho expressed his own abolitionist spirit in his correspondence. I wasn’t alone, as the 18th-century poet Ewan Clark based a work on one of Sancho’s most expressive exchanges with the author Laurence Sterne (it is from Clark’s poem that we draw the text for this work). For me, the 18th and 21st centuries were linked through his words, and I knew we had what we needed. Music is self-aware. Through its art, it must not only entertain, but also be allowed to be political, and free to comment on social issues that affect us all. And that makes it evergreen and ever relevant.’

In an composer’s note, featured in the Sons of England digital programme, the composer Roderick Williams writes about the experience of writing for a premiere by AAM:

‘Composing a new work for a period instrument ensemble intrigues me. I have done so on a few occasions in the past and each time challenged myself to write something that suggests period instruments first, rather than something that could actually be better realised on modern instruments.’

Sons of England follows in a line of programmes devised by AAM that explore the work of diverse composers in the 18th and 19th centuries, including a recent programme of sacred music from South America and a planned celebration of the music of José Mauricio Nunes Garcia. Sons of England is first performed on Saturday 25 May in Cambridge, with performances to follow in Liverpool, London and Bristol.

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