Strawberry Fields features Ruckus with soloists Emi Ferguson, flute, and Rachell Ellen Wong, violin, in joyful dialogue with the rustic pastoral traditions of 18th-century New England and London. The recital is structured around The 12 Country Dances for the Year 1779 by Ignatius Sancho and trio sonatas from George Handel.
Country dances in the 18th century were among the most available and widely used music of their day, music used to bring people together through the joyous ritual of social dancing. In Strawberry Fields, our country dances come from Ignatius Sancho: a once-enslaved person living in London in the late 18th-century who, upon gaining his freedom, lived a vibrant life as a shop owner, musician, and abolitionist. Ignatius Sancho is widely unknown to many today, yet was a crucial figure in London at the end of the 18th century. He was the first person of African descent to vote in England, and his writings helped ignite the abolitionist movement. He published many compositions, including right at the end of his life, his 12 Country Dances. Originally set for the harpsichord, they are playfully written and set with delightful titles. Ruckus lights these tunes on fire with their infectious energy and colorful arrangements for violin, flute and big band continuo.
Surely known to Ignatius, the D major and G major Opus 5 Trio Sonatas of Handel are among his best instrumental chamber works, evoking pastoral bliss and the joy of good company. These sonatas also bring dances to the fore: they are full of zesty gavottes, warm minuetts, and one time-stopping passacaille.